Design, Code, Rave, Repeat at the Manchester Science Festival

Posted on November 5, 2016

Families visiting the Manchester Science Festival were given the opportunity to get hands-on with the latest health tech recently as part of a public #datasaveslives exhibition.

#datasaveslives at man sci fest

Over 900 participants visited the #datasaveslives activity at the Manchester Science Festival

Delivered by twelve representatives from The University of Manchester’s Health eResearch Centre and hosted at the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, this one-day event was designed to demonstrate the power of data in improving health.

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Through a series of six activities, over 900 participants of all ages were given an insight into the multidisciplinary world of health data science.  From coding a mobile pulse monitor and designing their own health ‘app’ to testing their existing knowledge in an interactive true or false game; each activity was designed to stimulate a different conversation with the public.

The centrepiece for the exhibition was a live experiment which sought to understand if music motivates people to work harder during exercise. By randomising volunteers into music and non-music samples participants had their pulse monitored before and after a one-minute stepping activity to see if there was any difference between the two groups.

Thanks to a real time data-visualisation tool, the results of the activity were displayed immediately which allowed contributors to ask questions of the data and discuss the scientific rigour of the experiment itself.  Participants were able to view the progress of results throughout the day and filter the data based on age, gender and activity alongside a map which geographically mapped participants.

Stephen Melia, Communications and Public Engagement Lead at the university’s Health eResearch Centre said:  “The Manchester Science Festival provides a great opportunity for researchers and developers to get out and engage with the public about the work they do.  Thanks to a wide range of skills that were represented by the team on the stand we were able to have some really interesting conversations about how we use health data at The University of Manchester”

Kamilla Kopec-Harding who created the data visualisation platform said: “Participants were able to contribute their information into an aggregated pool of data for analysis.  We knew we wanted those taking part to really engage with the information so I tried to make sure the visualisation was clear and simple but also attractive and engaging.

“The Festival was incredibly busy but it was fantastic to see so much interaction.  Hopefully we would have inspired some of the participants to pursue careers in software development, statistics and health research.”

As was predicted by the statisticians on the project team, the more people that took part in the experiment the more the results converged, with the end-of-day results showing that on-average pulse rates increased by 62 beats per minute for those that listened to music to 61 beats per minute for those that didn’t.

The Manchester Science Festival is one of the flagship events that formed part of Manchester’s hugely successful year as the European City of Science.


For media enquiries please contact Stephen Melia, Communications Manager, Health eResearch Centre.  Tel: 07557 310 213 Email: