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European City of Science - digital beacons project

Tuesday 10 May 2016

IDEAS are flooding in for the University’s ‘digital encounters with science’ experience to mark the European City of Science in Manchester this summer.

Organisers have been appealing for content for a smart phone app which will raise awareness of the city’s impressive past, present and future in science and technology.

Using ‘beacon technology’ in collaboration with US software innovator Spark Compass, the project aims to create a ‘stumble upon’ audience experience with video, audio, text and virtual reality content.

The ‘Beacons for Science’ app is aimed at the general public, students and also at the 4,000 international delegates headed to Manchester for the EuroScience Open Forum from July 23-27.

Working with Marketing Manchester, MMU and other partners, the University is collecting 100 pieces of content, which include the 40 activities for Science in the City and landmark narratives from Manchester’s history, from Joule to Jodrell and Turing to Graphene.

Academics and students also met for two ‘hack’ days to produce more novel content, some of it pushing the boundaries of smartphone-driven experiences.

- A virtual statue of Emily Williamson, the Victorian zoologist who founded the Plummage League (later the RSPB)
- Musical experiences around the Turing Statue in Sackville Street
- A virtual journey to discover the human cost of the Manchester Ship Canal 
- A virtual fly-over the city centre
- ‘Walk through the wall’ tour of the Graphene Institute

At a partners workshop at HOME, European City of Science programme director Annie Keane thanked the University for driving a project “which will be a key channel to events in the summer and leave a valuable legacy for future visitors to Manchester.”

Andy Miah, Professor of Science Communication, said the Beacons for Science project was unearthing some gems about science in the city and presenting them in new and exciting ways.

Creative lead for the project, Professor Andy Miah, said: “In a time when we are constantly searching for new content on our phones, this project allows people to be surprised by what’s around them and to experience their devices differently. 

There’s still time to contribute and idea or piece of content and you can contact Mark Scholes 

The app will be launched at the end of June and available for iPhone and Android.

How the Beacons for Science App works?

Upon making your application, you will receive a beacon - a small disc - which you will locate within your premises/location. This beacon will be entered into the ‘Greater Manchester Science Map’ and its location will form the basis for triggering notifications to participants, through the app installed on their mobile phone. Your beacon will be loaded with ‘notification’ content, through which you can share video, audios, image, or text based notifications. So, you can create whatever you would like and we can make sure the application provides the kind of experience you want for your audience. Participants can also share this information through their social media platforms.


What is the European City of Science?

In 2014, Manchester (principally the University of Manchester and Marketing Manchester) successfully bid to host the EuroScience Open Forum, the largest general scientific conference in Europe. With this comes the honour of European City of Science, which has never been held in England. ESOF will take place at Manchester Central (July 23-27) and includes contributors from the University of Salford. The University’s academic sponsor is Professor Judith Smith, dean of the School of Environmental and Life Sciences.


What is the Festival of Science?

A ‘fringe’ City of Science Festival will be wrapped around the events of the EuroScience Open Forum and take place at a city centre location during July 23- 29.. It will include science-based exhibitions around food, health and discovery, suitable for the general public and families.