Introducing the winners of the 2018 Seed Fund. From a multi-sensory experience from the Physics Department to an international project taking place in Tanzania, we're thrilled to be supporting a wide range of societal engagement projects with this fund. Find out more about the different projects below.

I Cell: creating a universal science language (led by Dr Neil Dufton)

This project will investigate if signs, symbols and emojis can be used to enhance how we communicate science. We are very familiar with recognising symbols in our daily lives, from text messages to our commuting and even in the workplace. Can we transfer our intuitive understanding of symbols to replace unfamiliar scientific terminology and therefore help ‘signpost’ our own biology?

Neil Dufton at I Cell Station

The concept for this project was first devised as part of the Imperial Engagement Academy and developed into a stall for the Imperial Festival in 2018 targeting children between 4-10. The team started by asking participants to associate symbols with well-known locations such as a hospital or airport. We then applied the same idea to organs of the body and even specialist cells. This allowed participants to describe their knowledge of biology without the need for scientific jargon.

The team is planning to develop an intuitive ‘drag and drop’ computer programme by Spring 2019 that can be tested with different ages and neurodiverse groups, with the aim of providing a universal science language for both students and researchers.

White Hydro City: community hydroponics (led by George Harris and Dr Kris Murray)

Hydroponics

The White Hydro City project will construct a small-scale vertical hydroponic farm (a method of growing plants without soil) at The Innovation Rooms at Imperial’s White City campus with scope to build an aquaponic system in the future.

The program intends to bring students and members of the community together to learn about innovative agricultural systems. The project will also address food security issues in cities, Climate Change adaptation, and how the wellbeing of communities can be improved through growing food. Participants will take part in workshops, grow days and a Hackathon with the aim of building a cheap, easy to construct hydroponic system made out of recycled material.

‘Something in the water’: raising awareness of schistosomiasis in Tanzania (led by Dr May Sule)

Schistosomiasis‘Something in the water’ of Lake Victoria is making people sick. Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease carried by fresh water snails. Transmission to humans can occur through water-contact activities such as collection of drinking water, bathing and washing clothes. Once inside the body the larvae develop into worms which live in the blood vessels. An estimated 258 million people are infected in 78 countries worldwide - with 90% occurring in Africa - killing an estimated 280,000 people annually. It ranks second only to malaria as a common parasitic disease.

Street children in Mwanza, Tanzania are a particularly high-risk group who, due to complex socio-economic factors, are forced from home to live on the streets. Bathing typically occurs in the open waters of Lake Victoria which is highly contaminated with schistosome parasites.

This project will collaborate with Cheka Sana Foundation (CSF) to engage vulnerable street children using role-play and art/craft activities with messages on causes of schistosomiasis.  The project aims to build their understanding of risks associated with water contact. Communicating the risk of exposure will encourage the children to make use of the alternative washing facility provided by CSF, making meaningful progress towards reducing infection.

Multi-sensory cosmology (led by Dr Roberto Trotta)

This project aims to design and deliver two novel multi-sensory immersive experiences, by using insights from research into multi-sensory perception and human-machine interaction in collaboration with Professor Marianna Obrist from the University of Sussex. 

Cosmology

Much of our scientific knowledge is transmitted via intellectual means, based on abstract concepts and gained through reading and other mostly visual means. This can be hard to engage with through dialogue, as well as on a more emotional level. This is especially true of astrophysics, where we are often dealing with ideas so far removed from the human scale that they are often hard to imagine. Grounding facts and abstract ideas in bodily experience becomes a helpful way of creating meaning and widening participation, especially amongst non-expert and under-served audiences.

The team will design the experiences to provide multi-sensorial immersive impressions on the visitors, combining astrophysical knowledge with the latest research in human perception and human-machine interaction. This project will build on our pilot event Multi-Sensorial Dark Matter Experience, which was presented at the Science Museum Lates in October 2018. 

Moving Voices (led by Isobel Routledge and Samir Bhatt)

Although transmission of infectious diseases are a reflection of human connection and social interaction, stigma can often lead to isolation. In some cases this can affect quality of life more than any physical symptoms. As treatment for HIV has made great strides, there has been a shift from more vocal activism to more isolated experiences of treatment and diagnosis, with many people going through the process without sharing their experiences with others. The team aim to explore this aspect of patient experience, and provide a platform for people living with HIV to tell their stories and express what they feel is not being expressed. 

Three ballet dancers

In collaboration with the Patient Experience Research Centre (PERC), a movement director and HIV patient/activism networks, this project will run a series of workshops with people living with HIV which use movement, dance and techniques from contemporary circus to explore personal stories, experiences of diagnosis and treatment and provide a medium to tell stories which are generally untold. The team will explore ways of translating and expressing personal stories and ideas into movement and then host a showcase and discussion of the work created, with an opportunities for participants to discuss their perpectives and experiences of the project.