Membranes and filtration outreach hits the road

The 1st May 2023 was the very first Somerscience Festival and also our first festival as the SynHiSel  programme grant! Programme Grant Manager, Chloe tells us more.

four images: 1. a man pulling a large box with Perspex sides on a trolley. He is in a park with cars parked on the grass to the left. 2. A man standing by the open boot of a car with the same box loaded in the car. 3 A science festival stand- the table has an orange table cloth there are lots of jugs with colourful mixes of balls. There is someone putting a chemical engineering banner up. 4 a large marquee on a recreation field, the sky is blue with white fluffy clouds
a photo of a mix of different sized multi coloured balls being poured from a jug into a box with clear Perspex sides. Only the small blue balls are coming through the first level of the box.
A group of 8 smiling people standing behind a table. There is an orange table cloth with Chemical Engineering, University of Bath written on it .

It’s unbelievable how many children you can attract to your stand with bright pompoms!

On the first of May a group of researchers from the University of Bath set off to take part in the SomerScience festival, to have fun and engage the festival goers with chemical engineering.

The key feature of our stand was to show how particles of different sizes can be separated using nets with different size holes. A bright mix of pompoms and polystyrene balls is poured into our ‘Membrane Box’. Big particles stop at the top big pore net, medium particles stop in the central mid-sized net and small blue pompoms (representing pure water) cascading all the way down through two nets to the bottom.

As well as getting to talk to the public, it was also a great way to bring people together from different teams and with different research interests.  Paul from the technical team refurbished the Membrane Box, which hadn’t been used since pre-covid times. His refurbishment included the addition of sliding doors. This was crucial when there was a queue of children waiting, eager to pour all the pompoms- that have just hit the bottom of the box- out from the top again. It was fast tempo work to get the pompoms collected, into a jug and then close the Membrane Box door before they got poured out. (I wasn’t always successful in closing the door quickly enough.) Joining the membranes researchers on the day were others from technical staff team, and researchers looking at photocatalysis and sensors.

The festival was busy and must have exceeded the organisers target numbers. They had done a fantastic job attracting funding and participants- it was free to enter and driven by creating the opportunity for STEM engagement to a rural setting.

Somerscience Festival says:
Rural areas are not well served for opportunities to engage with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). The Somerscience Festival hopes to address some of the gap in provision of STEM engagement opportunities recently reported by The British Science Association (2022), which reported South Somerset is in the bottom 10 of 387 local authority areas nationally for such provision.

Want to do this at home or in your school?

What can you find that has different hole sizes, how can you use this to separate things? How do you choose the ‘membrane’ or filter that will separate various different mixtures? Here are some ideas to get you started

Filters – Filter paper, fabric, sieves, colanders, tennis/badminton nets, football goal nets.

And some potential mixtures to separate:

Mixtures– Footballs & tennis balls; tennis balls & ping pong balls; dried cous cous and dried chickpeas; granulated sugar & flour, ping pong balls & water, coffee & water.

And if you prefer a video, here’s a nice one to check out:

Water Filter Experiments! – SODA, MILK, KOOL-AID + MORE – YouTube


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