Who says science can’t be fun and educational at the same time?
Special reportage from Sofia Science Festival 2020
Written and photos by Gabriella Permaul, edited by Olena Cytryna.
This year I had the chance to attend the British Council’s Sofia Science Festival that took place the 26-27 September 2020, and let me tell you, it was definitely worth wearing a facemask all day.
There were many workshops to learn from and marvel at the Science Festival. They were spread across two floors and some were even split outside.
The Science Festival was created in 2011 by the British Council and the Forum Democrit in partnership with the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science. It’s a recurring event that happens once a year over a couple of days.
I was never really the science type as a child, I could never quite grasp its concepts. In retrospect, if I had been given the chance to attend this festival, I may have grown to be genuinely interested in the subject.
The science festival was organized in such a way that was not only entertaining and interactive for children, but also for adults. It allowed one to learn a lot about topics ranging from the different elements on the periodic table to space, robots, the environment, and more.
Yavor Kiriakov, founder of the University For Kids in Bulgaria and ICT teacher, has been working at the Sofia Science Festival since 2016.
“This year we had a small show that started off with the Big Bang and ended with sausages.”
Seeing my apparent confusion as to why the show included sausages he added: “We aim to inspire kids with science and to show them that it is close to us in our everyday lives. You can do whatever you like with just kitchen supplies, there are many different experiments you can make, which is always very entertaining for kids.”
The workshop that Kiriakov and his team had set up grabbed each child's attention and there were always many children waiting for their turn to participate.
“We have different exercises that vary between the different disciplines of physics, chemistry, robotics, or biology. For instance, we have a really amusing experiment with gyroscopes. It’s always a gadget that amuses everyone, even people who have studied them for years are still interested in them.” Even I was dying to play with the items on the table.
The next workshop that I went to was held by Veselin Rusliuv and his team from the Robotics Academy in Sofia. There are 10 different centers in Sofia where they teach robotics to children aged between 5-15, as well as mathematics to 4-8 year olds.
This was their fourth year at the Science Festival and this year they had remote-controlled robots in store for the kids.
“Our robots are made out of Lego and most of the kids have a lot of those at home so they are used to building things out of them. Through our guidance, they are able to build a robot that they can then program. It's an easy process which uses pictures to help instruct the builder.”
In addition to the robots, there were other activities: “All the mathematical exercises that we have are set up as games. Our aim is for them to learn while they play and enjoy themselves.” Who knew math could be so fun!
The third workshop that I attended was run by a club of amateur radio lovers founded by the NETERRA telecommunication employees.
The Neterra LZ1KRN club explained to us how radio waves transmit to one another and showed what the digital methods of working with a radio station were. Once the demonstration was over, anyone who wished to was given the chance to catch someone’s radio frequency and talk to them over the radio by using special lingo.
Not only were there workshops, but there were also fifty-minute lectures that everyone could enjoy. Due to Covid-19, the speakers were shown live on Zoom, through a projector. Attendees were socially distanced from each other and were all wearing a mask, but despite this, the lectures still proved to be popular with the people.
These lectures varied from “Why should we have hope for the future”, “The Cosmic Rain”, “ Bats, killer mushrooms and fear of the dark”, to “ The Nobel Prize in Medicine”, and “Myths and Truths about Nutrition”.
I always love going to the gift shops at educational events or museums because it's always nice to purchase a souvenir that reminds me of the great day that I had. If you're anything like me, you'll be pleased to know that there were many opportunities to buy souvenirs at the science fair. There was a variety of goods on offer among all of the workshops and stalls. This included a jewelry workshop which sparked my interest.
The aim of that workshop was to arouse interest in science through necklaces, bracelets, t-shirts, and other items which are available for purchase on their online store.
Slagjana Ranevska, one of the organizers of this workshop, explained that people often asked about the meanings of the different molecules on the necklaces when browsing. This showed that their aim of using jewelry and apparel to spark an interest in science was working as it was giving them the opportunity to teach someone something new.
When asking whether a certain molecule is the most popular among the public she answered: “Serotonin is our absolute bestseller, it’s the molecule of happiness. People buy it with the idea that it will bring them happiness or lift their mood which is why it’s so popular.”
Despite the difficult circumstances, the Sofia Science Festival was still attended by many. Although it may not have been as busy as previous years, as advised by various workshop organizers, it shows that people are still interested in learning more about science even during a pandemic (especially on a rainy day!).
Whether you have kids in need of entertaining, a partner to impress or you are just looking to enrich your own understanding of the world, I would highly recommend marking this in your calendars for next year. It is an event which is not to be missed, you won't be disappointed.
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