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Hannah Rowlands, Communications Manager for NQIT (Networked Quantum Information Technologies), reports on the Quantum Discovery evening event that herself and a team in the Physics department hosted in October 2017, with talks, stalls and lab tours.

An activity at the Quantum Discovery evening

Hannah Rowlands, Communications Manager for NQIT (Networked Quantum Information Technologies), reports on the Quantum Discovery evening event that herself and a team in the Physics department hosted in October 2017. If you're planning an event then there's some really useful food for thought here.


An Evening of Quantum Discovery was a quantum physics-themed public outreach event in the Physics Department in Oxford held on October 17 2017 from 5pm - 8.30pm, with family-friendly activities from 5pm - 6.30pm and then activities for a general 12+ audience from 6.30pm - 8.30pm.

The event included:

  • 20-minute talks by members of the department
  • Guided lab tours in 6 labs
  • A hands-on science fair with 7 stalls
  • A “Quantum Story Corner” child-friendly activity

We sold-out the 280 tickets on EventBrite and had 45 on the waiting list. Around 160 people turned up on the day – a mix of family groups, adults and school groups.

Achievements – What Worked Well?

  • The event sold out on Eventbrite very quickly. We advertised the event through the Physics Department outreach mailing list and posted it on the Physics Department website and the University events page.Participants at An Evening of Quantum Discovery
  • We had a good turnout on the night, despite a nearly 40% drop-out rate.
  • We had a sign at registration saying that photographs were being taken, attendees gave their permission by signing at registration (especially if they had children with them), and we gave them a brightly-coloured lanyard if they did not want to be in any photos.
  • We had a photographer (the wife of one of our researchers) so the organisers didn't have to take photos.
  • We had a room set aside for volunteers, with free snacks, pizza and drinks, which our volunteers really appreciated.
  • We had a short briefing for volunteers just before the event started to tell them about the schedule, health & safety, first aid etc.
  • The event was organised by three members of the Physics Department (Sian Tedaldi, Hannah Rowlands and Kathryn Boast) so the workload was spread between them.
  • Visitors were very excited about being allowed into actual labs (29% of feedback respondents said this was their favourite part of the event).
  • We designed a poster for the event and then used elements from the poster for all signage throughout the event.


  • The schedule was quite complicated and confusing for visitors, due to health & safety limitations on the number of people we could have in each space.
  • The schedule was rather tight, so that some people had to arrive, register and get sent on a lab tour at the same time; when a talk overran, some visitors missed their lab tour; there were also no breaks for volunteers; some visitors said they didn't have enough time to go around the entire science fair.
  • The registration area was too small as it was used for registration, as a collection point for lab tours and a place to fill in feedback forms.

Outcomes for Public

We received 59 completed feedback forms (around 40% response rate)

We asked visitors about “science capital” and were interested to see that 35% of respondents said that, outside of school or work, talk about science with other people once a month or less, which indicates we were reaching an audience that doesn’t involve science in their lives on a regular basis.

Visitors really enjoyed the event:

  • 97% of respondents said that they enjoyed the event
  • 88% of respondents said that their understanding of quantum physics had improved "a lot" or "a little" from this event
  • 93% would recommend this event to someone they know
  • 84% said they were inspired to learn more about quantum physics

General comments:

  • "I would just like to thank you all for this opening up to the public ... I wish more university departments did this sort of thing as it is mutually beneficial"
  • "We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and thank everyone for all the work they put into making it such an interesting and stimulating event."

Participants at An Evening of Quantum Discovery

What did you enjoy the most?

  • "Chatting with Andy one of your scientists, because he was genuinely interested in giving us good answers and listened to us."
  • • "Laboratory tour, visiting laboratories cannot be done everyday or on internet!"
  • • "Getting a sense of the work being done in this area, felt like an insight to things that are shaping the future of our world."
  • • "Practical demonstrations and lab tours, it was easier to understand the harder topics"
  • • "The presentation in the lecture theatre about super conductors, it had wow factor and engaged the children."
  • • "That the future of physics research is in safe and enthusiastic hands!"

Outcomes for Researchers

"I really enjoyed the set-up of the evening — especially the mix of talks/stalls/quantum story time. I also liked the combination of different areas of quantum research — it was cool to be able to meet outreachers from [elsewhere in the Physics Department]. The snack room was also an excellent idea ... I really think this is an event we should do again."

Top Tips for Future Events

  • An activity at the Quantum Discovery eveningCheck what Eventbrite says – be careful if you're splitting the event up into different parts
  • I think we could have come up with a much simpler schedule and included breaks for volunteers and allowed for activities and talks to overrun
  • Distribute the schedule to visitors and volunteers in advance
  • Some visitors said they didn't understand the talks, we could have asked speakers to submit slides to check the level of the content in advance
  • Have a larger registration area and have lab tour collections from somewhere else
  • We could have done with more helpers who weren't on stands in the science fair to help out
  • We needed even more signage than we had, to make sure visitors found all the activities around the building
  • We could have done better internal advertising to get more people in the department involved as volunteers