Stargazing is always popular and all 700 tickets for this event were reserved within 15 minutes! It was a great way to encourage people to get into computing and showcase some of the work we do in the Scientific Computing Department. Staff volunteers ran several computing related hands-on activities over the course of the evening, including Bee-Bots (pictured below) and Lego Mindstorms - both are types of coding and programming activites.
Emily Lewis, who helped run the BeeBot activity, said: 'It was very fun and slightly hectic. The children were very energetic and the BeeBots themselves are mobile so I spent a lot of my time alternately distributing and retrieving them. One went on an adventure and got halfway across the visitor centre before being apprehended. Explaining how the BeeBots work to a younger audience was also an interesting challenge as there were different levels of previous experience. Changing my explanation on the fly to best fit their understanding level was a great exercise in communication. In all cases it was hugely rewarding watching the children getting enthusiastic when they succeeded in the exercises and learnt a little about programming at the same time.'
Stuart Pullinger said, “I brought my 7 year-old son to this year's Stargazing event at RAL and we had a great time. After marvelling at the model of the James Webb telescope, we saw a cool talk and demo about comets. My son really enjoyed the beebots & lego robots. We also made a model Rosetta and Philae lander which is now proudly on display in his bedroom. Thanks to all the staff for making it such a great event. We will definitely be coming back next year."
The evening was a great success and we were very pleased that the BBC decided to come along, so the event also got some local BBC News coverage!