Inspiring Curious Minds & Creative Explorers

Discoveries from the first Explorers Fair

Posted on 24th February 2017

Written by Lee Nicholls

From 9th-11th February, Broadway hosted the first ever Explorers Fair, a new celebration of arts, science, technology and play for young creative explorers and their families.

Working with the brilliant Hasmita Chavda from Ignite! and Nottingham STEMcity's Festival of Science and Curiosity, we brought together creative learning champions to improve STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) provision and literacy in Nottingham.

Our goals for Explorers Fair were to:

  • Create a platform to connect and celebrate the great work the city is doing.
  • Inspire creative explorers and educators through a fun, engaging and family-friendly event.
  • Establish Explorers Fair as an event to discover creative learning and STEAM opportunities in Nottingham.

We believe 'Everyone is an Explorer', discovering science and technology best through creative learning and play.

Inspiring Schools Days

On the first two days of Explorers Fair we were joined by over 400 school children from primary and secondary schools across Nottinghamshire. They took part in practical workshops and demonstrations with a range of arts, tech and science practitioners.

Alex Roberts, Head of Engineering at the National Videogame Arcade, spoke about the many ways skills learned in STEAM subjects can be used in later life. They learnt about physics and space with Andy McMurray, Head of Learning at the National Space Academy.

Photo courtesy of Crabtree Farm Primary School, Bulwell

Photo courtesy of Crabtree Farm Primary School, Bulwell

"We were really excited to try virtual reality software @nearnow #Explorersfair #FOSAC17 @BroadwayCinema #Nottingham" – @crabtreefarm

The short taster workshops and demonstrations they experienced were enough to capture the children's imaginations and inspire them to continue exploring arts and technology.

Year 5 pupils at Burford Primary School in Arnold visited Explorers Fair as part of their Technology Week – something we'd love to support in future years! Their teacher, Ms Chapleo, said that her pupils were "definitely inspired by [the] event and are keen to share what they know with others and to investigate new technologies".

Explorers Fair is fairly unique (at least in Nottingham) in giving young people the opportunity to try so many different STEAM activities and learn from experienced practitioners. One teacher commented that it was refreshing to attend a workshop-based school trip that didn't take their pupils from a classroom setting into another classroom setting, an insight that will guide future educational activity that we offer.

"Astronomical Fun" at Family Day

The final day of Explorers Fair was open to the public, with over 500 people visiting Broadway to take part.

With a mix of ticketed and free drop-in activities, young people and their parents/carers discovered a range of creative demonstrations, workshops and talks taking over most of Broadway's spaces.

Photo by Ashley Bird

Photo by Ashley Bird

The heart of Family Day was the Explorers Fair Expo, with our Studio, Workshop and Gallery spaces filled with playful hands-on interactions.

Activities included:

  • 3D Printing demonstrations with Creative-Dimensions.
  • Minilab Studios' range of creative learning apps, including Professor Astro Cat's Solar System.
  • LED badge making with The Curious Electric Company and Nottingham Hackspace.
  • Museum in a Box's interactive miniature museum collections.
  • Playchimp's mini DIY arcade cabinets, powered by Raspberry Pi.
  • Cutting-edge technology and multisensory storytelling with The Feelies' Frankenstein.
  • Robin Baumgarten's Line Wobbler, a one-dimensional arcade game played using a custom controller and 5 metre long LED strip.
  • Making three dimensional art in virtual reality using Google's Tilt Brush and HTC Vive.
  • Interactive musical artworks by Matthew Marks.
  • Interactive talks and demonstrations by award-winning artist Jo Fairfax, scientist Nicholas Pearce, and University of Nottingham's Horizon.
  • And lots more!

Importantly, the Expo was not just about exhibiting products and projects. We encouraged exhibitors to find imaginative ways to capture their audience's imaginations by showing their work in action, allowing young people to learn, try, and ask questions about what they were being shown. All of the exhibitors offered creative activities that got the audience thinking about the technology and creativity behind how their products and projects worked. 

It was also a great opportunity for exhibitors to test what they had brought along and gather feedback from children, parents and teachers.

Minilab Studios, who demonstrated their creative learning app Professor Astro Cat's Solar System, found it to be a rewarding and challenging experience.

"We presented [the app] to children, teachers and parents – and astronomical fun was had by all."

"As is often the case with kids, they challenged us with questions we felt tempted to Google behind our backs."

"Professor Astro Cat has already been implemented in schools, and getting feedback from teachers is something we always look forward to. So, hearing that some saw such potential in the app that they were considering taking a back seat during science class and letting the Prof take over was great news!"

– Minilab Studios, Minilab goes to the Explorers Fair

Photo by Minilab Studios

Photo by Minilab Studios

What's next for Explorers Fair?

We learned a lot through the production of Explorers Fair. We've discovered how best to use Broadway's range of spaces for public events of this scale. We've built new partnerships with local schools and exhibitors, with aims to continue providing creative learning opportunities for young people in Nottingham. We've learned about the types of STEAM related activities and workshops that really excite young people.

Our plan is to continue to develop and deliver Explorers Fair events for Nottingham, with a focus on delivering a range of taster activities for children to discover creative applications of science and technology. We will continue to celebrate the work of creative learning champions from Nottinghamshire and beyond, providing a platform to test and showcase their work.

Find out more

Join our community mailing list to find out more about future Explorers Fairs if:

  • You're a teacher who would like to talk to us about how your pupils can get involved.
  • You have a project, product, activity or idea you'd like to bring along.
  • You are a parent/carer whose child would love to join in!

Many thanks to all the exhibitors, speakers and activity leaders who worked so hard to make the event a success, the brilliant teachers and pupils of the schools who joined us, our fantastic colleagues at Broadway for making it all run smoothly, the Festival of Science and Curiosity team for creating an awesome week of events, and Arts Council England for their support of the project.


Lee Nicholls