The Big Bang Fair – PART 2 

The Big Bang Fair - in full swing!

I started writing this on Friday morning. I got halfway through before I was needed and I didn't get another chance that day. I then attempted finishing it on Saturday morning (before again getting caught up). Finally, it's Wednesday (almost a week after I first started writing) and I've got the time to properly finish it!


It's 8.30 in the morning and it's day three of four at The Big Bang Fair at the NEC . This means I've survived the set up day on Tuesday (complete with the high vis jackets); I survived the first day on Wednesday and even more amazing; I survived the extremely long (but enjoyable day that was yesterday). I left my house at 6.30am on Thursday and got home at 10.45pm - and with the exception of a 20 minute break between exhibiting, the awards ceremony and dinner I didn't stop! It was a very long day - but an EXTREMELY rewarding one. 

You might be wondering why now of all times I'm typing this (after all there will be a stampede of kids arriving shortly ... surely I'm much better to sit down and relax - calm before the storm?!). I think not. I want to write about last night as it's fresh in my mind. 

For those of you who don't know what The Big Bang Fair is; it's the UK largest celebration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). It celebrates all things related to this as well as highlighting some of the latest examples of innovation in the field. It welcomes 22,000 children through the doors each day and aims to inspire the next generation (an aim I can personally say I think they're very much on the way to achieving). 

Yesterday was the second day of the fair; which cumulated in the awarding of the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year and UK Young Engineer of the year (amongst other prizes). The winners were two phenomenal individuals; Emily Xu whose project could make drugs safer and more effective and Josh Mitchell whose project was creating a flat pack 3D printer for a fraction of the commercial cost.

Dinner was after the celebrations and it was a fantastic event. Opened by the CEO of Engineering (and hence Big Bang) we were welcomed and introduced to the evening. We heard from Brooke Hoskins who works at BAE sytems and for the first time in a while, I was in awe! To see a female up on stage giving a speech is always good. When that female relates to the audience and puts them at ease, that's another thing. When that person has a PhD in physics, yet can readily relate to the layman it inspires you no end. 

After that, we heard from last year's winners (George Rabin and Ed Thurlow for UK Young Scientists and Sankha Kahagala-Gamage and David Bernstein for UK Young Engineers). Their speeches were also inspiring (to say the least). At age 14 or 16, if I had that much courage and comedic effect my parents would have been the proudest around!!

This year's UK Young Scientist of the Year and UK Young Engineer of the year Emily Xu and Josh Mitchell



Last day of the fair. I can't believe how fast these last few days have gone. We've got our last group of volunteers today and they're all excited and raring to go! Today is the family day so we're expecting lots of adults with their children... will definitely give it a different dynamic.

We've got amazing puzzles to give out, fantastic stickers, DVDs and of course the lego workshop we're running. We've had people chat to us and ask about career advice, we've had people ask us about university courses and we've had people engage with OR who would normally disregard STEM.

Explaining OR to people in simple terms (i.e. using numbers and data to make better decisions) is connecting us with so many new people. I've heard people describe it as the best way to make choices, finding the quickest way to do something and finding the best way to do something. Although there is of course much more to it, getting people to understand even the basic idea of OR is great. If today is anything like the last few days it's going to be fun, busy and filled with coffee!


So the Big Bang Fair has finished. It is finally over and I can sigh with relief! Apart from the fact I'm now allowed to sit down and rest my poorly ankle (which is broken but I ended up hobbling on it for the duration of The Big Bang Fair), it also means I can catch up on the mass of emails that have been accumulating. (Although I can't imagine that will be half as fun as The Big Bang Fair)!

Reflecting on the event, it's been an incredible few days and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It's one of the biggest events The OR Society has taken part in from an outreach perspective. We're used to doing small scale visits, workshops or career talks in a school hall for a maximum of a hundred children. So for 70,000 young people to visit over the four days has definitely meant we've increased our reach and expanded the audience we normally interact with! 

Finally, the last paragraph must go out as a thanks. A thanks to the volunteers who came along and gave up their time, thanks to the ORS office staff who helped with the preparations for it and of course thanks to Engineering UK. We were sponsored by Engineering UK to attend the Big Bang Fair and run our workshop so a MASSIVE thank you must go out to them, The Big Bang Fair team and all those who were involved in it. We are a small charity and professional body with very limited resources; and as a result exhibiting without sponsorship wouldn't have been possible. We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to increase awareness and exposure of operational research.

Big Bang Fair; it's been awesome (or should I say "or-some")!!


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