From smells to cells

Climate change is at the heart of this year's Edinburgh Inter-national Science Festival. But while serious issues are on the agenda, for young scientists the emphasis is still on fun.

Wonderama, the festival's flagship family event at the Assembly Rooms in George Street, will run for all 14 days and 14,000 visitors are expected, of whom at least half will be children. Meanwhile, the broader festival programme which extends to 14 venues, 40 topics and 140 events is expected to attract 70,000 people.

Wonderama is aimed at three to 12-year-olds and will be "jam-packed with smelly and disgusting science for all budding and burping Einsteins". The aim, says Simon Gage, festival director, is "to enthuse young people about science and technology, show them that science doesn't have to be hard and show them it's great fun".

New on the menu is Icy Adven-ture, for six to 12-year-olds, devised with help from the British Antarctic Survey. Children will dress up as polar explorers and learn how ice behaves. They will also learn why the polar ice caps are so important and what it would mean if they were to melt.

Superfreeze Me! looks at how the body reacts to extremely cold conditions, and how some materials change properties.

"Our Antarctic workshops aim to educate kids at an early age about the importance of what we are doing to our planet and how we can reduce the effects of global warming, There's a real emphasis this year on climate change issues," says Dr Gage.

Also new is Unwrapping the Mummy, where seven to 12-year-olds unwrap the bandages of an Egyptian mummy replica and diagnose what the pharaoh died of - an Indiana Jones-style quest.

Newcomer Night Time Jungle Safari is for wildlife detectives aged six and up. In a field station and jungle, young naturalists will use sound equipment to search for small mammals, identifying their whereabouts and that of their young. Using a hydrophone - an underwater microphone - they will listen to the sounds of creatures in a jungle pond.

Aged nine and over, a workshop on Lego Robosports will set challenging problems children can solve with advanced Lego Mind-storm robots.

Meanwhile, eight to 12-year-olds will be able to race a SELEX Sprinter robot around an obstacle course and compete in the Robot Football Champions League, as well as learning how to design and build their own robots. And a new MadBot (a small life form) has been added to the MadLab selection of robot soldering kits.

At the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, workshops, tours and shows include making compost and creative recycling.

Highlights for primary pupils include Defeating Disease, a special event at the National Museum of Scotland, exploring what medical and veterinary researchers at Edin-burgh University are doing to de-feat disease in humans and animals.

Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 2-15 T 0131 524 9830

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