MDX was among 80 exhibitors at this month's New Scientist Live festival of ideas and scientific discovery at the ExCeL Centre in Royal Docks - the first since the pandemic.
A team of staff and students talked to visitors and brought to life scientific games and demonstrations across two popular stands. MDX exhibits included a jump test, the Towers of Hanoi maths puzzle, "chaotic selfies" taken against the light trail left by a double pendulum, guiding robots around a tabletop, and a race to build models of molecules.
An established favourite of MDX's STEM engagement events, the Motion Driven eXperience - where participants sit in a moving chair while seeing a computer-generated passenger-eye view of a rollercoaster ride through a VR headset - attracted long queues of children and adults.
MDX alumnus and Graduate Academic Assistant in Computer Science Noman Niazi helped out all on four days of the festival.
"I was a Student Learning Assistant for all three years [of my undergrad] - I work with kids really well," Noman says. "Some of them, you realise from the get go, understand programming. They use [programming language] Scratch which is used a lot in primary school nowadays.
"In-person education will never be outdone by online," Noman added. "There’s more you can do, there’s things you can actually touch".
2nd year Sports Science student Georgia Rosenberg said that getting exhibition visitors to take the jump test was useful for and her coursemates' studies. "This allows us to see it in real life, with real body types," she said.
Georgia, who captains the university football team, says she "couldn’t think of anything better" than coming to MDX for her degree. "Everyone is so calm, nothing’s ever a problem. I love how the atmosphere is so mixed - the whole diversity and cultural aspects. You never feel like you’re being judged".
Third year Robotics student Olu Abdul, assisting on the Motion Driven eXperience, said that "it’s been nice participating in events again".
"The kids have been lovely - watching them bounce about but basically be fine". His coursemate Mikhaela Roy, who like Olu hopes to progress to a Masters programme after she graduates, was volunteering at an outreach event for the first time. "I didn’t think I would be able to engage that much. But it was really fun, much easier than I thought," she said.
MDX Product Design lecturer Wyn Griffiths tested a prototype digital maze programme for the next co-created immersive experience from the SMASHFest stable, WILDFIRE!
Wyn says the tests went very well and this year's show had been "really fun... lots of contacts, and a more diverse audience [than in previous years]".
"Excellent objects... stunning lectures... and some excellent people: scientists, academics, artists, space photographers, herbalists, farmers, technologists," is how New Scientist editor Emily Wilson summed up the festival. "I loved every minute of it, and cannot wait to be back at the show next year".