Sunday, 17 January 2016

NI Science Festival returns with a bang!

Want to understand the science behind Luke Skywalker's 'lightsabre' or Doctor Who's iconic 'sonic screwdriver'? Or explore the chemistry behind your cooking? Or even participate in a global experiment?

All this and more will be available from February 18 -28 with the return of the Northern Ireland Science Festival - a showcase for the wonders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Last year's inaugural festival incorporated more than 100 events across the country, drawing in more than 50,000 attendees.

Backed by the Department of Employment and Learning, Belfast City Council, Ulster University, Queen’s University, the Department for Social Development, the British Council and MCS Group, the 2016 event promises to be bigger and better. The programme will once bring together the very best of local and international talent across all things STEM-related.

The 11-day extravaganza, beginning on February 18, is open to all and will comprise over 120 entertaining and informative events across venues such as the W5, Titanic Belfast, the Armagh Planetarium, the Black Box, the Nerve Centre and the Ulster Museum.

As well as the core themes of science, technology, engineering and maths, the 2016 Festival will focus on how science affects our everyday lives through exploring the science of food, music, art and sport. The Festival will also feature an Artist in Residence consisting of both an exhibition and workshops exploring the intersection between art and science.

According to NI Science Festival Director Chris McCreery: “Following the success of our inaugural Festival, we are delighted to present an even broader programme of events in 2016. We believe the success of the Festival reflects both the depth of local scientific expertise and interest in science amongst the public. Northern Ireland already has some of the finest festivals on these islands and we're pleased to once again put popular science at the centre of the local social calendar.”

NI Science Festival Chair Dr Liz Conlon said: “The Science Festival is about entertaining but it is also about celebrating our unique heritage in Northern Ireland. One of our aims is to promote knowledge and understanding of STEM to a wider audience and also to encourage young people to explore the fantastic opportunities arising through STEM careers.”

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “I am delighted to be able to continue my Department’s sponsorship of the Northern Ireland Science Festival. Research consistently shows that it is vital we increase the number of skilled workers with qualifications in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics - if we are to drive forward the economy and raise levels of productivity and competitiveness. However, one of the major barriers we need to overcome is disengagement by young people from STEM subjects, so the Science Festival is a real asset in terms of inspiring them to pursue an education and career in subjects which are essential to Northern Ireland’s future success.

“Following last year’s hugely successful event, 74% of attendees said their interest in STEM had increased, which was very encouraging. I want to wish Chris McCreery and his team every success with this year’s Festival and look forward to attending some of the events.”

During the day, the festival will see workshops, talks and interactive activities for young people, parents and schools, while in the evening the festival will come alive with an eclectic mix of scientific debates, talks, theatre, comedy, music and film for adults.

One of the lasting legacies of last year's festival was the setting of a Guinness World Record, when 1339 local school children took part in the biggest ever science lesson.

Concluding, Mr McCreery said: “This year we are going global, with an opportunity for schools, community groups, clubs and families in Northern Ireland to be among thousands of students from around the world collaborating in the 2016 Royal Society of Chemistry’s Global Experiment. Contributing and engaging on an international level on this scale is is a hugely exciting and valuable thing to do, and we're all proud to be part of it.”

Also among the events are favourites from last year such as 'Ugly Animals' – a session which encourages the audience ditch pandas and penguins and investigate less attractive critters. And as 2016 is Northern Ireland's year of food, the festival will be placing 'Exploding Custard', centipedes, water bugs and pigs brains on the menu during the course of the festival.

The festival will also feature a lecture in honour of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the Enigma code and who is credited with 'inventing the computer'. Robert Schukai, Head of Advanced Product Innovation, Thomson Reuters, will explore the rapid growth of personal mobile devices and expansion of data, and the trends and implications for 21st century life. And to cap the festival off on February 28, Professor Robert Winston will examine how science may help us be happier.

For further information about the Northern Ireland Science Festival and ticketing log on to , or @niscifest