Tag Archives: event

Opening the doors for Early Birds

Kate Mulcahy in the Learning team blogs on our Early Bird sessions in the Museum.

Museums are my favourite place to visit. I love to see interesting objects from history and to learn new facts, and I love the buzz of other people enjoying the Museum too. But for some of our visitors this isn’t so easy, and it was for this reason the Science Museum launched Early Birds.

A few times a year we open the museum from 08.30 in the morning for Early Birds, a free event for children who have an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and their families. This gives families a chance to look around our galleries and take part in fun activities before the Museum opens at 10am. We even keep some galleries closed a little longer, just for our Early Birds visitors.

Visitors at Early Birds

Visitors at Early Birds

For people with an autistic spectrum condition, it can be difficult to be in a busy environment or even waiting in a queue. They can be particularly sensitive to light or sound which can make being near some of our interactive exhibits unpleasant. All of these factors can make it difficult for children who are on the autistic spectrum to visit the museum during our usual opening hours.

For Early Birds, we wanted to create an environment where families would feel safe, happy and could still enjoy visiting the museum. This might mean turning off the sound on some of our louder exhibits or simply creating a nice sensory space where families can go and chill out if they want a break. We also created a Visual Story for families to help prepare for what they might see in the museum.

We have already run a few Early Birds sessions (one family has written about their experience here) and the team are busy organising our next session on 30th November and more dates in 2014. If you would like to take part in Early Birds, there are more details here.

How we created ‘i-nstein’, the animated character in The Energy Show

One of the main characters in The Energy Show is lab assistant i-nstein. Nina Dunn, responsible for Video Design and Animation Direction, and Mike Wyatt from Attack Animation were the masterminds behind bringing i-nstein to life. Take a look at their process here.

Design:
We started off with a few rough pencil sketches. Then some orthographic representations of the sketches were created in Photoshop. Extra detail was added into the basic form to add interest.

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3D Model:
Using a 3D computer program such as ‘Maya’, the orthographic illustrations are used as reference to build i-nstein as a 3D polygonal model. The pink dots in the middle image are the vertices of the model. A ‘vertex’ is a point in 3D space. The blue lines are the ‘edges’ of the polygons, they are drawn between two vertices. A ‘face’ can be rendered between at least three vertices.  It is best to use 4 vertices for each face, so the polygon which is drawn has 4 vertices and 4 edges draw between these vertices. We call these polygons ‘quads.’

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Rigging:
The next stage is called ‘rigging.’ This is where the puppet strings are built into the geometric model. The individual elements such as the eyebrows, the moustache, and the goggles are ‘skinned’ to curves and joints, before being placed under the influence of ‘controller curves.’ It is then possible to ‘pose’ each element of the model, and to achieve different emotions in the way in which each controller is positioned.

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Texturing:
The ‘texturing’ process is where we add colour and shading to the model.  The geometry is ‘mapped’, as if you were skinning an animal, so that the surface is laid out on a flat, 2D image. This is called ‘UV Mapping’. Using Photoshop, colour information can be painted onto these flat images, which the computer then wraps back around the model.

Texturing

Animation:
i-nstein is animated by posing him in different positions over time. The animator sets ‘keys’ on the time-line, and the computer fills in the spaces between the key frames. Once the animation is complete, a low quality ‘playblast’ movie is created so that the director can sign off the animation before the character is lit and rendered.

Animation

Lighting:
Once the animation of a shot is complete, the model is replaced with a higher resolution ‘mesh.’ This Mesh has a much higher ‘poly-count’ than the low quality ‘proxy mesh’ used for animation. The more polygons the software has to display, the slower the feedback, so this is why make the substitution at this stage. Once the lighter is happy with the general mood and look of this view a render can be made.

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Rendering:
A ‘render’ is a high quality, full resolution image of a particular frame of the animation. It brings all of the underlying elements together and outputs them as one single file. It can take a very long time for the computer to calculate. It took 60 seconds per frame to render i-nstein. There are 25 frames per second. To render 1 second of animation took 25 minutes. We produced about 9 minutes of animation, which took 225 hours to render. That’s almost 9 and a half days of rendering!

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i-nstein is starring in Science Museum Live: The Energy Show at the Science Museum until 31 August. Read more information and book tickets here. 

3D Summer Family Events at the Science Museum

Adam, Family Programmes Developer at the Science Museum, looks at some of the family activities on offer for visitors this summer. 

The Summer is finally here! And with it, a brand new series of events for families here at the Science Museum. This summer our theme is 3D and the Family Programmes team has been busy developing two brand new events for families, the Pop Up Museum and 3D Spec-tacular!

A lot of work goes into developing these events. We started with an initial brainstorm before moving on to researching ideas and testing mock ups. We then surveyed people to find out what objects families wanted to make a pop-up of and what they thought would be the coolest object to see using their 3D glasses. Then, working with the Science Museum’s Design team, we took our designs from the drawing board to the finished version. 

Part of the Pop Up Museum activity as part of 3D summer at the Science Museum

Part of the Pop Up Museum activity as part of 3D summer at the Science Museum

Our Pop Up Museum invites visitors to build their very own pop-up book versions of iconic museum objects. These include the Ford Model T, Amy Johnson’s aircraft, the Apple II computer and a peacock on display in our Who Am I? gallery. Visitors can pick between them and produce their very own mini museum to take home.

Peacock from the Pop up Museum activity for 3D Summer at the Science Museum.

Peacock from the Pop up Museum activity for 3D Summer at the Science Museum.

In 3D Spec-tacular visitors can build their own 3D glasses, and then use them on giant 3D pictures of museum objects and even take their glasses home with a 3D postcard.

Young visitors to 3D Spectacular at the Science Museum

Young visitors to 3D Spectacular at the Science Museum

These events are taking place each day during the summer, with the Museum open an hour later so you can fit more into each visit. Click here for more information about 3D summer at the Science Museum.

Fiona Fox, head of the Science Media Centre, welcomes a 400-strong audience to the museum

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Science Media Centre

By James Bailey, Head of Communications, Science Museum Group

Earlier this week we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Science Media Centre (SMC) here at the Science Museum. For those who don’t know, the SMC connects journalists with scientists across the UK, helping bridge the gap between science and the public and improving the way science is covered in the media. There’s a great video explaining how the organisation works here.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, welcomed Fiona Fox, head of the Science Media Centre, and a 400-strong audience to the museum to hear inspiring stories from scientists, politicians and journalists, on what was Ian’s second anniversary as the Science Museum’s Director.

Sir Mark Walport, the head of the Wellcome Trust and the next Chief Scientific Adviser to Government , spoke about the importance of openness in scientific research, highlighting the impact of the SMC on this area. Racing driver and former science minister, Lord Drayson, discussed bravery and the need for scientists to speak about the importance of their research, especially in a crisis.

Fiona Fox, head of the Science Media Centre, welcomes a 400-strong audience to the museum

Finally, ITN’s Science Editor, Lawrence McGinty, recalled life as a science journalist before university press officers and the SMC. Comparing the SMC to a mobile phone, Lawrence noted life as a science journalist would now be impossible without the Science Media Centre.

A number of well-known scientists attended the party, including Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics and Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey, Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford and Professor John Womersley, head of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP was also in the audience.

Science Media Centre guests in the Making the Modern World gallery

Many journalists were also keen to celebrate 10 years of the Science Media Centre, including Nick Collins at the Daily Telegraph, Alok Jha from the Guardian, Fergus Walsh and David Shukman of the BBC and Clive Cookson at the Financial Times.

After a great 10th Birthday party, we hope the Science Media Centre continues to make a positive difference to the relationship between science, the media and the public.

Green Babies

Green Babies

Walk into any baby shop and you will be bombarded by products claiming ‘green’ or ‘eco’ credentials. It no longer seems good enough to bring up a happy, healthy child; you now need a ‘green baby’!

Green Babies

A glance through the message boards of MumsNet shows there is a lot of debate about sustainable parenting: Disposable or renewable nappies? Organic cotton or hemp based baby grows? Bamboo fibre nursing pads (called banboobies!) or toys made of recycled plastic? It can be tough to know where to start.

At the Science Museum this Thursday (27th September) you can join our ‘Green Babies’ workshop to try and work through some of these issues. Journalist Annalisa Barbieri and other experts will be on hand to answer questions from new and expectant parents about how to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.

It should be an excellent opportunity to pick up hints and tips, and debate with leading eco-experts on how to navigate the perplexing world of green parenting.

Join us on Thursday at 11am (with or without your tiny tots) in the Things Gallery on the basement floor of the Science Museum – visit the event page to book your free place.

The Bersey taxi, London's oldest electric taxi, which appeared on the city’s streets in 1897

Green Wednesdays: Revenge of the Electric Car

By Pippa Hough, Assistant Content Developer

The Science Museum’s Dana Centre was very pleased to host Nice and Serious last Wednesday night to screen the documentary Revenge of the Electric Car. For those who didn’t make it, you missed a fascinating insight into the burgeoning electric car market. We followed Nissan, GM, Tesla and Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott, as they try to corner the market in electric vehicles (EVs), while staving off bankruptcy and, in the case of Greg, fire and a factory full of poisonous dust.

After the film we had an absorbing discussion with the Director, Chris Paine (from his garage in California!), and Clemens Lorf, a researcher from Imperial College on electric car batteries.

The big questions the audience wanted Chris and Clemens to answer? When and how will EVs become the norm on our roads?

The Bersey taxi, London's oldest electric taxi, which appeared on the city’s streets in 1897

The Bersey taxi, London's oldest electric taxi, which appeared on the city’s streets in 1897

Clemens, Chris and nearly everyone interviewed in the film agreed; EVs and renewable technologies, will only become a normal part of our lives when they make economic sense. There will never be enough eco-minded people with disposable income willing to buy an electric car instead of a cheaper petrol model to keep the industry afloat.

With rising oil prices and advances in technology bringing down manufacturing costs, the scales are beginning to tip in favour of EVs. As our societies become increasingly urbanised, owning an EV for driving around a city can be a very practical option. Most of your journeys are well within the battery’s capacity, and in a city you’re never too far from a charging station.

Our traditional notions of car ownership are evolving as companies like ZipCar allow members to rent vehicles with no notice, for a few hours at a time – ‘usership’ over ownership. These companies are increasing our access to electric vehicles by making them an affordable alternative.

The tipping point for a future full of electric cars is getting closer as the big car companies continue to take EVs seriously – but we’re not quite there yet…

This Green Wednesdays event is part of our Climate Changing programme, which is supported by Shell, Siemens, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and The Garfield Weston Foundation.