From Event: SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications, 2016
The ‘Reflecting Photonics’ show garden was exhibited at the 2015 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Show in Tatton Park, UK, to celebrate the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Elks-Smith Garden Design alongside landscapers ‘Turf N’ Earth’ collaborated with researchers, marketing and outreach professionals from the University of Southampton to design, construct and exhibit a photonics-themed garden. The garden and supporting exhibition united science and art to reach new audiences – particularly family groups alongside other key influencers to the young – and showcased the world-leading research in optical fibers at the university in an accessible manner. Researchers and a publicity professional, funded by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics, developed an integrated approach to the event’s public engagement and marketing. The overarching aim was to influence a positive change in the attitude of the garden visitors towards physics and photonics, with additional focus on promoting careers for women in STEM. The show garden won an RHS Gold Medal award and the coveted ‘People’s Choice Award’ for the best large garden. The project subsequently won the South East England Physics Network Public Engagement Innovation Project Award. Approximately 80,000 visitors saw the garden, with a further three million television viewers on a popular British gardening show. There were also over 75,400 Tweet impressions on social media. This paper discusses the project aims, explores the design of the garden and its relationship with the research, describes the work of the public engagement team, and outlines the impact of the event.
Matthew T. Posner, Pearl V. John, Deanna Standen, Natalie V. Wheeler, Lieke D. van Putten, Nathan Soper, Tina L. Parsonage, Nicholas H. L. Wong, and Gilberto Brambilla, "Reflecting photonics: reaching new audiences through new partnerships – IYL 2015 and the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show," Proc. SPIE 9946, Optics Education and Outreach IV, 994603 (Presented at SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications: August 31, 2016; Published: 27 September 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2236977.
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