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Famelab 2017 launches Scottish heats at Heriot-Watt

Heriot-Watt Engage hosted the local and Scottish heats of Famelab 2017, the biggest science communications competition in the world, which trains and mentors scientists to share their enthusiasm with the public.

What is Famelab?

Science. Technology. Engineering. Maths. Medicine. Fascinating subjects to learn, but not always the easiest of subjects to talk about. But that’s the idea behind FameLab – an annual competition that’s sponsored by the British Council and held as part of the Cheltenham Festivals (science, not horses) every year.

Entrants have three minutes to explain a science concept in a unique and entertaining way. It’s not about dumbing it down so a two-year-old could understand it; it’s about bringing it to life in a way that makes people want to love it. Since it started in 2005 the competition has taken off, and it’s now held in over 25 countries across Europe, Asia,

Local heat @ Heriot-Watt

Eighteen competitors from Edinburgh, Fife and beyond took part in the Edinburgh heat, including a number of students from Heriot-Watt. Each of the contestants gave a three-minute, strictly powerpoint-free presentation to the audience.

Bill MacPherson, Associate Professor of Applied Optics in Heriot Watt’s School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, and chief judge on the day, said

“From delivery drones and artificial intelligence to why Jack and Jill went up the hill, the audience was educated and impressed by the quick and precisely timed nuggets of information."

“Communicating what’s fascinating and relevant about scientific research is a real skill. All the participants were fantastic in the way they engaged the audience in an entertaining and informative manner.”

“We were extremely impressed with the clarity and content of the finalists’ presentations.”

The panel of judges included representatives from the four Edinburgh universities and RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.  

Scottish Final @ The National Museum of Scotland

Hosted by Quentin Cooper and coordinated by Heriot-Watt Engage at the National Museum of Scotland, ten talented science communicators took part in the competition, which hunts out the best new science and engineering communicators. FameLab is designed to engage and entertain by breaking down science, technology and engineering concepts into three-minute presentations. It’s the biggest science communications competition in the world, and trains and mentor’s scientists to share their enthusiasm with the public.

Winner of the local final, Heriot-Watt PhD Student Calum Hill dazzled the audience with a poetic description of fusion in the sun – an innovative way to capture the audience and describe complex physics. However, the top prize on the day went to Callam Davidson, PhD Student from the University of Edinburgh, who took on the persona of a stress hormone to explain the biological implications of stress.

The panel of judges included representatives from 4 Scottish Universities and the Wellcome Trust.