September 5, 2012
Lovely write-up in Pop Magazine, which describes us as “the inimitable, innovative London based collective Guerilla Science”
They are dedicated to making science accessible and fun; guys in white coats blowing shit up, tarantulas to stroke and pet and a whole host of interesting talks and interactive events in which to indulge your hangover. All this whilst sheltered from the perpetual rain. What is there not to love?
September 4, 2012
With recycled wood, old pallets, used timber and a handful of connectors, Buro Happold engineer Nikul Vadgama built three medieval weapons of warfare for us, which we brought to the Secret Garden Party and Wilderness this summer. In between lobbing balloons full of shaving cream at unsuspecting punters at Wilderness and making bondage fetishists cry at the Secret Garden Party, he learned that “engaging the public with science” can mean many things.
“How do we, as engineers, showcase the discipline of engineering to the public?” A question asked by many institutions, answered in several forms. For us, a group of engineers at Buro Happold, the answer was simple: “Let’s build catapults and fire paint balloons at buildings.”
Now, every good engineer must have a sense of pragmatism, and firing objects at London buildings using well-known medieval weapons of warfare does not present our industry in the best light. So timber cut outs of the London skyline were made by Guerilla Science and the title of the event was carefully chosen as “Paint the Skyline”, directing connotation to redecoration rather than destruction.
Trebuchets were chosen as the type of catapult as they are easy to construct and provided a consistent firing range. Three catapults were made all using old pallets, used timber, wooden dowels and a few metal connections.
The idea was to make a “Lego” set of catapults simple enough for anyone to build with a bit of guidance from us. There was some freedom to alter the pivot arm and weights to explain some Newtonian laws of physics to the public.
The test runs were successful, and the catapults ready to be taken to the SGP. However being stored in an open site in Newham, where tarpaulin is a high commodity and often stolen, the weapons of “mass decoration” were soaked by the British weather.
Arriving at SGP my excitement for the festival and the event was high, even though the rain was relentless! Friday morning I quickly got to work on constructing the catapults for a test run with help from my colleagues Gideon Susman, Victor Juarez, Joe Allberry and Ben Hall. Unfortunately the rain had soaked through the timber and although the catapults could be put together there was no way they could be repeatedly assembled and dissembled. So we changed the idea to more of an “introduction to engineering catapults”. Furthermore the paint balloons were replaced with water balloons to avoid any health and safety nightmares.
These taster sessions proved popular with the SGP crowd, who couldn’t believe that there was no catch to allowing them to fire the catapults. After some deliberation, the weights were replaced with a piece of string, which when pulled went into tension, whipping the arm round. This sped up the firing and gave a greater range to the catapults. As the crowd became more competitive about hitting the targets, their enthusiasm to learn more about the mechanics of the system and how to improve their action grew.
Not everyone loved the catapults. Our neighbours the S&Empathy tent resented their existence as they were worried the water balloons may hit their tent and ruin the mood. Although we were baffled by how water balloons could ruin the mood of a session entitled “Introduction to Spanking”, Guerilla Science stepped in as peace-keepers and the catapults were moved out of harm’s way.
After a successful weekend of throwing water balloons at the targets the trebuchets were taken to Wilderness festival and used in the Future Cinema’s Bugsy Malone movie extravaganza.
With help from Chris Grainger, another Happold engineer, the catapults fired foam-filled balloons into the giant splurge fight. The catapults were used to the point of utter destruction in the fight. It was an explosive end for the catapults.
Through SGP and Wilderness festival Guerilla Science brought me to an audience like no other, full of enthusiasm, intrigue and alcohol. Not something I am used to in the commercial world of engineering consultancy. At times communicating engineering to non-engineers can be a difficult task. But Guerilla Science is always able to present science and engineering in a creative medium making it easy to get excited about. Definitely an experience I won’t forget.
By Nikul Vadgama
July 29, 2012
If you had one chance to speak to the stars, what would you say?
We rigged up a radio transmitter at the Secret Garden Party and brought in an engineer from the National Space Centre to give our audience the chance to do just that.
To gather the interstellar chatter, we sent out a film crew, who painstakingly created this video, live on site.
plus gathered everyone else’s messages on a chalkboard. Here’s what everyone had to say:
Come, live, love, prosper, enjoy.
May we please have elvis back? Thank you.
We are all ancient aliens.
My message to you is: please send a message to us and let us know that you’re there and, well, have a fun party.
We want to party with you.
Believe in the church of the flying spaghetti monster. He boiled for your sins.
Can you give me a phone call please? 07932984639. Let’s go for a coffee.
I think its very rare at least in our lifetime to make contact with anyone else, and possibly in the lifetime of our species. But if we do, come and say hello.
What kind of music do you like? Do you like Phil Collins?
Can you stop hiding in water and random places?
We know you’re here so you might as well come out and say “hi”.
Only still cameras can actually capture you.
I want to know what crop circles actually mean.
Hi guys, were waiting for you down here. We’re really looking forward to seeing you. Be good.
We love you. Come and see us whenever you’re ready. We’re very welcoming and we’d love to meet you. See you when you get here.
Get in contact.
It’s a beautiful planet, man. Come visit. You’ll have a really nice time. You can meet dave!
Hello earthlings. This is me and Kyle. Not earthlings, aliens! We want to say hello and come about. Come party. Bring some, like, instruments and well, free style it some bongos.
[Ed's note: Deep stuff.]
Aliens… although it might appear that the cats are in charge. They’re not.
I think the idea of having alien TV shows on earth would be interesting.
Why have you put us here. what exactly is it that were supposed to be doing while were here? Give us a clue. Anything. Just a little thing.
My main advice to aliens is: don’t drink too much. Don’t do drugs. Just live a good life and I’m sure you’ll be fine.
I want to know what pets you have, if you have pets.
We come in peace.
As shamans, we actually like to reach out and invite all aliens to come and see our way of living and our way of being and become one with us and the animals, really.
What do you do with your dead?
Come on down. Come party.
Never trust a londoner.
July 25, 2012
Built by the wonderful engineers at Buro Happold, our medieval weapons of warfare brought some serious bang to the SGP: catapults, or trebuches to be exact.
We took aim with water balloons at a target range of cutouts of London’s most iconic buildings: the gherkin, St Paul’s, the shard, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and Big Ben.
How many science outreach organisations can outrage the S & Empathy tent nextdoor with their messy antics?