Final weekend full of fun as National Science and Engineering Week finishes with a flourish

By Culture24 Staff | 19 March 2010
A photo of a child looking at an illuminated screen in wonder

The final weekend of National Science and Engineering Week offers a flurry of insightful tours and mind-expanding displays among activities throughout the UK.

The Victoria Tunnels in Ouseburn formed a network of underground routes for coal wagons in Newcastle, and you can experience the feel of a wartime air raid by following the lead of 45-minute guided tours of them (Saturday and Sunday, hourly 10am-4pm, free, visit Victoria Tunnels or email Ross Harrington.)

The city’s flamboyant Science Fest continues apace with The Medi-Evil Science Show at the Discovery Museum this weekend, joining “Doctor Death” for several bogus attempts at bygone treatments of various diseases (hour-long shows start 10.30am, 11.45am, 2pm and 3.15pm, admission free, visit Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums for more.

A photo of two workmen walking through an underground tunnel

Victoria Tunnels in Newcastle. Photo:

In between shows, you can meet two inventors from Victorian times in Newcastle, following a trail around the museum to meet them and discover their inventions (Saturday and Sunday, 10.30am-4pm, admission free).

Newcastle University takes on climate change in The Great Debate, a one-day workshop pondering how humanity should respond, including a documentary-making workshop for young people and open deliberations open to all (Saturday, 9am-4pm, admission free, pre-booking required, visit The Great Debate to find out more).

The one thing Tyneside doesn’t specialise in is seaside beaches. Science fans further down the country can enjoy aquamarine adventures at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton (Saturday, 10.30am-4pm, admission free), an institution devoted to earth and ocean sciences.

Families can visit an aquarium, operate model vehicles, see rocks and fossils and hear short talks. Visit the NOC online for details.

An overhead photo of a boat in an open museum

Newcastle Discovery Museum

The “microscopic empire” of microbes, molecules and quarks which account for earthly and intergalactic processes are on the agenda at The Open University in Belfast, where a series of short talks will begin every half hour on Saturday (10am-1pm, free, visit the university website, as well as introductions to courses and studies in scientific subjects.

Oxfordshire Science Festival has laid on a prolific programme this year, continuing with Oxfordshire Goes Wild at Oxford Playhouse on Saturday, where you can handle live insects and animals, see surprises lurking in ponds, soils and rotting logs and find out how to support the honourable cause of the county’s biodiversity.

A photo of a family looking at a water tank in a maritime museum

The National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. Photo:

Scarborough’s beautiful Rotunda William Smith Museum of Geology has persuaded John Wedgewood Clarke, a local poet and artist, to inspire poetry with geological themes from families under the watch of a dinosaur interactive screen offering the chance to build Jurassic Scarborough. There’s also object handling and mystery objects (Sunday, 11am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3pm, visit them online for details.)

Essex has it all, for a day at least – gold panning, fossil rubbing, rock specimens, a volcano model and a geology trail around Saffron Walden Museum and its grounds (Saturday, 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, £1.50/75p, free for children, normal entry prices also apply, visit the Museum for details.)

More rocks are joined by crystals, stones and shells in an 18th century grotto at Painshill Park in Surrey, starring “genius geology”, experiments and “geologically groovy games” in a rock lab (Saturday and Sunday, 12pm-4pm, normal admission applies, visit Painshill online for details).

A photo of a model railway

The West of England Model Railway Exhibition. Photo: Tim Gunn,

Benjamin Franklin was fascinated by the water and movement of the Earth. More than 200 years after his death, find out why with touch-screen computer activities, games and tours at his London House (Saturday, 11am-3pm, admission free, visit Benjamin Franklin House.

In Cornwall, the Carn Brea Leisure Centre hosts The West of England Model Railway Exhibition, full of scales and gauges, demonstrations of engineering skills and electronics and the chance to build your own bit of kit (Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm, admission free, visit Redruth Model Railway Club for all the info.)

Science in Norwich Day does exactly what it says on the Bunsen burner, taking over The Forum for an exhibition and hands-on scientific experiments (10am-4pm, admission free, visit the John Innes Centre).

A photo of the oustide of a large, wide, brown rotunda building

The Rotunda in Scarborough

Not to be outdone, Ipswich Museum can tell you how to save the world in 30 minutes (Saturday, 10am-4pm, shows hourly between 11am-3pm, admission free, visit the Museum online).

The Old Gaol Museum in Buckingham has drop-in science experiments for families (Saturday, 11am-3pm, £3, free ticket for adult accompanying child, visit The Old Gaol online for more.

NASA are on hand at Greenwich’s Royal Observatory, helping create paper models of spacecraft from their STEREO assignment (Saturday and Sunday, sessions at 2pm, 2.40pm, 3.20pm and 4pm, visit the Observatory online. Get in there quickly, though – it’s a first-come, first-served mission.

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