Taking science out of the lab

Taking science out of the lab

One of the first things the visitor to Ellinogermaniki Agogi notices is about a dozen fascinating projects on display at the entrance, the work of students at this private school in the northeast Athenian suburb of Pallini. With projects like an architectural model of the Acropolis at the height of the classical period and a three-dimensional map illustrating the conquests of Alexander the Great, it is easy to see why this school was chosen to host “Science Beyond the Lab,” a traveling exhibition that will be on display there until May 20.

The exhibition is part of Sparks, a project spearheaded by the European Network of Science Centers and Museums (Ecsite) that aims to show Europeans how they can be a part of scientific research and demonstrates how scientific innovation is being achieved outside the lab, with ordinary people playing an important role in health and environmental studies, among others.

The Sparks project began in 2015 and runs until 2018, with “Science Beyond the Lab” being just one of its many initiatives. “We try to use these events and exhibitions to test the idea of teachers becoming designers of education content themselves, becoming more autonomous,” says Stephanos Cherouvis, who works in the school’s research and development department, the exhibition’s host. “When I was growing up, a scientist was somebody in a laboratory wearing a white coat. Now we have this exhibition, which makes scientific innovation more real and interactive for kids,” says Michiel Buchel, president of Ecsite.

The Ellinogermaniki Agogi school is especially proud of its own display, which is called, “City Crop,” and is part of Science Beyond the Lab. Students at the school created the display, which contains information and photographs of plants people who live in cities can grow in their own apartments. This is shown along with, “Mednutrition,” an app developed in Greece which helps consumers cut down on food waste – an important tool given that 30 percent of food in a typical Greek household ends up being thrown away.  

The “Science Beyond the Lab” exhibition is arranged into sections, such as “Biology Outside the Lab” showing innovations created or inspired in some cases by ordinary people. Hacking Your Health, for example, presents the story of Tim Omer, a Type 1 diabetic who developed a chip to live track blood glucose levels. There’s also a display of a 3D printer that makes prosthetic limbs and an app to track the effectiveness of medication given to people with Parkinson’s.

Environmental research often necessitates many people in various locations tracking data over long periods of time. This obstacle is the focus of the environmental innovation section. It begins with a large map of Germany showing different types of mosquitoes identified around the country as part of a project to track invasive species,and also presents Air Quality Egg, a computer developed in London to track smog levels in various locations to help fight air pollution.

Another fascinating exhibit is the Unicorn Helmet developed by tech fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht for children with attention deficit disorder. Using neurosensory technology, it provides data that helps parents and teachers learn more about the child’s interests. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a solution to gluttony, you can read all about the development of nano robots that are inhaled and tell you when your stomach is full enough to stop eating. Then there’s a study on isolation, which could be useful in preparing humans to travel to Mars.

“The exhibition shows the children how to bring the scientific process to life, how to form a hypothesis,” Buchel says proudly, after walking us through the exhibition. “They learn how to set up an experiment, how to use technology in a way that we see what’s happening and not just something in our iPhones, but to see the engineering and technology that’s needed to do an experiment.”

Ellinogermaniki Agogi, Dimitriou Panagea, Pallini, tel 210.817.6700, Admission is free of charge, but school groups are required to register by contacting the school.

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