11 May 2016

Science in the Stadium: Everton FC kick off science initiative

The Open University is teaming up with Everton Football Club and award-winning artistic director Jen Heyes to bring science to the masses at the last home game of the season against Norwich City at Goodison Park on Sunday 15 May.

The ‘Science in the Stadium’ project focuses on the theme of “Life in the Universe”. The centre-piece is a short animated film, created by Liverpool-based production company RobotFoundry, about discovering exoplanets and investigating if they can support life. This will be played at half time to more than 37,000 people attending the match.

Everton Football Club – appropriately known in some quarters as “The School of Science” - has a proven track record of supporting education within the local community, even opening their own free school. Scott McLeod, Everton’s Head of Content, said: “Working with the Open University on this enormously exciting project is something we have really enjoyed. We work hard as a club to find new and innovative ways to engage with our fans on a matchday and bringing science to life in such a unique way certainly falls into that category. As our matchday activity will prove, science can be engaging and accessible and we are sure Evertonians of all ages will embrace what is going on.”

Dr Ulrich Kolb, football fan and Senior Lecturer in Astrophysics at The Open University said: “A football pitch is made up of around a billion blades of grass – you’d need the grass from at least 100 football pitches to match the number of stars in our galaxy. The sheer scale of the universe is incredible and it’s really exciting to share the big questions about life in our universe with football fans. This is the first time a science outreach programme has taken place in a football stadium and I’m really excited to get people inspired by astronomy and space science in the most unlikely of surroundings.”

In the run up to this event, a competition run by The Open University asked local schools to explore how they would search for life in the universe. The winning pupils will be invited along to the game and will meet space scientists in a special pre-match event in the Hub. The schools of the winning entrants will each get a visit from an astronomer, who will help them operate The Open University’s robotic telescope at Teide Observatory in Tenerife. This live session will mean they can request images of objects in the night sky and monitor the telescope as it moves to obtain the images.

The pre-match event in the Hub includes exhibitions from the OU, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the UK Space Agency, Liverpool John Moores University and the Faulkes Telescope Project, focused on giving fans a closer look at the wonders of the universe. They will be able to find out how to train like an astronaut, take part in a space quiz and talk to scientists who are exploring space.

#scienceinthestadium will be used to highlight the event on social media and a project website will invite the audience to engage and showcase some of the latest research and learnings about astronomy, planetary science and space science

This project was funded by a £10,000 Public Engagement Small Award (ST/N005775/1) from The Science and Technology Facilities Council. It has also received support from Everton Football Club.

The Principal Investigator is Dr Ulrich Kolb; co-Investigators are Dr Helen Fraser (Open University) and Dr John Baruch (Open University and University of Bradford).

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC, is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities, for example in the area of astronomy the European Southern Observatory. STFC's Astronomy and Space Science programme provides support for a wide range of facilities, research groups and individuals in order to investigate some of the highest priority questions in astrophysics, cosmology and solar system science. STFC's astronomy and space science programme is delivered through grant funding for research activities, and also through support of technical activities at STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre and RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. STFC also supports UK astronomy through the international European Southern Observatory. Follow STFC on Twitter @STFC_Matters

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