What’s freezing cold, levitates and zooms around a tent?

Over 38,000 people journeyed over to South Kensington on 18 and 19 June to engage with pioneering arts and science projects from across the UK at The Great Exhibition Road Festival. The festival is based on the Great Exhibition of 1851, held at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park organised by Prince Albert.  More than a third of the UK’s population and many famous faces at the time came to see amazing inventions including the first public flushing toilet, the precursor to the fax machine, and 3D photographs.

Today, the Great Exhibition Road Festival pays homage to its prototypical event by showcasing groundbreaking science and arts  hosted on Exhibition Road an area also known as Albertopolis which was created with the profits of the original exhibition. 

At this year’s festival, Big Ideas was lucky enough to contribute to three exciting events across the weekend: the Great Exhibition² tent, the 1851-der tent (pronounced eighteen-fifty-wonder), and The Engineers: Future of Cars panel event. 

The Great Exhibition² tent showcased incredible work by 9, 10 and 11 year-olds through  mentoring with Imperial College, London. During the project, students in schools near Exhibition Road developed their own problem-solving innovation

The tent displayed prototype inventions including… a rubbish-eating robot design to solve our ever-growing waste disposal problem (pictured below); a fully-working paper-recycling machine; one gaming enthusiast created bright blue virtual reality shoes with rewards for room-cleaning; and there was a village for bees with seven brightly coloured bee houses !

To both the students’ and the Big Ideas team’s excitement, Sir Mo Farah visited the tent to hand the bright youngsters their prizes for their innovations. Thank you Sir Mo for inspiring young people to get involved with STEM and to always follow their passions. The sponsor of the festival, Huawei, provided six laptops as a reward to participating schools.

“It’s amazing to see this art and science from all of you, that’s why I brought my daughters along, and I’m very inspired by you all” – Sir Mo Farah

The closest thing to being cool, levitating and zooming around the Great Exhibition² tent was… Sir Mo!

Another project Big Ideas supported for the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was The Engineers event, the seventh year of the Royal Commission’s partnership with the BBC World Service. 

Big Ideas are involved in every aspect of the Commission’s work, from delivering the event (in the Science Museum’s Information Age Gallery, this year) to hosting the panelists (three world-class engineers from the world of cars), from recruiting a global audience online to creating designs to communicate this year’s theme: Future of Cars.

Copyright: BBC. Photo credit: Tricia Yourkevich/BBC

Over 200 audience members engaged in hot topics of discussion. Can you convince people in America to transition from gas-guzzlers to electric cars? How hard is it to create super-thin solar panels? Is it safe to have artificial intelligence driving cars? Thanks to panelists Linda Zhang, Arjo van der Ham and Jamie Shotton – the team was so pleased to meet you!

We don’t expect we’ll see any levitating cars zooming around any time soon!

The panel event will be broadcast on television and radio on 13 and 14 August. And the Royal Commission’s schools outreach programme which we deliver in partnership with them will kick off on 29 September with these inspiring panelists. Watch this space.

This year, Big Ideas also co-created the 1851-der tent for the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, showcasing historical and modern transport vehicles to inspire thought about the future of transport.Royal Commission award holders were at the heart of the 1851der Tent, showing their work to the public in fun and eye-catching ways.

Work displayed at the tent included a working electric car engine and training rig thanks to Peter Jackson.

Maral Bayaraa is working on a satellite system to protect environments from disasters. Maral showed her satellite images mapping London, and compared them to a map of London in 1851! 

Solomia Bogusz created visually striking vases which were 3D printed using recycled car tyres.

Luisa Charles brought ‘Float’, a USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) that measures water quality data in real time.

Dr Luke Rhodes thrilled all the visitors with his magnetic levitation track (see below), researching superconducting materials. Children visiting decorated and constructed a paper train, place their train on the levitating magnet and watched it zoom round the track with wide eyes.

And here is the Magnetic Levitating superconductor, activated using freezing cold liquid nitrogen!

Thank you to the award holders for their impressive and world-class work.

Big Ideas would like to say thank you to those who attended our events at the festival and well done to the Big Ideas team, volunteers and participants. Increasing engagement in STEM amongst young people and those with limited access to STEM activities can help make the world a better place. Be sure to attend next year’s festival!