Festival's animation workshop raises the game for teenagers

12th March 2010 at 00:00
Scotland's biggest annual celebration of science and technology returns next month - and it's buzzing with attractions aimed at young people

The Edinburgh International Science Festival used to run events aimed at teenagers. They used ultrasound to provide a window into the mouth of a beatboxer and measured the G-force breakdancers' bodies were under. But then funding got tighter and the content aimed at teens slipped.

This year, however, the science festival is aiming once again to boost the number of adolescents in its audiences.

"Teenagers are the toughest market by a long way," says Simon Gage, the festival director. "They are difficult because they don't want to be taken to things by their parents. They want to do their own thing with their mates, so we have to fit into that set-up and we have to do things in cool places.

"Teenagers don't want to go to lecture theatres - they want to be in nightclubs or labs."

But next month, when the festival kicks off, Mr Gage believes he will have the perfect teenager bait: video games.

"Large numbers of teenagers love them," says Mr Gage. "This is an opportunity for them to look behind what's in the computer game and make their own small piece of video animation while talking to people who do this for a living."

The workshop, which is called Video Game Studio, is one of more than 220 events being staged over the 14-day festival and will run for two days.

Over this period, the organisers, from Abertay University, will have their Dare to be Digital team running a games design competition for up to 120 youngsters, who must work together in 20 teams to customise a 2D platform game, similar in style to Nintendo's Mario.

"They will be able to change the graphics, the sound effects and make their own small levels," explains Grant Clarke, a lecturer in computer games development at the university.

Helping them turn their ideas into reality will be Abertay University students. Along the way, they will also be introduced to life in a real video games studio, by Brian Baglow of Dundee-based games developer Denki - a "digital toy factory", according to its website.

The two-day workshop at Stevenson College, Edinburgh, costs pound;70. It runs April 12-13 and April 14-15, 9am-4pm.




Spirit of the Wild

Creating pictures is about going that extra mile and being flexible, says photographer Steve Bloom. Photography is "the embodiment of nature's choreography, a perpetual dance for the eye", he says.

His work will be on show at the Edinburgh International Science Festival at a free outdoor exhibition, Spirit of the Wild. It is described as "a unique opportunity to see one of the world's most beautiful collections of animal photographs".

This is its first visit to Scotland.

St Andrew Square, March 12- May 6, 8am-6pm, free

Sonic Dreams

The festival will take a soundproof cube containing the most complex sound system in Scotland, plonk it in a park and transport participants to a range of weird locations, including the heart of a beehive.

In St Andrew Square the box will be built, insulated and fitted with 16 speakers. The recordings have been made using a special process called ambisonic. This allows recording in all directions to take place, so the complete sound field experienced during the original performance can be reproduced.

The iXDLab has traditionally been used to simulate sound in buildings, such as concert halls or railway stations, before they are built.

St Andrew Square, April 3-17, 10am-8pm, 20 minutes, pound;2

Jimmy's Food Factory

TV farmer and friend of Jamie Oliver, Jimmy Doherty, has set up a rare- breeds pig farm and shared his farming heroes with the nation.

Most recently he investigated who's fooling with our food in the TV show Jimmy's Food Factory. Among the foods he deconstructed were breads that stay fresh for weeks, processed ham-and-cheese slices, and crisps.

Now youngsters will have the chance to meet the man who designed, built and set up all his experiments, Marty Jopson, as he investigates the hidden science in the food on your shelf. What are instant coffee, homogenised milk and processed cheese?

Edinburgh University's Informatics Forum, April 10, 2pm, one hour, pound;4.

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