Project picture

Corrosion Summer Ball

North West

Project Summary

Four interactive experiences related to corrosion science were created: the fruit battery, cuprum art, ‘Mr Copper and Miss Sulphate’ and turn your pennies into gold.

Project Partners

Marieke Navin
Science Communication Officer. MOSI
Role Description:
Alice Laferrere
PhD researcher, University of Manchester
Role Description:
Early Career Researcher
James Smith
PhD researcher, University of Manchester
Role Description:
Early Career Researcher

Benefits & Impact

This event would not have happened without the Early Career Researcher Manchester Beacon grant, since the investment in equipment was vital to develop the hands-on activities. It was a unique opportunity for Marieke, Alice and James to embark upon such a learning journey together as it was the first time for all to be involved in a project like this with mentor-mentees relationship.

The impacts upon the early career researchers (ECRs) are that their presentation skills have greatly improved as a direct result of this process and they have seen a dramatic increase in invitations to give academic presentations both in the UK and abroad. For the mentor, it was extremely satisfying to observe the improvements and gain in confidence of the ECRs as they progressed through this project and especially that they participated in the LITTLE event, which they would not have heard about otherwise.

Almost as soon as the event at the Manchester Science Festival had finished plans were being put in place to take the project further. Given the huge success of the event it is hoped that more volunteers could be trained up by the ECRs to help with an event next year. This would help disseminate all the public engagement skills that had been learnt by the ECRs throughout this learning journey and also allow them to act as a role model to other students who are aspiring to get involved in public engagement work, this is in contrast to a role model to the public. 


“Corrosion is recognized as one of the most serious problems in our modern societies and the resulting losses each year are in the hundreds of billions of pounds. However, corrosion science is only taught at a master’s level, and the principles of corrosion are too complex to explain to people without a strong scientific background.” Professor at the University of Manchester.

Lessons Learnt

  • More preparation for the event was needed than expected and the preparation was harder than the actual event.
  • Make a start on public engagement activities, first contact with public audience
  • Boost confidence, learn public engagement skills
  • Try out public engagement skills with one experiment
  • Scale our show up by performing two experiments at the same table
  • Entertain and impress a larger audience by performing all the experiments
  • Reflect and learn from feedback forms and evaluation
  • The public were deeply enthused by corrosion science and the hands-on activities.
  • Advertising was very important.




Everyone is invited to the Corrosion Summer Ball! Witness first hand the amazing array of talents that Mr Copper will show off to keep his date, the lovely Miss Sulphate. Learn how he can generate electricity from fruit and turn your pennies into gold.  Design and make cuprum art and discover if Mr Copper finally gets the girl!


Aims & Objectives

Our overall aims were to inspire the general public with an introduction to corrosion by offering them the chance to build, play and experiment with this exciting and complex discipline. We also aimed to provide an exciting and memorable learning experience. Furthermore we wanted to showcase the research of local young scientists, who also act as role models, hopefully encouraging young people to consider a career in science and to find out that corrosion is both interesting and relevant to their daily lives, motivating them to want to find out more.

In providing the researchers with a platform at MOSI will also make universities more accessible to the general public, who cannot visit the university easily but who come to the museum and would not usually be exposed to scientists and university research.


In summary, the phases of this project were:

Phase 1 – ideas

Phase 2 – ordering equipment and trying out the experiments

Phase 3 – improving communication skills

Phase 4 – running the event

Phase 5 – dissemination and evaluation.

Meet the Materials Scientist at the MOSI, 4th September 2010

At this stage, the partners brainstormed ideas for fun and interactive experiments by observing other scientists performing science-busking experiments. This was also the first contact with the public for the scientists, and they had a chance to witness first-hand the difficulties and rewards of public engagement.

The LITTLE event at Thinktank, 7th September 2010

During this workshop, the scientists received valuable advice about science communication and how to pitch to your audience. The Summer Ball story that gives metals a personality was improved to better fulfil our objectives and junk the jargon.

Airbus fun family day at Bristol, 18th September 2010

For the first time, the scientists performed one of their own experiments in front of an audience. The Summer Ball story was tested successfully on the audience. The importance of advertising and keeping it interactive was raised. The idea of a “make and take” system, where the public can keep one of their copper-plated strip was suggested.

Salford Local History and Family Fun day at the Museum and Art Gallery, 19th September 2010

The “make and take” idea was successfully put into practice. Communication skills were improved by working with the mentor, Marieke Navin.

Manchester Science Festival, 29th October 2010

For the main event, more preparation was realised. The success of the event was mainly due to active advertising, including Twitter and articles in the MEN and Culture24, and the variety of interactive experiments on offer.

Dissemination event, 10th November 2010

The different partners realised the importance of evaluation and feedback forms.