Oriel Science

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Science


Oriel Science's aim is: Showcasing Science in the Community.

Oriel Science is a public-facing exhibition and outreach space showcasing the University's STEM research. Our vision is to continue hosting rolling, thematic, science-based exhibitions aimed at our two target audiences: school students and the wider public. Alongside the gallery, Oriel Science will house a workshop offering a schools programme in parallel with each exhibition. We create accessible, informative and interactive exhibitions focused on the work and collaborations of the University's STEM community. We take visitors on a visceral journey through a scientific theme, ignite their curiosity to explore that theme, and leave a lasting legacy in their imagination. We will encourage younger visitors to choose STEM subjects at school leading to STEM degrees in University and further develop the scientific literacy of older visitors.

Oriel Science launched on 10th September 2016 at the end of the British Science Festival which was hosted by Swansea University. We are open to the public every weekend and also during the October half-term where we held a range of special activities and workshops designed for school-aged students. We average 2,000 visitors per month (excluding half-term) and have had significant media coverage.

Our first exhibition is based on the theme of "Time" and features 16 exhibits including the STFC LHC Roadshow, a range of particle physics detectors (a cloud chamber, Geiger counter, MX-10 detector and muon observatory) illustrating that sub-atomic particle decay after a very short TIME. We have an audio visual animation of time dilation near black holes, an immersive experience showing a time lapse video of the southern stars with a sound track taken from the Voyager spacecraft. A 30 metre "time wall" has an animation of the history of the Universe from the Big Bang. The public is welcomed to the venue by a "Back to the Future" DeLorean and a Tardis "time machine" enticingly situated to be visible from the outside.

We are now planning our second themed exhibition, "Image", and this application seeks funding for an STFC footprint in this venture. There are many obvious STFC-related exhibits related to this theme: astronomical, particle and nuclear physics, intense light sources, etc. The "Image" exhibition therefore represents a fantastic opportunity to engage visitors with STFC Science so that their understanding and appreciation of this science and technology is developed.

Planned Impact

We will disseminate information about our exhibitions using the Swansea University Press Office, using our excellent relationships with the local press.

We have already begun detailed discussions with Swansea Council regarding a long-term multi-million pound home for Oriel Science in their redevelopment space along the waterfront, and we have the Council's full support for our project. This relationship will allow us to use the Council's extensive communication network to further advertise our work to the public.

Through our "Welsh Teachers to CERN" programme, we have excellent contacts with the Education Department in Wales which links us to Science teachers across the country. In addition, Swansea Physics has a long-standing and highly popular MasterClasses and Christmas Lecture programmes. These are over-subscribed and the schools who have been involved will form the natural early-adopters of Oriel Science.

Swansea University's S4 project also has long-standing relationships with schools in Communities First areas who would be very keen to expand the range of activities that could be provided to their students.

Our colleagues in the Computer Science Department run Technocamps, which is an IT-based outreach programme funded to reach every high school in Wales, and we will build on their knowledge to develop our own network of schools.

We will share best practice with members of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres and utilise our links with STEMNET Wales to advertise Oriel Science.

We already have links with the IOP's Lab-in-a-Lorry and have entered into a two-way discussion about designing a possible particle physics experiment for them.

Wales's National Science Academy is also a supporter of Oriel Science and will be keen to ensure we gain good coverage across the country.

In addition, we will obviously use the STFC Press Office and our colleagues and contacts in other UK Physics Departments to enlarge the footprint where Oriel Science is known and to share best practice.


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Description EPSRC: Cherish-DE + SURGE
Amount £12,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 06/2017
Description HEFCW Civic Mission and Community Engagement grant
Amount £81,000 (GBP)
Organisation Welsh Assembly 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 01/2020
Description National Science Academy (Wales)
Amount £46,000 (GBP)
Organisation Welsh Assembly 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
End 11/2017
Description Cefn Coed Exhibition 
Organisation Swansea Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Oriel Science was asked to contribute to an exhibition launched early in 2019 on the Cefn Coed hospital. Many of the old building of this mental health hospital are due to be demolished and we used our 360 camera to take images of these building and our projector to show these images within the exhibition in Swansea Museum. Most of the exhibit was built by Swansea Museum staff with help from the local health board.
Collaborator Contribution We used our 360 camera to take images of the building in the Cefn Coed hospital which are about to be demolished and our projector to show these images within the exhibition in Swansea Museum.
Impact We will be gathering footfall information.
Start Year 2019
Description Partnership between Oriel Science and the National Waterfront Museum 
Organisation National Museum Wales
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Oriel Science was invited to curate "Super Science Saturday" on 10th March 2018. We arranged for 21 Swansea University exhibitors to showcase their research to the public. 2,000 visitors attended the day. We repeated this exhibition on 10th March 2019 where we had over 20 exhibits and arranged around 6 public talks. The footfall for this event was 3,600 in just 5 hours.
Collaborator Contribution The National Waterfront Museum was the host of this event.
Impact The footfall for this event was 1,987. Some feedback is below: Good Morning, We had a fantastic event! ...and a huge thank you to you all too.  The partnership with Oriel Science and Swansea University made it an exciting, and dynamic event, and the buzz in the Museum was great. I hope you all had a chance to rest up on Sunday. Best wishes Miranda Miranda Rose Berry-Bowen Swyddog Digwyddiadau / Events Officer Amgueddfa Genedlaethol y Glannau National Waterfront Museum Ffon/Tel 02920 573620 www.amgueddfacymru.ac.uk www.museumwales.ac.uk
Start Year 2017
Description Oriel Science (science exhibition centre) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In September 2016, Swansea University pioneered a unique way to engage with the community by opening Oriel Science, an imaginative, interactive gallery showcasing our research.
We created a hands-on pop-up science centre in a large disused shop in Swansea's city centre, staffed by Swansea University's own student ambassadors.

Oriel Science welcomed 17,000 visitors from all sectors of the community, many of whom had no previous interaction with the University, or its research.

The diversity of our visitors, from across the South Wales community, was the envy of larger, iconic museums such as National Museums Wales.
We ran talks, workshops and a school's programme, inspiring younger visitors to choose STEMM subjects at school, developing pathways to STEMM degrees in University, and enhancing the scientific literacy of all.
The three key features of Oriel Science were its:

• location: in the heart of the community, on the pedestrianised shopping mall,
• exhibits: concentrating on current research performed in our own University,
• vibe: arty, interactive and visceral.

Our exhibits were designed to be accessible, informative and interactive igniting our visitors' curiosity, making them pause, engage and think.

Oriel Science is the UK's first university-run, research-led science centre. It is designed for passers-by to see, feel and touch University research; a place where researchers and the community converse; a shop-front for the University in the community.

By providing a venue, marketing and a guaranteed footfall, we removed many hurdles that researchers confront when contemplating outreach activities, and encouraged our colleagues into public engagement, some for the first time.

It builds on our University's civic responsibility strategy - our institution was founded 1920 to support the local community's metallurgy industry and this social focus is being re-energised as the University approaches its centenary.

The Oriel Science project was designed and delivered by a small, but dedicated group of Swansea University academics, students and professional staff.

The gallery was launched on 10th September 2016 to coincide with the British Science Festival, hosted by Swansea University.

Our call to researchers for ideas connected to our exhibition's theme of "Time" resulted in 15 exhibits which filled our large, 400 square-metre venue.
These included:
• A "Back to the Future" DeLorean Sports Car and a "Tardis" complemented by a scientific description of time travel,
• Time-lapse video of a 30 storey high glacial calving event in Greenland,
• Display of 1GB of information using different storage devices: 3,000 paperback books; a 2 metre stack of floppy disks; 1.5 CD's; and an SD memory card,
• Mock-up of CERN's Large Hadron Collider,
• A collection of particle detectors: a cloud chamber, "muon cosmic ray observatory", an MX10 silicon detector and a number of hand-held geiger counters,
• Animation of time dilation near black holes,
• Display showing how historic atmospheric compositions can be extracted from tree rings,
• A 100 foot-long "Time Wall" animation of the Universe's history from the Big Bang to the present day.

A special gallery component was our "Future Wall". Visitors wrote their ideas for the future on coloured paper which were hoisted up a two-storey internal wall to form an audience-curated artistic exhibit. This spawned its own twitter bot illustrating our guiding principle: to build a venue where both academics and the community co-contribute to the gallery content.

During school holidays we hosted University groups showcasing their research: e.g. the medicinal use of maggots, and how the ecological benefits of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon can be maximised - which encouraged and included visitor input.
Crucially, by placing our venue in the heart of the community, we achieved significant reach in our visitor demographics and built an engaging University gallery which was welcoming to all. This is evidenced from our visitor statistics.

A postcode analysis showed that our visitors exactly matched the profile of the Swansea community based on the "Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation" socio-economic indicator. Our visitor demographics were similarly gender- and age-balanced.

From our surveys:
• 98% would recommend us to a friend
• 95% learnt more about science
• 97% thought our location was "great"

Significantly, 40% of our visitors had not set foot on a University campus - proving that we created a gateway between the community and our institution.

Alongside our public openings, we welcomed 16 schools and 900 students on organised trips where we delivered age-specific activities relating to their curriculum.

Swansea University (£80k), Welsh Government (£52k), the STFC (3 awards totaling £26k) and EPSRC (£12k) Research Councils funded our project, as did the Swansea Business Improvement Group.

We closed in June 2017 when our rent-free premises was leased to a restaurant chain.

Since this time, we have run a number of events such as an exhibit in the Swansea Science Festival in September 2017 and several "Big Bang Cymru" Schools Fairs. Also, on 10th March 2018, we curated the Super Science Saturday event in the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. This attracted 2,000 visitors and hosted 21 exhibits showcasing the research including a new exhibit showing "spaghettification" near black holes, plus our usual particle detector exhibits.

We featured on the front page of the South Wales Evening Post, developed a significant social media presence and were interviewed on ITV Wales, BBC Radio Wales, Bay TV and numerous times on the Swansea Sound radio station.

We've received many testimonials:

From a teacher: "Thank you for enthusing the children and making them see that science is fun! Diolch"

From a pupil: "I want to do more science workshops!"

From a visitor: "Good, central location, great to see something different and interesting in the city centre"

Oriel Science's tagline succinctly summarises our mission: "Showcasing Science in the Community".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018
URL http://orielscience.co.uk
Description Oriel Science Engagement Activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Oriel Science averages around 50 events per year engaging with an average of ten thousand members of the public, school students and other groups. Our Swansea city-centre pop-up alone welcomed 16,000 public visitors and nearly 1,000 students on organised school trips during its 100 opening days in 2016/17. Our annual "Super Science" events in the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea had a footfall of 2,000 in 2018 and more than 3,500 in 2019.

Please see the official STFC Public Engagement spreadsheet that we emailed stfcpublicengagement@stfc.ac.uk for more detailed information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://orielscience.co.uk