By Corrinne Burns, Contemporary Science Content Developer, Science Museum, London
When my boss sent me to a disused gas storage tank in the heart of industrial Amsterdam, I briefly thought she’d taken leave of her senses. But I needn’t have worried: these days the Gashouder, as it’s called, is a unique event venue. On the 11th September, it hosted the final of the People’s Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2014. The ultimate winner of the Challenge, as you might know, was Bio-Bean – a London-based start-up who turn coffee waste into green fuel.
I was in the audience, representing London’s Science Museum. In the weeks running up to the ceremony, our Contemporary Science team had decided that we wanted to put the winner’s technology on display in our science news gallery, Antenna.
This posed a challenge. We like to be first to break a science news story, so we wanted to get the Green Challenge winner on display as soon as possible – within three days.
To put that into context, it normally takes a few weeks to complete an exhibit like this. We have to really understand the science behind the story we want to tell. We’ll talk to the scientists involved, as well as a few independent experts. This helps us write a balanced story. We also need to borrow eye-catching objects for the display and physically install them – it’s a museum, after all.
Thing is, when we’re planning a display, we usually know what the story is going to be about! This time, we didn’t. We only knew that it would be one of the five finalists who had made it to the ceremony in Amsterdam.
So how could we plan a display when we didn’t know what it would be about? Simple – we planned five displays, one for each finalist! That way, as soon as we knew who the winner was, we could be ready to go.
That’s how I came to be sitting in a giant Dutch gas tank, popcorn in one hand and phone in the other, waiting for the announcement. Although any of the five finalists would have been deserving of investment, the ultimate winner was Bio-Bean. Arthur Kay, the company’s CEO, had won the jury over with his presentation.
The moment Bio-Bean’s win was announced, I called home and set the Museum wheels in motion. Our designers started planning how the display would look. My colleagues Georgie and Sharon began writing labels for the display and sourcing nice photos to go with it. I caught up with Arthur for an interview, which is now part of the display, and he gave me some great items to show our visitors – fuel pellets and a sample of diesel, both made from spent coffee. You’d never guess, to look at the fuels, that they’re made from a product most of us think of as waste.
Finally, I jumped back on the late night Eurostar ready to be back at my Museum desk the next day. We had a display to make! And, right on target, we did it in three days. If you come to the Antenna gallery in the Science Museum you can see it for yourself. You can also read about Bio-Bean and my interview with Arthur online – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
With a keen interest in sustainability & protecting the environment, I believe education and green technologies will play a major part in achieving these aims. The opportunity to further my studies through the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Scholarship seemed almost too good to be true and I was pretty amazed to be one of the winners.
I thought the ethos of the competition was brilliant – encouraging people to develop green ideas and then helping to provide the education and support to get them up and running. I made time between my work and final year studies to put my proposal together. I have to say I love the Open University too! I completed my undergraduate degree through them and found their courses and staff to be excellent. I don’t think I could ever have afforded to do a Masters Degree on my own so winning was such a gift.
My idea came from thinking about ways I could motivate myself and others into changing their behaviour – in this case, to encourage cycling to work instead of driving or taking the bus. I’m a bit of a fair-weather cyclist and don’t need much of an excuse to drive so the idea really came about from thinking about ways I could persuade myself to cycle more often. My idea is to provide encouragement and useful information in the form of a motivational alarm-clock app which will provide a weather forecast and a suitable departure time to help people to prepare to cycle from the moment they wake up. On the motivational front, a number of personalised messages and photos would provide the ‘carrots’ to reward their achievements and also help them track the amount of carbon saved.
Once I’ve finished my degree I’m going to put some work into developing my proposal further before approaching some organisations to see if they’d like to work on it collaboratively. I’m hoping some organisations such Sustrans or the Energy Saving Trust might take an interest. Technically, the idea is feasible so I’m looking forward to ironing out the details. I think the successful diffusion, and therefore the amount of carbon saving, will depend on managing to make it a fun, easy and useful tool for people that will catch on and hopefully inspire a pedal revolution.
The award ceremony itself was brilliant. I got the chance to meet so many inspiring people, especially the other winners. I loved all of their ideas and presentations. The Royal Botanic Gardens was such a perfect setting for it and their staff were also great to talk to.
It’s going to be a challenging 3 years ahead but the courses on Environmental Management look brilliant and I’m really looking forward to getting started. I’m hoping to be able to go into Green Project Management or Green Consultancy work in the future and I think being able to do this masters is going to set me on a really good path towards this.
Thank you, Postcode Lottery!
This is part of a series of guest blogs written by charities and good causes supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Today’s guest blog comes from Alexandra Sophia Machray House who secured a Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Scholarship this year. Alexandra’s ‘On Yer Bike’ app has functions such as an alarm clock and motivational messages to encourage people to cycle.
Supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, The GENERATOR was our big summer holiday programme for families at the Scottish National Gallery this year. Taking inspiration from GENERATION, a landmark exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland, the programme encouraged families to have fun exploring and responding to contemporary art.
Every afternoon for four weeks, children aged 4+ and their families were invited to drop into our learning centre and take part in a range of free, creative activities. Many of the art works in the GENERATION exhibitions are challenging and experimental so we really wanted to encourage families to try out new inventive ideas. We turned our learning centre into a crazy art lab and posed questions like ‘What happens when you mix art with music?’, ‘How do you ‘un-paint’ a picture?’ and ‘What could a sculpture be made of?’
Activities included creating collage tree shapes inspired by Martin Boyce, painting to music inspired by Victora Morton, making sculptures with unusual materials inspired by Karla Black and exploring the flamboyant performance side of some of the artists in GENERATION like Steven Campbell and Ross Sinclair by dressing up as an artist character and taking part in a photo-shoot.
Inspired by the immersive nature of some of the installations featured in the exhibition, we really wanted to turn our learning centre into an art work in itself. We did this by creating a large-scale abstract mural that participants were able to add to and alter. An artist called Fraser Gray randomly ‘generated’ a composition using a computer programme, which he then painted directly on to the wall. Parts of the mural were painted over using a very new type of hydrochromic paint that changes colour when water is added to it. This meant that families could really experiment with mark making and paint directly onto the mural. Once the water dried, the marks disappeared, ready for the next person to re-invent the design.
We were so excited about the GENERATOR activities that we wanted to share them with as many people as possible – so this year, for the first time, we opened the workshops up to other audiences. In the mornings, we invited after-school and family groups to come and explore the exhibition and have fun in the workshops. We also opened up the GENERATOR to adult groups as part of our GENERATION Late events on Thursday evenings. The response was really positive, with adults relishing the chance to experiment, explore and create in a playful environment.
Approximately 2,200 people enjoyed the GENERATOR and we were very sad when it came to an end - roll on next summer when we can create a whole new experience for families to enjoy!
Thanks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery whose support made all of these activities possible. I will sign off with some lovely visitor comments:
‘This event is fabulous, the children absolutely loved every minute and didn’t want to leave!’
‘My favourite thing – watching my daughter become more confident with materials, becoming less worried about it being ‘good’ and becoming absorbed in the activities – especially the musical painting.’
‘Absolutely wonderful, we are on low income and this was a fantastic and unforgettable afternoon we could afford it thanks to you.’
‘Amazed to see my 4 teenage children all freely engage in the activities! Lovely to see them become absorbed and concentrate on their creations!’
‘Kids loved it, something a bit different linking it with artists work. Thanks!’
‘Engaging our boys to get their hands creating, what else could a parent ask for?’
‘Very engaging for all. Encourages kids to foster an interest in galleries.’
‘Brilliant fun for our two children! They have had a great time painting and creating. So glad we found this place!’
This is part of a series of guest blogs written by charities and good causes supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Today’s guest blog comes from National Galleries of Scotland, a fantastic organisation that has received a whopping £866,513 from players to date to help make spectacular exhibitions accessible to people of all ages.