June 06 2022
Collaborating with non-academic organisations is key to research impact, particularly for early career researchers and students. Over the past few months, we have developed an exciting collaboration with the Thames Valley Group of the Institute of Advanced motorists (TVGAM) to help them put on a series of public engagement roadshows over the summer. As part of this, we will run an AAPS CDT stall at these events. In preparation, a group of us took part in a Science Made Simple public engagement training programme. This focused on developing the skills to engage stakeholders in research, learning how to design and use props for engagement events, and how to put this training into practice running a stall at events.
Here are three key takeaways from this training:
In academia we often think of communication as either a PowerPoint presentation or a poster, but it can be so much more than that. In public engagement, props capture people’s interest, communicate complex ideas… and be fun!
We designed several props to promote different types of engagement. These include a ‘build your own powertrain’ exercise, where people can think about the configuration of electric, hybrid, hydrogen, and ICE powertrains. This prop is great for physical engagement as users can move the blocks around and visualise how the powertrain would look. We also designed automotive ‘top-trumps’, which will bring an element of competition between players, while allowing them to learn about the relative attributes of different vehicles. Finally, we produced 3D printed replicas of battery cells, to help people visualise the make-up of EV batteries and begin to understand the physical size and material composition of them.
As the TVGAM events will be aimed at adults and teenagers with an interest in driving, we have developed our content to focus on the attributes of different powertrains and ‘myth busting’ common misconceptions. Other events, such as those aimed at children, will require different props. We spent some time developing activities aimed at children, such as colour-in powertrains and guess the size of the battery. It’s always important to know the sort of audience you expect at an event, and to tailor the activities you provide to their needs and levels of prior knowledge.
Public engagement can be fun but can also involve risks and it is important to think about health and safety when developing props and running a stall. Could people trip over props you demonstrate on the floor? Are the activities you develop accessible to all? How can you safely interact with the public, without getting into unsafe or uncomfortable situations? Thinking about these things when developing activities and planning your event layout can help ensure that the everything runs smoothly and safely on the day.
The props that were developed here will provide a fun and engaging foundation for an exciting programme of AAPS CDT public engagement activities in the University and at large events around the country.
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