Young scientists at the Festival of Tomorrow, a beacon of hope for the next generation


My son turns 30 this week (happy birthday, Sean), but I have another birthday to think about.

I was about to become a father for the first time, but the night he was born, I also officially started feeling old.

It’s now mostly a blur of experiences, emotions and stress, but I distinctly remember a moment in the delivery room.

Most people say that noticing what young cops look like is the thing that tells them they’re getting old, but for me it was the doctor.

I remember looking at him and wondering if he was really qualified to give birth or if someone should have tucked him into bed, ready for school the next day.

That’s how he looked young.

I had a somewhat similar experience attending the excellent Festival of Tomorrow in Swindon recently.

Most of the adults were either there as parents, having brought their children, or as grandparents, doing an equally magnificent job of encouraging young people to take an interest in science and the future in general.

As my wife and I are still in this twilight world where the children have stolen the nest, but no grandchildren have arrived yet, we had no choice but to show up to the event just with us ourselves and trying to blend in.

We snuck around the corner of the theater to watch The Rocket Show, and tried not to embarrass ourselves too much by enjoying the flashes and bangs even more than the kids.

Then we worked our way through a series of really interesting booths on a range of exciting topics: 3D printing, robotics, plastic made from plants and the story of the Swindon couple digging up fossils, including mammoths, the weekend.

Special mention should be given to the smart young student from the University of Bristol who, faced with a couple of grey-haired people admitting they couldn’t understand the idea of ​​quantum engineering, still spent some time patiently (and very successfully) to give us the basics.

But our favorites were three awesome Durham University students – two boys and a girl – who brought the solar-powered car they had built from scratch and drove from the top of Australia to the bottom.

“Who was the driver?” I asked.

“It was me,” said the girl. “You need someone who is quite small and light.”

She certainly fit the bill, and the question we were dying to ask was whether she’s a full-time student, or is she just spending time at the university, perhaps while studying for baccalaureate or something like that?

But we didn’t have to ask because we could find out for ourselves when she revealed that she was actually studying for a PhD.

So the solar-powered team made us feel old, but it was a ray of sunshine, and we came away with our optimism in the younger generation fully charged.


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