Supercomputers, dinosaurs and stage-diving robots
06 Feb 2017



This summer, the Hartree Centre played a big part in Daresbury Open Week, an event which showcased the vast breadth of inspiring science that goes on at the Sci-Tech Daresbury


​​​Credit: STFC​


​The open week, which took place between 5-9 July 2016, kicked off with a day aimed at business leaders and campus stakeholders, boasting a speaker list that included representatives from IBM Cognitive Solutions, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Tech UK and Pfizer Global, to name but a few. Almost 100 business and industry leaders took part in the day, and many seized the opportunity to tour the site with seven different facilities – including the Hartree Centre visualisation suite - opening their doors across the campus.

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments from the first day was when Newton the robot, a friend of ours from IBM Cognitive Solutions, joined STFC CEO John Womersley on stage in the opening address. You can see why we won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry here:


(No robots were harmed in the making of this video – it’s just his ego that was bruised.)

Next came two days of engaging activities and inspiring talks which catered for 1000+ pupils from primary and secondary schools, followed by the public open day – the real star attraction of the whole week! Despite torrential rain conspiring against them, a whopping 7,500+ enthusiastic visitors battled the elements (and increasingly muddy car park conditions) to take part in the event, which was the first of its kind for almost 10 years. The infectious enthusiasm of STFC staff– some of whom even happily pitched in to help push the worst affected vehicles out of the mud at the end of the day – won out though, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Volunteers at Daresbury Public Open Day refused to let the weather get them down.

The public day, which took place on Saturday 9 July, offered a range of activities for children and parents alike to take part in, demos to watch and tours of working scientific facilities – a truly unique and memorable experience for all. Here at the Hartree Centre, we opened the doors to our data centre so that visitors could see real life supercomputers up close, while other attractions across site included 3D-printing demos (with take-home souvenirs) and the opportunity to take a real-life dinosaur named Rex for a walk!

A young visitor takes Rex for a stroll in the rain.

Other activities aiming to engage the future generation of computational scientists included battling Lego robots using tablet controllers, programming Beebots with directions to navigate a course set out on a map, creating a temperature sensor circuit and watch a series of 3D demos on our immersive curved visualisation wall.

Visitors experience live 3D demos in the Hartree Centre visulisation suite.

On another visualisation wall, we hosted an Internet of Things (IoT) demonstration in the form of a live “heat map” visualisation, showing the areas with the highest activity numbers on site. Visitors were encouraged to “scan in” at various scanning stations across site constructed and programmed using Raspberry Pi technology.

The live IoT heat map visualisation. Warmer colours indicate higher visitor numbers.

“Many Hartree Centre staff were among the volunteers that supported Daresbury Open Week, creating amazing and inspiring memories, not only for our guests but also for themselves. The member of staff providing technical support for the IoT scanners across site clocked up over 20,000 steps on the day!” Dave Cable, one of the team leaders on the public open day said, “For most this was their first time taking part in a public engagement activity and they discovered how rewarding it can be to share knowledge and experience with the public, especially young people. Inspiring the next generation and influencing their career choices is vitally important to the Hartree Centre – they are the future computational and data scientists we will need to sustain the level of technical excellence here.”

See how Daresbury Open Week unfolded in real time on social media on STFC’s Storify.

Or see some of the highlights in this video recap: