Fashionable fungi, solar cars, the science of chocolate and life drawing classes with a difference have all featured in Cambridge Science Centre’s consistently packed programme.
The centre, based in Jesus Lane, opened two years ago with the aim of making science fun and relevant for everyone. And the evidence (collected after three controlled tests) is clear: it works.
“Since we opened in February 2013 we’ve had more than 50,000 visitors which, considering the small space we have, is fantastic,” says marketing manager Gaetan Lee. “We’ve had some amazing feedback. Our current exhibition is on Extreme Engineering, and there’s another coming up in the summer which I can’t reveal too much about, but if people pop along to the centre at the moment they might get a few ideas about what that’s going to be!”
A registered charity, with HRH The Duke of York as its patron, the centre is run by approachable, enthusiastic staff who aim to instil a passion for science and learning into the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.
“We’re really proud of our staff who love engaging with people and helping visitors understand science not in a dry, textbook way but by making it real and hands on,” Lee continues. “Any workshop we do that involves slime or burning stuff always goes down a storm. The other thing we do to spice up our programme is run interesting and engaging events in which we invite local scientists and presenters to tell us some cool things about science.
“And it’s not just for kids. One of the key criteria for us is to make the centre accessible to the whole family. One event I’d love to try and do again was a life drawing class where we projected MRI scans onto the models’ bodies and asked people to draw the person and the underlying anatomy at the same time. That was really powerful.”
Coming up, just in time for Easter, is Choc Full of Science – a delicious show explaining why chocolate tastes so good. Explains Lee: “We’ll be looking at the science of chocolate, so what happens to the brain when you eat chocolate and the physical properties of chocolate. We’ll be doing lots of fun, silly experiments – all with important science behind them.”
One of the main events in the Centre’s calendar is Chain Reaction: a huge group activity which sees families fill out the Corn Exchange or Guildhall to help build a gigantic game of Mousetrap.
“We get families from across the region to help put together this giant Mousetrap board game, and it’s amazing to see the imagination and passion that goes in.”
He adds: “Schools are an important part of our programme, and we’re closed Tuesday to Friday mornings so school groups can come in and get the whole place to themselves: that’s one of the benefits of being small.”
Still, a larger space is on the agenda for future plans. “We’d love to have a bigger centre and we’re trying to identify a space in town,” he concludes. “But we also want to have a stronger presence in the wider region.”
Choc Full of Science takes place on 28 March, 12 noon.