Future Me: Institute of Imagination 2018

A bright and early start saw the PPL PWR crew head to Institute of Imagination in London, (who knew such a place existed? Who knew the civil service was so interesting?), for two sessions of inspiration and imagination with a cohort of 6-12 year olds – the Lab Live: Future Me event.

Set in The Workshop, at Albert’s Embankment, somewhere between Vauxhall and Lambeth, the IoI, in 2017, adopted this formally disused space and today it was to play host to a number of groups putting on interactive demos and activities to inspire a generation.

On display for PPL PWR was a menagerie of Paul’s inventions – from body-heat lighting, to self-watering plants to his Arduino-based, air particle sensor.

Move Ya Body

The second debut for the body-heat lighting, Paul’s modifications had now made the sensors and set-up far more robust for the small slamming hands that would compete to power the LED first.

Finding the heat of the venue detrimental to their performance, Anna hit upon the novel solution of storing the rigs in the fridge, maximising the potential temperature difference between the cold bottom plate and the hand-heated top plate.

From this demo, the kids’ ideas for its further uses included a desktop fan for hot summer classrooms, phone chargers for discos and disco dance floors.

Clean Routes to School

The most pleasant smelling of our demos, the particulate sensor measures particles in the air of 2.5 and 10 micrometres – small enough to be invisible to the eye, yet are the typical size of particles emitted from Diesel and Petrol engines.

After much testing at home and at events, the best way of demonstrating this sensor was with a can of regular old deodorant!

After technical difficulties at other events, it was great to finally have a consistent way of demonstrating this sensor.

To tie this into the students, we disclosed the benefits of them wearing such tech on them on their routes to school, mapping the areas of cleaner and dirty air (or more scarily, high and low pollution). Many of the students then concluded that if were knew this information, we would be able to clean up those areas and make routes to school greener and healthier for all.

A Shinning Example of Real-Life Engineering

As is required in any science experiment, there must always be demonstration that causes the most hassle and refused to just work!

This time, this was the self-watering plant demo.

A new-comer to our demos roster, this set-up uses a humidity sensor to sample the moisture content of the pot. When this falls below a threshold, the pump, submerged into a container of water, then directs the water into the plant pot and waters the plants – now you can freely go on holiday without worrying about your sunflowers (a real life incident that brought a tear to that girl’s eye).

A benefit to the demos not working entirely to plan, we were able to get the kids far more engaged, as they worked alongside us to problem-solve and fiddle with the equipment to get it to work (temporarily) and when the water did flow through the pipe, they were very happy!

All in all the event was a great space for us to test the robustness of demos, head of the Festival Roadshow and School workshops in the second half of 2018, and we hope that in a couple of year’s time, some of those kids we met this weekend will, one day, be the new faces of PPL PWR.

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