BIG is the skills sharing network for individuals involved in the communication of science, technology, engineering and maths.
BIG is definitely one of those little things that make life better. An organisation whose members are hugely creative, inspiring and passionate about science, engineering and maths. Having just returned from the annual conference featuring musical tesla coils, fire from water, and vodka from crude oil. It seemed a good time to try to set down some info on this great group.
During the second half of the eighties a number of science centres sprang up around the UK. These largely built their own small scale interactives, or drew on the skills of a few freelance fabricators.
Ian Simmons a stalwart of BIG from the very earliest days recalls.
“Thinking back, it all originated in the late 80’s when Melanie Quin was employed by Nuffield to run a small networking project for the new science centres. She used to put out a newsletter type thing which was essentially a stapled rag-bag of whatever info people had sent in to her and circulated whenever there was enough to go round. She also ran the occasional get together of people here and there a couple of times a year, which was very useful networking too. When Ecsite got together around 1990 they persuaded Melanie to join them to run it, and she went off to Heureka to do that, which left the UK without a network. So, in about 1991, Bhagwant Singh, pulled a group of people together who had several meetings up in Manchester to form an organization and get things going.
Initially using the name HOG (Hands-on Group), we considered other names (e.g ADHOC – Association for the Development of Hands-on Centres) before settling on BIG, because it didn’t limit interaction to just science and sounded better than HOG. The other major principle enshrined right from the start was that it was an organization for individuals, not for organizations.
We launched in 1992, with a meeting, but I can’t remember where, possibly Manchester and initially held several smaller meetings a year.
Over the years as exhibit building has shifted to larger design and fabrication outfits, the membership has shifted to represent those delivering informal education programmes and commissioning exhibitions, rather than those building them.
1994 Bhagwant Singh
1995 Bhagwant Singh
1996 Steve Pizzey
1997 Steve Pizzey
1998 Gillian Pearson
1999 Gillian Pearson
2000 Melanie Quin
2001 Melanie Quin
2002 Sue Brumpton
2003/4 Sue Brumpton (in 2003 elections moved from Jan to Jul to coincide with the BIG event)
2004/5 Sue Brumpton
2005/6 Emmie Kell
2006 /7Josh Phillips Helen Lloyd (Helen took over following Josh’s tragic death)
2007/8 Noel Jackson
2008/9 Noel Jackson
2009/10 James Piercy
2010/11 James Piercy/Andy Lloyd (Andy took over after James was injured in a car accident)
2011/12 Andy Lloyd
2012/13 Andy lloyd
2013/14 James Piercy
2014/15 James Piercy
2015/16 James Piercy
2016/17 Bridget Holligan
The BIG Event
In 1996 the Then Chair of BIG wrote
““I have been wondering if BIG should organise a multipurpose fun annual event rather than separate events – a truly BIG event.
The events could include
. specialist workshop sessions, including the traditional fabricators event
. demonstrations and shows
.speakers’ corner 15 min sessions
.exhibits market place
Since 1997 the BIG event has been held for just this purpose, attracting around 100 people from across the UK and overseas, to share skills, make new contacts and improve practice in the science communication field.
From 1997 to 2004 the event was held in at Herstmonceux East Sussex. hosted by the Observatory Science Centre
From 2005- present the event has been hosted by a number of organisations
2005 Centre for Life, Newcastle
2006 Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
2007 MAGNA, Rotherham
2008 Techniquest @NEWI , Wrexham (now known as techniquest Glyndwr)
2009 The Royal Institution, London
2010 Centre for Life, Newcastle
2011 @ Bristol
2012 National railway museum, York
2013 Glasgow Science Centre
2014 Museum of Natural History Oxford
2015 The John Innes Centre Norwich
2016 W5 Belfast
A highlight if the BIG Event has always been the prestigious best demo competition. Competitors may present any from of science demonstration in around 3 mins, and are judged on science content, showmanship and originality.
Entries over the years have included, urine drinking, penis pumps and stripping, Along with a coke can Hero’s engine, DNA fingerprinting with spaghetti and far too many others to mention.
The winners since 1997 were:
1997 Wendy Sadler Alka Seltzer rocket
1998 Derek Fish Paper
1999 Chris Norton Faraday the pig
2000 Gillian Pearson DNA fingerprint using spaghetti
2001 Gillian Pearson Does Factor 25 cream stop UV light?
2002 James Piercy Demos you can do with your body
2003 Sue Brumpton Story about close packing
2004 Rob Copeland and Izzy Mohammed Human steam engine
2005 Ben Craven Gravity defying water
2006 Marcus Weber Human Wallis grid
2007 Ben Craven How to make a black thing look white
2008 Diane Gray Plasma in microwave
2009 Ian Simmons Flaming meat
2010 Farrah Nazir Lighting a match with steam
2011 Brian Maken Laser projected spit
2012 Karl Byrne Refractive index
2013 Marcin & Blazej Aerodynamic cup of tea
2014 Stephen Williams Dodo vs Trex rap
2015 Matt Pritchard Tipping match boxes
2016 Tobias Happe Air gun
In 1999 an email discussion group was started. With around 800 subscribers it is a hugely useful forum for discussion and debate. If you want the perfect bubble recipe, to know how to lift a bus with a hot water bottle, or just want to keep up to speed with the latest news Sign up here
BIG is thriving with more members now than ever, and an especially welcome influx of eager young things. Looking forward to the next 15 years of my membership.