Science and Engineering in Derby and Derbyshire
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
13th March 2010
Construction Day was designed to get people in Derbyshire thinking about Bridges (and have some fun along the way) in advance of he Bridging the Gap Exhibition opening at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery in April. As part of the exhibition the museum had already been working with STEMPOINT on a schools competition to design and build a large interactive bridge to form the centrepiece of the show. Through our ongoing contact with schools we were able to distribute a large number of posters and fliers (see attached) and were therefore looking forward to a busy day.
Lawrie Peck, our contact from STEMPOINT, arrived on Saturday morning with a car loaded with equipment, including a vast array of construction materials. Assisted by his son George we unloaded and spread out a dozen boxes of assorted k’nex components, a large, inviting pile of Lego and other, more basic, construction bits and pieces based around rolled paper, nuts and bolts, dowelling and elastic bands. Lawrie also bought two large hands-on interactives that demonstrated how to make an arched stone bridge and a suspension bridge.
When everything was laid out all we had to do was wait. At 11.00 we were quickly swamped and in the first hour we had almost 150 visitors, mainly made up of family groups with primary school aged children. The visitors were mainly from the local area, but we also welcomed families from across the county and as far a field as Belper, Ashbourne, Chesterfield and Duffield. Lawrie demonstrated a way of making your own construction kit simply by rolling A4 paper, punching a hole at each end of the roll and bolting the pieces together. Throughout the day, this low-tech approach to construction proved just as popular as the familiar plastic kits and many parents said they would try this method at home.
Although we attempted to get people to follow the basic theme of bridges, with a dinosaur exhibition still on in the main exhibition gallery we inevitably got a variety of strange creatures and subjects like Harry Potter and Transformers were obviously in some of the children’s minds. At lunch time, Lawrie and I were joined by Ed, an engineer from the County Council Environmental Services Department, who has been working on the schools project. Ed was able to demonstrate some of his bridge building skills and also help with a competition. As participants were not allowed to take their constructions home, people were encouraged to be photographed with what they had made. Ed has agreed to judge the constructions and two age group prizes of K’Nex kits will be awarded to the best entries. There will also be a number of consolation prizes.
By three o’clock, when Construction Day finished, we had welcomed 408 visitors. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves, and if there was a criticism, it was that there was simply not enough space and equipment. The NSEW event seems to have been a great success and shows what can be achieved with a small amount of money, a simple idea and plenty of imagination!
This event was supported by an East Midlands National Science and Engineering Week Grant