Tak­ing science out of the lab

Show at Athens school presents in­no­va­tions cre­ated or in­spired by or­di­nary peo­ple

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY NICK BARNETS

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

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