Famelab Heats

An international competition to find the new voices of science and engineering. Each contestant has just three minutes to explain a concept on science, mathematics or engineering – using their gift of the gab, plenty of props but definitely no Powerpoint. Educational, bold, hilarious and awe-inspiring, for ages 16+
The Jericho Tavern, 56 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AE, Mon 11 February; St Aldate's Tavern, 108 St Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1BU, Tue 12 & Weds 13 February 2019

In the Famelab Heats, scientists, engineers, medics and teachers will compete to make it to the regional finals of this international competition. Taking place at The Jericho Tavern, this contest aims to find new, exciting voices in science and technology. Each contestant has to explain a scientific concept in just three minutes. They can use humour, props and anything else - except Powerpoint. Winners will go through to the regional final at the Wig and Pen on 8th March.

Famelab say:
"This year we've had a higher number of contestants apply than ever before, so we had to add an extra Heat! People have entered from all over the South East - and look our for the return of one of our favourite past contestants, who will be coming back to give it another go, after being pipped to the post after a fruity performance in 2017 (no spoilers!)."

The Famelab Heats are free to attend, but booking is recommended. The event is suitable for ages sixteen and up.


February 12, 2019
Three-minute bursts of science: nuggets of knowledge served up with clarity and charisma

'Hello.I’m Amber and I give people typhoid.'

Competitors in the annual international science communication challenge, FameLab, have to know how to grab an audience’s attention and keep it for the three precious minutes in which they attempt to communicate a piece of science with no audio-visual aids, other than props they can carry on stage themselves.

This year’s competition kicked off for Oxford scientists last night at the Jericho Tavern and continues tonight and tomorrow at the St Aldate's Tavern.Outside London, Oxford is the largest contributor of science communicators to FameLab, and there is a remarkable field this year – for the first time, there are three regional heats rather than two, and more competitors in each heat.All ten of last night’s scientists gave excellent, fluent, entertaining and memorable presentations.

Subjects ranged from how a Fitbit works to the concept of 'alternative splicing' in DNA, and from the use of tritium to the science of brewing beer.Ingenious props included a water-soaked sponge representing a piezoelectric crystal, a scarily realistic chocolate heart and a couple of giant origami birds.

The panel with the difficult job of deciding who should go through to the regional final included Georgina Ferry, science journalist and radio presenter; Renee Watson, founder of Curiosity Box; and Lucy Rogers, the 'inventor with a sense of fun' and judge of Robot Wars, who founded the Guild of Makers.Contestants are judged on 'content, charisma and clarity'.

The four who went through were all superb and so diverse: Amy Ross, the particle physicist who opened the proceedings with confident aplomb; Matthew Greenwell, a landscape geneticist who spoke so engagingly about butterflies; Isa Bonachera, a lapsed astrophysicist turned stand-up comedian whose day job is in cybersecurity, who had the audience in stitches with most bizarre collection of comparisons you could imagine (why is the universe like a Chicken McNugget?); and, most memorable of all, Matt Tompkins, the psychologist who not only spoke about illusions and metacognition but also demonstrated them by slipping half a dozen magic tricks in alongside his three minute talk, including somehow managing to change the T-shirt under his jacket without anyone noticing ...

These four are going to be hard acts to follow, and I am looking forward to two more nights of some of the best 'edutainment' in Oxford.

The regional final will be held in the Wig and Pen in March.

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