Project SEMIS & Project AQUAREOS exhibit at Cheltenham Science Festival

The University of Manchester-based Project SEMIS and the King’s College London-based Project AQUAREOs were flying the flag for Find A Better Way at the recent Cheltenham Science Festival which ran from 5-11 June.

Approximately 4,000 children and adults visited the exhibit during the festival, where they were invited to to try their hand at finding dummy landmines placed among several clutter objects using simple homemade metal detectors.

Visitors were also given the opportunity to closely examine realistic replica mines so they could see exactly how little metal is often used in their manufacture. The Project SEMIS team, who included Dr Liam Marsh and Dr Michael O’Toole, also offered a general rolling Q&A session about demining, landmines in general, and the work being done by Find A Better Way and The University of Manchester.

It was the second public outing for the Project SEMIS team within a month, as on 7 May Dr Marsh had given a one-hour talk to a group of twenty students taking part in a science journalism contest organised by the Manchester Branch of the British Science Association. Dr Marsh was just one of six speakers, but seven of the student’s entries were on his talk, including the two runners up (Digging Deeper by Maram Razouki and A Hunt on Exploding Caserole Dishes by Greta Horvathova).

‘Explaining the importance of science to children and young people is incredibly important,’ explained Dr. Marsh. ‘Especially when you are engaged in research that is in the public interest like landmine detection, it’s essential that the public understand the potential for science to improve the world around us.

‘Landmines are not just a problem for people living in former conflict zones. They cause long-term instability in regions around the world for decades at a time, and global instability is an issue that concerns everyone. Young people want to change the world, to make the world a better place, and improved landmine detection is one way to do this.

‘It is also important that we continue to inspire children of all ages to consider careers in engineering. There is a recongised shortfall in engineering graduates, and a stubborn gender imbalance within our field. Showcasing the humanitarian benefits of the discipline is a good way of encouraging people to consider engineering as something they may like to pursue in the future.

‘I was really delighted by the amount of interest we had at the Cheltenham Science Festival and that so many budding science journalists decided to write their entries about my talk. It is very encouraging.’