This past weekend VIPS team members Taylor and Tobias were advertising Uppsala University’s Earth Sciences department to the school children of Uppsala. We participated in SciFest, an annual gathering of interactive science exhibits from all over the city of Uppsala (not just the university).
There were forests simulated through virtual reality goggles, electricity generated from a standing bicycle, a 3D printer tirelessly producing custom key chains, and even a veterinarian demonstrating proper canine dental hygiene techniques. The Geovetenskaper (Swedish for geosciences) booth had three topics: the meteorology, volcanology, and seismology. Our meteorologists (@uu_meteorologi) created a weather forecasting exercise and had a huge, high resolution TV screen with real-time atmospheric measurements displayed.
We volcanologists had a meter-scale augmented reality sandbox using the software and instructions developed by UC Davis. The sandbox is an incredibly fun tool to explain and experience geomorphological, volcanological and hydrological processes to young and old. A Xbox kinnect and a projector attached on top measure constantly the distance towards the sand-surface and project the corresponding elevation using standard topographic colours. In addition, one can simulate and projected, water or lava onto the sand as well as onto a screen.
After creating a virtual volcano eruption in the sandbox the kids (and adults) could come over to our volcano table to get to know more about volcanic eruptions with examples of volcanic rocks, bottles with different viscous liquids. Finally, our seismologists constructed a mini seismometer to detect “earthquakes” (lots of stomping from that corner) and participants could see the recorded seismic waves projected onto a screen.
Some looked at our obsidian and pumice as if they were just…rocks. But some kids had a spark light up their eyes that was all too familiar, and the questions came pouring out. Science outreach is hugely important, especially to young people. Who knows what discoveries their futures hold! If you ever get the opportunity to share your interest of the natural world with someone who’s keen to listen, don’t pass it up!