Public invited to get their hands dirty as Festival of New Ideas grows

Two new events have been added to the programme for the inaugural Festival of New Ideas which takes place in Aberdeen on May 27 and 28.

In a bumper day of events showcasing research at the University of Aberdeen, visitors on Saturday 28 May will be able to find out everything they need to know about one of the most important resources on the planet. The substance that links plants and humans, that feeds us, captures carbon and provides a habitat that sustains life on earth – soil!

Discover why soil is so important both now and for the future and how scientists have made a significant contribution to the challenges of climate change in the free ‘Digging into Soil Science’ event open from 2-4:30pm at Elphinstone Hall.

Jam-packed with family-friendly stalls and interactive activities, visitors can delve even deeper at an expert panel session at King’s College Conference Centre from 3.30-5pm looking at how soil relates to natural capital, what food security is and how vegetation is saving the environment.

“Soil is at the heart of our lives, our environment and our being – yet most of us take it for granted,” said Professor Graeme Paton, Head of the School of Biological Sciences. “Soil is moulded by the environmental systems that surround it but it also creates those very systems and this is what makes soil science such a fascinating area for study.

“The University’s world-leading centre of excellence in soil science strives to find solutions to some of society’s greatest threats, including the climate crisis and environmental change. The issues we face in maintaining sustainable soils are greater now than ever before and this event offers a rare chance for people to get a closer look at some of the techniques, skills and research the University is using to address those challenges.”

The second in the UNI-Versal series of new mini festivals organised by the University, the two-day Festival of New Ideas will see a host of events take place over 27 and 28 May, profiling the research being carried out by University students and staff to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the planet.

Friday 27 May will see a regional heat of the ‘Three-Minute Thesis Competition’, a fast-paced contest held in more than 200 universities worldwide in which PhD students have just 180 seconds to present their research in an engaging way to an audience with no background knowledge. Taking place at King’s College Conference Centre from 11am-12pm, participants will be able to vote for their favourite with the winner going on to compete at the national level.

Visitors can also get a snapshop of years of cutting-edge research in just a single picture at the ‘Images of Research’ event which runs from 11am-4pm over both days at Elphinstone Hall.

Saturday 28 May will see visitors get up close and personal with some of the robots which are transforming how we live and work at the ‘Exploring Robotics’ event from there are two tours one from 10-11am and again at 2.30-3.30pm, including hands-on activities and demonstrations.

They can find out how to cook with Scotland’s carbon-neutral, zero-waste superfood at the ‘Hemp for the Future’ event from 11am-12pm and get to taste some delicious hemp pancakes made by a dietician from the Rowett Institute.

Researchers will also be highlighting some of the innovative projects making use of artificial intelligence to benefit society with hands on activities and demonstrations in the ‘Living and Working in an AI World’ showcase which runs from 11.30am-3pm.

This will be explored in more depth in the ‘AI, Data and the Metaverse – Helping Us Work, Rest and Play’ panel session at King’s College Conference Centre from 12.30-2pm.

Not limited to technological advances, the Festival also celebrates the new ideas shaping the natural world. Combining traditional crafts with human biology, scientist and renowned textile artist Dr Lynne Hocking will lead a ‘Weaving the Genome’ workshop from 3.30-5pm at the Sir Duncan Rice Library demonstrating how she handweaves genetics into fabric, with participants getting the chance to have a go at weaving the human genome for themselves using frame looms, yarn and genetic data.

All events are free to attend, with the exception of the Ten Feet Tall live radio play of ‘The 39 Steps’ from 2-3.30pm on the Saturday which is a ‘pay what you can’ initiative.

More information and the full Festival programme can be found here.