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Wales National Eisteddfod August 2023

The National Eisteddfod is the foremost cultural event in Wales lasting 8 days and attracting an average of about 20,000 people daily to enjoy all aspects of the arts. It is also an opportunity to engage with the public and young people to promote Engineering and Science.

Over the last two years the organising of the Science Village has been contracted to the Menai Science Park (MSParc) which is an offshoot of Bangor University. Tanya Jones was the coordinator who worked with us on the event.

As a departure from previous years of a single large Pavilion, the concept of a Science Village was introduced in recent years with participants occupying a number of wooden huts, in addition to a smaller capacity marquee, named the Lloeren. A larger Show Dome (Sfferen) was provided for presentations, lectures and ceremonies. In addition, a stretch tent was provided to allow activities to take place in the centre of the village. This tent did not have a floor, with grass under foot, making it unsuitable for engagement activities where a firm base was required.

As in the past, IMechE participation was through the Joint Engineering Institution umbrella of the Engineering & Science Group North Wales. This year we attended alongside our colleagues in the IET. We also invited EESW (Engineering Education Scheme Wales) to bring their F1 track to the event. Unfortunately, the ICE did not join us this year as they have now changed their focus to STEM engagement with older students. The popular bridge building activity has now been retired by the ICE which is unfortunate.

We set up our joint stand within the Lloeren which was reasonably successful although sharing the limited space with other activities meant frequent re-organising and moving materials around. The limited space and warm weather also made it quite hot when large numbers were in occupation. As a consequence, we moved some activities outside the tent when weather conditions allowed.

Apart from the first and final Saturday, when we had early morning rain, we enjoyed excellent weather during the rest of the week which was fortunate to avoid the rather cramped indoor space available to us.

The event finished off on the Saturday evening with an excellent barbecue arranged by the Eisteddfod for the Science village.

Volunteers IMechE: 10 IET: 7 ICE: 2 EESW: 2 RWE: 2 STEM Volunteers: 4

We were grateful for the support of two ICE volunteers who have worked with us before at the event, despite no formal ICE representation this year.

We also had support from the Eisteddfod stewarding team to ensure a balance of Welsh speakers. In all we were able to provide about 50% Welsh speakers each day amongst our team.

As can be seen, all the professional bodies helped us with volunteers. In total we had 29 volunteers dedicating a number of days to the event. Typically, we required about 8 volunteers a day during the week, with a few less at weekends when some activities were not taking place.


In addition to the daily Engineering Challenge during the afternoons, Monday to Friday, we set up a number of diverse engagement activities over the course of the week
 Engineering Challenge: 32 teams took part over 5 days with a total of 78 students, (approx 25% female), mainly years 7 to 10. Very well received, no difficulties getting youngsters to take part. Limited by the number of kits available and the space in the Lloeren. A lot of work setting up and managing the activity. Important to have Welsh speakers to engage with the teams. Excellent cash prize for the winners which helped build interest.  Electronic experiments. These were run by the IET allowing youngsters to set up electrical circuits to perform various tasks. Estimated enagement with 200 students over the 8 days
 Wind turbine assembly. This was initiated by an IMechE member employed by RWE. We used kits to build turbines that charged a battery. The site location ensured we had enough wind to run these extremely popular devices. Mainly focused on younger children although teenagers and adults were also involved in building them!
 Due to difficulties setting up the F1 track, EESW set up a micro-bit robotic obstacle course within the stretch tent. This was popular with children of all ages. Estimated 125/day
 3D printer. We set up the 3D printer to manufacture Welsh dragons through the week. Ideal opportunity to teach young people and adults about additive manufacturing. Continuous interest throughout the week!
 VR headsets. Always popular although labour intensive. We used these during quiet periods
 IMechE STEM kits. We had an excellent day with these on the final Saturday when activities were running down. The lunar module and bridge building activities proved very popular with youngsters of all ages. Other STEM ambassadors were impressed with the selection of parts and activities in the kit. Estimated 25 students engaged during the 1 day of this activity

Other Activities at the Village
Other participants in the Village included:
 Bangor University
 Aberystwyth University
 Swansea University
  Cardiff University
 Royal Society of Chemistry
 IOP(Wales)
 Techno camps with MSParc
 Reaching Wider (part of Bangor University)

The Sfferen hosted lectures and panel discussions throughout the week with subjects ranging from Community Energy to medical developments and brewing beer. On the Friday the main presentation of the Science medal for the Festival was made to Prof Alan Shore who worked on photonics at Bangor university.

The age group of children engaging in activities within the Science Village is typically up to age 15 years. However, we received numerous enquiries from parents and older children regarding careers opportunities in engineering and other STEM subjects.

Figures from the organisers indicate that the Science village received over 50,000 visitors over the course of the week. This includes talks and presentations, as well as the engagement activities.

As in previous years the event proved to be a success. Our volunteers enjoyed the experience and would like to repeat their participation in future years. As before, we received requests from teachers in the Region asking if we can arrange visits to promote STEM at their schools as well as run the Engineering Challenge.

It would be good if the South Wales Region could support this event in Pontypridd next year. Our members found this to be a rewarding experience and we should try to extend our support throughout Wales where possible. The language issue should not be considered an obstacle to doing this as an outreach event.

One of our IMechE volunteers posted an excellent comment on the STEM portal which I think should be shared more widely:
One of the main benefits was reaching young people who would not normally have the opportunity to participate in STEM activities in this very rural area. Regularly children, notably a high proportion of girls aged 3 to 11, either dragged their parents or came alone to the stall so that they could take part. They were clearly keen on STEM and their successes with our activities both supported and reinforced their desire for STEM involvement in their lives. For many of these young people the event provided a rare opportunity for them to interact with STEM and the enthusiasm shown only highlighted the need to reach this demographic. On a personal level I found this very rewarding.

Downside this year was the cramped space available for our activities and the need to keep shuffling activities around to allow space for other organisations.

Extremely grateful to all our volunteers who gave their time, Tanya for organising the event and the Merseyside & North Wales Region for sponsoring.

Special thanks to Jelena at HQ for making sure we had the resources needed in time.

Gareth Cemlyn Jones



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