GreenSTEMS aims to spread the sustainability message as far as possible and what better way to get people interested than space?
The UK Space Agency organised an outreach event for the general public at the University of York on November 6th to coincide with Tim Peake speaking in York . There were a range of talks and activities available, from learning about space missions to launching rockets.
At the greenSTEMS stall we were interested in ‘Sustainability in Space’. The main feature was a Winogradsky column which attracted disgust and delight in equal measure (see left). For those who aren’t familiar with the Winogradsky column, it is a clear plastic tube, sealed and kept completely airtight. Inside are pond mud and water, paper, eggshells, and egg yolk. When placed in sunlight and left to their own devices the bacteria in the column form a self-sustaining system, separating out into layers depending on the different nutrients they use.
We used the concept of being self-sustaining to get people thinking about how space ships need to operate as a closed system – what is waste and what is a resource when you’re travelling in space?
We also asked the public to guess which everyday technologies, such as Velcro and mobile phone cameras, had come from space. Many people were aware of how much technology used in day to day life was invented as a result of space travel but some items, including biro pens, which weren’t invented for use in space caused some debate.
It was a delight to see parents as excited by the event as the children. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped with set up and manning the stand on the day!