Festivals and Events

The summer holidays may be over, but there are still opportunities to develop that all important ‘science capital’ for children.

I first heard of the concept of measuring family science capital as a member of the ASPIRES advisory board – it takes in science-related qualifications, understanding, knowledge (about science and ‘how it works’), interest and social contacts (e.g. knowing someone who works in a science-related job).

We did quite well over the summer on interest and activities for my teenage daughter – she  went on a week long Bronze Crest Award Construction Summer School run by BAM, and also saw ‘The Festival of the Spoken Nerd’ and Kevin McMahon’s ‘Quantum Magic’ both still showing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

My next Festival is the British Science Festival in Bradford from 7 – 10 September.  I’m going to the launch of the WISE ‘People Like Me’ resources which bring a novel and effective approach to engaging girls with STEM sector subjects.





And whilst looking at what else is on, I’ve spotted that the British Science Festival now has its own ‘Fringe’ too!  Aimed at school, college and uni students, and families, it runs from 11 – 18 September.

How much are these events ‘preaching to the converted’ however?  Is this kind of ‘science capital’ dependent on having parents or teachers who encourage you into it?  Does it matter?

Anecdotally (and perhaps backed up somewhere by proper research), a much higher percentage of women engineers will have had a family member in engineering when they started out than male engineers did.  And on my daughter’s Construction Summer School, which was advertised to several local secondary schools, she reported that most had parents who were in construction or engineering.

However, when Kevin McMahon asked at Edinburgh Fringe if there were physicists in the audience, only two of us responded.  Maybe there were more, but they were wary of responding?  Meanwhile, the Festival of the Spoken Nerd was a double-act at a pre-Edinburgh show in Hertfordshire, where it was clear many had just come for a night’s comedy.

So while I applaud the focus of the Science Festival and its new Fringe in Bradford, I’m also keen that we don’t get stuck in a science silo, where talking about science and engineering is just for the enthusiasts.  From lectures on the Bloodhound Project to comedy and magic shows, major theatrical performances to informal busking, there are so many ways of making science and engineering feel accessible and relevant to a truly wider audience.