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APEX public engagement projects funded in 2021

We have provided grants of up to £10,000 to APEX Award holders to run exciting and innovative public engagement activities based on their APEX Award projects. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about public engagement or any of the projects.

Projects funded in 2021

Information sharing: structures and strategies
Tensors: a powerful way to compute
Mammal whiskers: investigating animal sensing using biology, maths and robots
Mutating machines: what engineers can learn from the natural world
Using diamond to fight fungus in space
Perfect match

Information sharing: structures and strategies

Dr Brian Ball - New College of the Humanities

A person using a smartphoneThe team will explore how misinformation spreads through technology. 

Dr Brian Ball’s project will explore how to facilitate individual and group knowledge through the appropriate deployment of information sharing technologies. The research team will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders through a series of workshops to explore how misinformation spreads and what strategies can be used to encourage reasonable opinions across social networks.

The team will run public workshops to present their findings and engage public discussion around the themes of the project. In addition, they will develop interactive online resources and questionnaires, alongside a supporting series on YouTube to engage a larger audience.

“We hope to disseminate our findings around the dynamics of information and opinion in social networks to those who are in a position to implement solutions that rely on them; and to form connections with such stakeholder representatives, so as to gather information from them, and co-produce knowledge and understanding of the ecosystem of information sharing networks."

Tensors: a powerful way to compute

Professor Hazel Cox– University of Sussex

A group of school children at  Brighton Wonderfest 2019The team will design a new interactive hands-on game for all ages to explain the mathematic technique that will be used to solve quantum chemistry problems. 

Professor Hazel Cox’s project aims to demonstrate the importance of fundamental science by exploring key mathematical concepts used in computational chemistry and engineering to show how computers can be used to answer complex problems.

The team will design an interactive hands-on game, create a masterclass for year 12 and 13 students and produce a series of videos for social media exploring mathematical techniques and algorithms prevalent in science and engineering.

“By the end of the project, we hope the engaged public will have a better appreciation of the importance of fundamental science (which can often seem remote from the real world) in the development of new science and technological advances, and a better understanding of the ways in which we can use computers to store information and solve problems.”

Mammal whiskers: investigating animal sensing using biology, maths and robots

Dr Robyn Grant – Manchester Metropolitan University

SealThe team will explore the mechanics of whiskers in mammals. 

Dr Robyn Grant’s project will explore the effect of whisker shape on whisker mechanics using novel mathematical algorithms. The team will share their research with members of the public to raise awareness of the diversity of scientific research, as well as to stimulate curiosity and understanding of the natural world.

During the project, the research team will run a comprehensive workshop series on animal sensing for primary school children across the UK. They will also produce a comic book and virtual careers sessions to demonstrate how an understanding of the natural world can inspire art, design and new technology.

“We will demonstrate in our project that science and scientists are important in everyday life, from working in zoos to designing robots. We hope that this will be a highly effective way of encouraging awareness of science among children.”

Mutating machines: what engineers can learn from the natural world

Dr Michael Berthaume – London South Bank University

Plio-Pleistocene hominin fossils from South Africa, representing two different species (Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus)Plio-Pleistocene hominin fossils from South Africa, representing two different species (Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus). 

Dr Michael Berthaume’s project aims to engage Key Stage 2 and 3 school pupils and members of the public with ‘anthroengineering’ problem solving through virtual, participatory investigations and music and animation creation.

The team will develop cross-curricular resources and interactive workshops for KS2 students and professional development opportunities for teachers. These interactive sessions will enable pupils to participate in anthroengineering research and use tools to investigate within-species variation between monkeys.

“By engaging with school students, we will facilitate the diversity pipeline for STEM disciplines. Via schools in low-income urban and rural areas (i.e., south London via LSBU Group and County Durham via the Durham Science Network), including engaging with girls, and with young people who are beginning to identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we will provide insights into future STEM career paths potentially not considered by these students.”

Using diamond to fight fungus in space

Professor Haitao Ye –  University of Leicester

An image of microscopical fungus and an image of a space shipThe research team will explore the use of diamond to fight fungus in space. 

Professor Haitao Ye’s project will foster an existing partnership with the National Space Centre in Leicester to produce a special Science Discovery Programme that explores engineered diamond for antifungal applications in space.

Using the Centre’s established school and external organisational links, the team will run a series of presentations, demonstrations and science busking sessions, providing members of the public and school groups the opportunity to discover the links between fungal and bacterial growth, space environments and engineered diamond formation.

“The team will use the resources and methodologies developed to support targeted masterclasses and wider STEM science clubs at selected schools in the Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester areas. These will focus on highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of real science and engineering to students whose core science curriculum offer from their schools can be very didactic and exam-focused. The value-added is therefore bridging the formal school curriculum science offer with the real world of research and will also include career exemplars as a core component.”

Perfect match

Professor Igor Meglinski - Aston University

A drawing of a cat and exosomesThe team will use shaped light with orbital angular momentum to examine cellular communication and exosomes. Quantum cat illustrates photons with angular momentum and cellular communication via exosomes. Artwork by student Miss Tatiana Koryashkina. 

Professor Igor Meglinski’s research uses photonics to unlock unknown properties of light and promotes the use of quantum paradigm into day-to-day biomedical applications. His team hope that by pairing this multidisciplinary research with contemporary art, their project creates new ways to engage with modern scientific concepts.

Using animation tools, the team will work with art students to create artistic interpretations of the fundamental science, key findings and major innovations within their main APEX research project. They will present the artwork and outcomes of their project through a series of follow-up events and exhibitions open to members of the public.

“The ultimate aim of the proposal is simple and pragmatic - to help prospective students to choose the right disciplines and courses in their undergraduate studies and indirectly via artistic and cognitive perception to encourage them to continue graduate studies choosing multidisciplinary sciences.”

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