A team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin who were behind an innovative science outreach campaign that brought the weird and wonderful world of physics to Dublin’s DART commuters have won the 2014 prize for producing the ‘best education and third level website’, which supported their ‘DARTofPhysics’ campaign.
The Realex Fire Web Awards are held annually to recognise people who do great things on the web. The awards span 29 categories recognising websites in News and Media, Entertainment and Arts, Technology and Social, Government, Education and Community, Commerce and Mobile sectors as well as Technical Awards with over 600 entries from organisations across Ireland.
In 2013, DARTofPhysics zapped the curiosities of Dublin commuters through physics adverts placed on Dublin’s DART train. Statements like ‘The Spire is shorter when the weather is cool’ and questions such as ‘How many leaves fall in Dublin every autumn?’ encouraged commuters to ponder physics phenomena on their way to work, as well as to continue their journey on the campaign website – dartofphysics.ie.
“DARTofPhysics aimed to capture the beauty of physics through statements and challenges with our website as the hub for a city-wide conversation,” said Senior Research Fellow in Trinity’s School of Physics, Dr Shane Bergin, who founded the campaign.
Dr Bergin worked with researchers from Trinity’s School of Education and Trinity’s nanoscience institute, CRANN, to make the campaign a success; dartofphysics.ie connected Dubliners with Trinity scientists and the award-winning website was peppered with up to 10,000 daily visits from interested individuals.
Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, who was formerly a researcher in Trinity’s School of Education, said: “I am delighted to know that our website has been visited by the public and students around the world as a learning resource. As a team, we enjoyed putting together this content for our Irish audience and are delighted to receive an award for our science outreach project.”
Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, Research Fellow in Trinity’s School of Chemistry and CRANN, added: “It’s great to have the DARTofPhysics website recognised. Our science, education, and design teams all worked very hard to make the website and blog a resource for science for the public that would last beyond our initial outreach campaign. We're all very honoured and hope that audiences in Ireland and abroad have enjoyed a conversation about science with us.”
The DARTofPhysics team are now working hard to reignite the campaign for another run in Dublin next year, and are hoping to expand their outreach efforts abroad. Dr Bergin and his team are working with the Institute of Physics, in the UK, to fund ‘Underground Physics’ – a sister campaign to DARTofPhysics, that would place Trinity physics posters on the world’s most iconic metro system.
In addition to sparking a conversation about physics among Dublin’s commuters and tempting them to find out more about the science that affects their everyday lives by interacting with the website, the DARTofPhysics website included a number of resources to encourage schoolchildren to learn about the subject. Student science teachers from Trinity’s School of Education used DARTofPhysics as a catalyst for sparking the curiosities and imaginations of their students, with one student saying: “I never knew physics was in the real world.”
“It’s wonderful news that DartofPhysics won this award! It’s a fantastic learning and teaching resource for school science!!” added Associate Professor in Education, Colette Murphy, from Trinity’s School of Education.
The DARTofPhysics campaign was supported by Science Foundation Ireland, Intel Ireland, Irish Rail, The Institute of Physics, and Trinity College Dublin.