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Physics in disguise

Physics workshops at Discovering42 inspire family learning.

Published: 7 March 2023

Following funding from an Ogden physics education grant, more than 250 people have taken part in 32 workshops at Discovering42, a science museum in Bodmin, which was founded in 2020 as a community interest company using art as a catalyst for engaging adults and children with physics, engineering and environmental issues. Using the funding, museum co-founders Roy and Natalia Jones were able to create a wide range of workshops and to draw in a broad range of participants that might not usually be interested in physics.

“We had 17 unique workshops ranging from rockets to making fairy lights,” explains Natalia. “We designed the workshops to vary in difficulty, from simple workshops like making your own steady hand game to others that provided the opportunity to go into more depth, like making a robotic eye or a remote controlled land yacht.”

People gathered for hands-on physics activities at a canon workshop. The picture shows adults and children with cardboard cylinders. There are tin cans hanging from the roof of the room.

Canon workshop

Bodmin is in an area of deprivation, and Roy and Natalia wanted to use this project to work with audiences that would usually have a negative perception of science or would not be drawn to science-focused events.  They wanted to challenge perceptions and spark curiosity by running practical workshops that shows physics in the real world. They wanted to get participants designing, building and discovering principles of physics through hands-on experimentation and the feedback suggests they have achieved this!

“Dear Roy and Natalia. Just a note to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for the brilliant fairy lights workshop last night. It was so empowering to be able to create a chain of fairy lights ourselves. As well as a huge confidence boost, it was also a brilliant exercise in teamwork and a lovely opportunity for mother-daughter bonding. We’re very grateful for the new skills we learnt…”

Three adults and one child are working at a table which shows soldering irons and other equipment. One person has blue hair and another has green hair.

Fairy lights workshop

“Hi there. Just wanted to let you know how much my girls enjoyed the piano workshop on Saturday😊Thank you. It was a great opportunity to get stuck in and experiment with electronics. My oldest daughter carried on working on this experiment in her free time at home. She managed to make a seven-note keyboard using carrot as a variable resistor … She plays it daily and I see she has taken it to school today.”

“Hugely welcoming and engaging event. This is an invaluable community space which delivered a wonderful workshop enabling each participant to learn how to produce a fully working bug bot. Both children and I were supported throughout the task and had a wonderful sense of achievement having been guided through our fun physics-based challenge, which was a fabulous link into our learning.”

Adults and children gather outside as they prepare to launch an air powered rockets. Someone is pumping the air pump as the others look on. One person is in a wheelchair.

Rocket workshop

Visit the Discovering42 website to find out more about Cornwall’s award winning art, sustainability and science museum,  and plan your visit.

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