Category: Games

Cuddly Science at The British Science Festival (by )

Cuddly Science Puppet show Photo thanks to Fiona Austen

The weekend saw me, Alaric and Jean at the British Science Festival in Birmingham. I was doing the most indepth version of Cuddly Science yet - everyone who knows me will no doubt now be sick of hearing about Cuddly Science but just incase here is the run down 🙂

I came up with an idea during my science communication course at UWE and have spent the last six months working on it, initially just as a piece of course work but I soon realised that this was the thing that would link together all my skill sets. It grew and adapted.

It is a set of puppets, larger than life versions of influential scientists, technologist, engineers, maths peeps and medical persons. Initially I focused on Ada - she was a natural choice as we have taken part in every single Ada Lovelace Day so far!

Ada went on a few trips out and about telling kids about programming computers and her own erratic childhood. But right from the beginning I knew this needed to be bigger, I have a list of puppets that need to be made.

I now have 5 puppets, I only actually had two proper shows prepared for the Science Festival as I'd planned to repeat one of them. But people decided that they were going to keep coming back to my next show so I improvised the last show which was more about the experiments and science games we'd sorted out.

As mostly Cuddly Science is just me, each puppet has their own show with an activity of some sort for the kids to take part in. So Darwin told of how he wasn't very good at school or sitting still and about his discoveries and this led onto DNA (which wasn't about in his day!). We then did a little DNA extraction experiment with the kids which they loved.

Alaric extracting DNA

Ada has a game that Alaric designed and I have done the graphics for, called Robo Bob's Jobs. We want to make a giant version of it as too our amazement there were way more than the 30 people we had designed our shows around and we need something seen from the back etc. The size of the crowed and the increase in business of the library during the day caused some issues with noise levels so I want to get a portable PA system as well. I need funding.

We also had some bits from Universe in a Box which the kids loved and was the stage for Brahmagupta, a 1500 yr old maths and astronomy dude. I generally entertained the kids between shows with the puppets and also during the activity sessions. We also had colouring sheets which I had drawn - manga scientists with room for the older kids to write down little factoids about the scientists etc...

I want to draw some more of these and maybe have a proper bundle for people to take away with them or down load from the web etc...

There were also science crayons for the colouring in - it was very popular and parents were desperate for their kids to have one of each of the pictures.

Science crayons

Those who could here the shows seemed to really enjoy them and I had so many people coming up to me to say how brilliant it was, how the children really responded to the puppets etc... I did get very nervous for the Ada show which was strange as I have done that one several times before. There were a lot of people there but not as many as for the last show which was improvised so should have been more nerve racking!

This is why I am off to do an improve comedy course at the end of the month - I am going to nail those nerves!

The appeal of the puppets was pretty universal and I got people who were just in the library and hoping for a story time - I equipped them with programmes for the rest of the festival and some of the kids would have played Al's game for hours and hours and had to be shoed away by Ada Puppet.

Ada was termed a princess by many and at least one parent turn round and said that they hadn't known girls could programme. I obviously thought about all of this when deciding what puppets to put in but was amazed to see impact straight away. Questions from adults and kids a like - mainly about Ada and Brahmagupta - it was the idea that people like "me" have done big science, tech, etc.... I really did not expect to see it so vividly.

I believe science is for everyone and this has been a big part of wanting to do science communication and the science art and it has made me more resolute and determined that Cuddly Science needs to get out there. It maybe one of my mad hat schemes, it may just be stupid puppets that me and my mum designed and games my husband made and a mish mash of my science education, experience running craft workshops, being in musical theatre, being an artist, poet and childrens instructor. It may have gotten it's inspirations from all over the place but Cuddly Science has the chance to make a difference, to help build a better world.

Cuddly Science awaiting at the Birmingham Library

The library and festival volunteers were amazing at looking after us and a chain of people I know from various things came to see me which was very encouraging 🙂 Jeany loved it, especially when I let her set up the Story Steps at the library!

Jean setting up the story steps Jean too tired to continue with the setting up of the story steps

The library itself was pretty epic! And I loved the fact it was connected to the Theatre with poetry on the doors 🙂

The library Birmingham

I even bumped into a fellow poet just outside 🙂

And got to go to dinner with friends and meet their little one and stuff.

More photos of Birmingham:

Jean drinking milk in the Rep Gold dudes Gold Dudes planning topary train Giant flowers on the library buildings with giant crosses on them Reflective buildings Brum in sillohette first proper view of Brum

Jean and Alaric found where they had been doing the custard walking 🙂

Jean and Alaric find where the custard walking had been

And so yeah - Cuddly Science is GO!

Comic Books, Cuddly Science and Music and More (by )

So I've been a busy bee but I kind of forget to blog about stuff which is stupid as then people don't know it is happening. Anyway I have just finished writing another 50,000 words in a month as part of the summer CampNanowrimo - a variant on the Novel Writing month challenge. Everything was based in the Punk's Universe which is now epically big and pushing to get out there to the public but apart from a few flash fictions and short stories which you can read here, it simply is not yet ready!

Second there has been great progress with Cuddly Science thanks to help from Mum and there will be an unleashing of more puppets soon plus a website etc... this next month is going to be about really pushing that project forward which is really exciting 🙂 Though I have to confess Ada puppet has managed to scare a few house visitors especially when I forget to move her out of the guest room. To fully realise the vision of Cuddly Science though I now need to be looking for some external funding and also kind of finish the very last piece of my Science Communication course. For those of you who don't know Cuddly Science is a series of scientist, engineers, technologist, medicine and maths peeps in puppet form who can either run shows and/or interact with kids showing and helping them through games, experiments and sci-craft activities. Using their own stories they explain the wonderous discoveries that have been made and show just how much there is still to find out whilst giving the children a gentle taste of some actual science.

And Universe In A Box has arrived to help run Cuddly Science workshops and a few other bits which I am very pleased with 🙂 And also part of the money I spent on this fab kit will help poorer schools and things get hold of the same kit on a global scale which can only sit well with my idea of science for all 😀

I have also been working on music and have produced a song called Somebody Please which came about as I was so distressed to learn of the children from the single mother's homes that were neglected and disrespected even in death. It was a song that had to be - it isn't a happy one and it reminds us that there are still children that can be rescued - it was one of those that had to be written and also has my first ok attempt at guitar.

I think I kind of forgot to blog about the last few songs as well - so here is I'm at the Bottom of the Sea - were I attempt to play the Temple drum out friend Seth gave us.

And Little Ghost of Parade.

Then we get to the comic books, I have discovered that Gloucester Library has lots and lots of comic books and graphic novels which I think I mentioned before. Well I've started taking them out of the library rather than flicking through them whilst in situ as it were. When I was little the library in Hornchurch did not have such things and I couldn't afford them. This week I read Neverwhere which I loved but kept kind of remembering bits of it in a very specific voice. I know it is a novel as well but I think it must also be an audio book or radio show that I've heard before. Anyway I really liked it.

Hmmm amazon has a BBC series so maybe that is what I am remembering!

Anyway I have also been working on my own comic and due to feed back etc... I now have two covers and am toying with the idea of there being a black and white version and a colour version.

Black and White Revolations cover Revolations cover mock up

I also have the light core of the optronic super computer which is a mix of water colours and computer jiggery pockery which I worked out and did all by myself without asking Alaric how to install stuff etc...

The Optronic Super Computer light core

I have also drawn the Punk walking - this picture looked better before I inked it in and rubbed out the pencil as the pen splodges so I need to look at materials again - maybe different pens or paper or both. But it is supposed to be a fusion of the "traditional" DC/Marvel comic book styles and the Japanese Manga and the old old cowboy comics and fantasy art stuff.

Outline of walking Punk

I'm still mucking about with how I'm going to colour the pictures but feel I am making great progress!

I also painted a flamingo as a last minute birthday present for Al's aunt. It was one of those wake up at five in the morning ideas - I have really only just started with the water colours but it seemed to work.

Flamingo water colours

So as you can see things are busy busy especially if you add events and life in on top! But I think it's all going well - though sadly at the moment due to health stuff I'm only going to paid gigs which has made me feel like I am slightly letting people down but I can only do so much stuff at the moment 🙁

There is a lot more fun stuff I need to blog about - the girls and the chickens and what not so hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up soon!

May – the beginning of the Summer (by )

It's a new month, a new season and I have a new to-do list. It is time for reordering and sorting. I handed in my last piece of coursework on Tuesday for the PGCert and have plans to take the project I've designed to the next level.

It is called Cuddly Science and you be hearing a lot more about it 🙂

Apart from that I'll be running workshops at The Brewery in Cheltenham for a Poetry Fun day and performing along side the wonderful Joy-Amy, I will also be performing at a slam at the Swindon Poetry Festival and at In Verse. I have the first of the music festivals this month too 🙂

I will also be doing some workshop with the kids at Jean's drama group.

And just to be a tad insane I am taking a ten week course in Improv and Stand Up - as in I'm going off to learn some stage crafty stuff myself. I've been meaning to do something since I left Imperial to be honest but it is now more urgent as I need better performance skills than I have to deliver Cuddly Science to the quality I want. It is ok at the moment but needs to be more - plus I felt that the performance poetry stuff could do with these sorts of skills as well.

It is also a matter of confidence and the accumulation of new skills. I find the concept of stand up comedy pretty terrifying and yet it was what I was edging towards with the Science Show-Off stuff I did. Also I don't like being scared of stuff - once I was scared of heights - petrified of them, my solution was to become a climbing instructor.

Apart from all of that there is the comic book to still be working on and the continual give aways for The Monster Blogs 5 year anniversary 🙂 I also want to get going with a bit more of the Science Writing and communication stuff in general, I still need to do some training for being a STEM Ambassador (science, technology, engineering and maths), to go into schools and things.

As always I am a glutton for punishment and the being of May is Picture Book Writing Week - so I will be attempting to write 7 picture books in the next 7 days. I am going to be focusing on the accompanying texts for Cuddly Science 🙂

The rest of month I will in general be working on my kids books and illustrations - 30 hours min. The summer in general will also involve game design and an update of the blogs.

On the domestic front we are having issues with the insurance company and the dinning room roof still but in general we are starting to get there with the house. There are some infrastructure bits that still need sorting and the garden will hopefully be getting a bit of a make over with the girls swing installed. The allotment is going to be the main priority for a while though as we still need to dig over a lot of it and plant tons of stuff.

We've sorted the play room and are almost there with the girls room, still don't think we will get around to painting the walls this year though 🙁

But we should finally get the curtains up!

Ada Lovelace Puppet Mk 2 (by )

Ada Lovelace puppet head mk2

After the story telling festival in Bristol I decided to refashion Ada's head (or rather get my mum to do it). The first head had multiple problems - like being a bit bumpy and narrow and not quiet having enough room for my hand. Then the new head came up far too fat and wide!

Needing a bit of a re-make, it also seems a bit too stark for me.

I think there will need to be a mk 3 at some point but kids have loved both puppet heads so I am not too worried and my mum has really had to go to town helping me with the puppets. I am currently at the point of saying I have a working puppet. I am still working on the drawings and colouring sheets to go with it and have only very basic game pieces and I need to sort that out.

Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer (before there were actual computers!) and so I have chosen her to show computing in a fun and interactive way - not actually using computers to do it either! There are more puppets to come but I am going to need some funding to fully realise the vision - it is very much part of my mission statement of science/+art for all.

Ada Lovelace puppet

Screnzy, Poetry, Comics and Science (by )

A new month has snuck up and begun on me - this sadly means I missed a couple of deadlines for poems and stories and that, that I wanted to submit. But it also means I am in a month of exciting challenges.

Number one is Screnzy or Script Frenzy which is a spin off of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the idea is that you write a 100 page script in a month. I have been focusing on comic book or graphic novel scripts and so that is what I will be focusing on again this year. You can follow the progress more closely on Purple Monster. I will also be doing the script for my puppet show, which is part of my course work - I basically plan to spend 30 hours working on these types of project - priority has to go to my Ada Lovelace script as I have a deadline at the end of the month. (Ada is the science part! and has drawings to go with! Though I may also be running some science camp activities over Easter).

Number two is NaPoWrimo, this is another poetry writing challenge - again the idea is that you write a poem a day but I plan to spend 30 hours on poetry stuff in general this month. You can follow the progress of this on Turquoise Monster.

Number three is that I hope to release The Little Book of Easter Poetry audio for download - I will probably rope this in with the NaPo stuff. I also want to do some work on my game design stuff but I will have to see how things go especially as I am starting the month off event managing and comparing at the Jordans Cheltenham Poetry Festival 🙂

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