Taking science out of the lab
Show at Athens school presents innovations created or inspired by ordinary people
One of the first things the visitor to Ellinogermaniki Agogi notices is about a dozen fascinating projects on display at the entrance, the work of students at this private school in the northeast Athenian suburb of Pallini. With projects like an architectural model of the Acropolis at the height of the classical period and a three-dimensional map illustrating the conquests of Alexander the Great, it is easy to see why this school was chosen to host “Science Beyond the Lab,” a traveling exhibition that will be on display there until May 20.
The exhibition is part of Sparks, a project spearheaded by the European Network of Science Centers and Museums (Ecsite) that aims to show Europeans how they can be a part of scientific research and demonstrates how scientific innovation is being achieved outside the lab, with ordinary people playing an important role in health and environmental studies, among others.
The Sparks project began in 2015 and runs until 2018, with “Science Beyond the Lab” being just one of its many ini- tiatives. “We try to use these events and exhibitions to test the idea of teachers becoming designers of education content themselves, becoming more autonomous,” says Stephanos Cherouvis, who works in the school’s research and development department, the exhibition’s host.
“When I was growing up, a scientist was somebody in a laboratory wearing a white coat. Now we have this exhibition, which makes scientific innovation more real and interactive for kids,” says Michiel Buchel, president of Ecsite.
The display Ellinogermaniki Agogi school is especially proud of is City Crop, an indoor farming machine developed by students at the school themselves and accompanied in the show by information and photographs of plants city folk can grow right in their own apartments thanks to this tech- nology. It also includes an app that helps cut down on food waste – an important tool given that in a typical Greek household, 30 percent of food ends up in the trash.
The “Science Beyond the Lab” exhibition is arranged into sections, such as “Biology Outside the Lab” showing innovations created or inspired in some cases by ordinary people. Hacking Your Health, for example, presents the story of Tim Omer, a Type 1 diabetic who developed a chip to live track blood glucose levels. There’s also a display of a 3D printer that makes prosthetic limbs and an app to track the effectiveness of medication given to people with Parkinson’s.
Environmental research often necessitates many people in various locations tracking data over long periods of time. This obstacle is the focus of the environmental innovation section. It begins with a large map of Germany showing different types of mosquitoes identified around the country as part of a project to track invasive species,and also presents Air Quality Egg, a computer developed in London to track smog levels in various locations to help fight air pollution.
Another fascinating exhibit is the Unicorn Helmet developed by tech fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht for children with attention deficit disorder. Using neurosensory technology, it provides data that helps parents and teachers learn more about the child’s interests. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a solution to gluttony, you can read all about the development of nano robots that are inhaled and tell you when your stomach is full enough to stop eating. Then there’s a study on isolation, which could be useful in preparing humans to travel to Mars.
“The exhibition shows the children how to bring the scientific process to life, how to form a hypothesis,” Buchel says proudly, after walking us through the exhibition. “They learn how to set up an experiment, how to use technology in a way that we see what’s happening and not just something in our iPhones, but to see the engineering and technology that’s needed to do an experiment.”
(left) project was developed to track pollution levels. Hacking Your Health (right) includes a special jacket for post-surgery patients.
The Air Quality Egg