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16,000 fans of Science visit Harwell Campus on its first Open Day in over a decade

Dressing up as a scientist
(Credit: STFC)

Tuesday 14 July – On Saturday we welcomed around 16,000 people from all over the UK and even further afield who were all very keen to take a peek behind the scenes at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Diamond Light Source and the Harwell Campus Partners opened the doors to some of the world’s most spectacular and powerful science facilities for the first time in 15 years. The campus is not usually open to the public simply because it is a working science facility housing very powerful instruments.

This was a once in a generation opportunity for the visitors to see the breadth of science and engineering that public investment pays for at Harwell as well understanding a little of why this work is so important and to understand the impact this science has on their own lives. 

It was also a perfect opportunity for the research staff at the Harwell campus to inspire and encourage more than 5,000 young people who joined us on Saturday to consider taking up subjects that will enable them to become our next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians. More importantly it allowed us to explain that they don’t always have to go to university to do this, but could become apprentices right here at Harwell. 

Particularly popular areas of the Harwell site included the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, which is used for a huge variety of science, from designing new medicines to testing materials used in aircraft; and the Diamond Light Source with its iconic silver ring that houses the UK’s Synchrotron. These facilities each received more than 4,000 visitors.

Visitors also had an opportunity to take a ‘selfie’ with a gigantic cast of a Gorgosaurus dinosaur skeleton and over a 1,000 people got to star in their own Matrix-style ‘frozen time’ film sequence with the Technology team’s time-slice camera, They burst 2,500 balloons using lasers, produced 10 litres of slime and devoured 7kg of marshmallows which they were using to construct models of atoms. In the control room for Vulcan, one of the world’s most powerful lasers, 216 people experienced the thrill of firing the laser in a simulation created for the day.

Matrix-style ‘frozen-time’
(Credit: STFC)

By the end of the day the feedback from the very many visitors speaking to our staff showed that we had captured people’s imaginations and that they now knew a lot more about lasers, protons, the engineering challenges of building and maintaining the site and of how to explode balloons with a laser beam!

Making atoms from marshmallows
(Credit: STFC)

One child was overheard saying to his mum that “this place is better than Legoland!” and another child left a message on one of our mood boards that he, or she, ‘would like to work here one day.’

The final verdict? Science is awesome!


More information:

Marion O’Sullivan
STFC Press Office
Tel: 01235 445627
Mobile: 07824 888990

Last updated: 14 July 2015


Science and Technology Facilities Council
Switchboard: +44 (0)1793 442000