The Bubble Buskers

So if you’ve been following our blog this year, you know we’ve spent a good amount of time blowing bubbles! It turns out that all this bubble blowing has not been a mere boredom buster (or time-waster ?)… Miss Chu and her partner-in-crime (our 8-year-old upstairs neighbour) managed to audition their way into this year’s Science Busking Finals back in May with a bubble routine!

The Bubble Buskers on audition day

When Miss Chu told friends and family she’d entered a Science Busking competition, no one had a clue what she was talking about. “Science Busking” is part of the wider realm of “Science Communication”, which is (surprisingly enough!) a professional field and academic discipline in its own right. You can even get a degree in it. The name that immediately comes to my mind is Brian Cox, but Miss Chu identified more with Nina and the Neurons! Clearly the BBC is doing a decent job in this area.

Science Busking aims to promote the public communication of scientific concepts in a spontaneous and entertaining way, to make science accessible and fun. The idea is to choose any scientific concept, and explain it in plain language to a small audience, street-entertainer style, in five minutes. You have to be able to explain to old and young alike, and try to teach them something new!

The Science Busking competition here is run as part of Singapore’s annual Science Festival, and the competition is now in its tenth year. (Having said that, we’d never heard of it until this year.) I came across it rather randomly on the internet and showed the kids some videos, after which they were pretty keen to take part.

In this era of YouTube and the like, it’s actually surprisingly hard to find something that the general public haven’t seen before. So the kids decided to take a slightly unusual angle on “states of matter” with the theme: Bubbles….Solid or Liquid? Miss Chu and her teammate argued with each other by demonstrating the solid or liquid properties of bubbles, interspersed with a few bubble tricks and jokes.

Miss Chu practiced hard to perfect her bubbles into a bubble trick!

Considering we were completely clueless about this event, the kids were pretty surprised to get through the audition round, which saw 170+ teams whittled down to 40. We didn’t get to see many of the others in the Primary category during the auditions, and so had no idea what others were doing. When we arrived on Day 1 of finals weekend, it was clear that many teams were from schools who were competition veterans. They trooped in well prepared with big signs, portable microphones, busloads of supporters and bowls of sweets to bribe the public voters! Most of the teams also consisted of older primary kids; our two realized they were probably the youngest ones.

Nervous buskers at the beginning of Day 1!

This was all slightly daunting. On Day 2 we managed to borrow some microphones from the organizers and I hooked them up with some running Christmas lights for a bit more stage presence!

We improvised with a little extra staging on Day 2 with lights, balloons and a big banner.

 

The Bubble Buskers also hired the services of an enthusiastic little cheerleader who was sadly too young to take part! (Minimum age 7)

Over the weekend, the “Bubble Buskers” performed for the public and judges for almost 8 hours over two days in the finals of the Primary School category. After the initial jitters, it was great to see them gaining confidence and working the crowd!

Getting into the groove…the buskers look more relaxed on Day 2!

They discovered that busking is tough. You have to draw an audience and hold their attention amidst all the other performances. There’s not much space between performers and audience, so curious fingers are constantly poking into your props. It was a great experience for having to improvise and handle the unexpected.

Besides doing their routine, the kids were also allowed to take breaks and go check out other teams’ booths, which they really enjoyed. There were some great hands-on exhibits and the kids learned a lot because everyone was super enthusiastic to share their knowledge.

Trying to move a straw with Jedi mind power…

 

Learning about electromagnetic fields with copper wire coils and battery-magnet trains!

 

Having fun tossing in platelets and white blood cells into “wounds”.

 

Mr Banana extracts DNA from a banana…

They were also interviewed by the official Science Festival video crew about their experience!

It was a pretty exhausting couple of days, but the kids loved it. Despite not winning a coveted top three placing, they actually managed to nab a Judges’ Choice Award and a $100 cash prize, which they were ecstatic about. Miss Chu is keen to do it all again next year!

So… are soap bubbles considered solids or liquids? Answer in the comments if you know!

4 Comments

  1. That looks amazing! Well down Natalie!

  2. That sounds like a great way to encourage interest in science. Well done Natalie!

    • The kids definitely seemed to enjoy teaching and learning from each other, and the nice thing is – they seemed more comfortable asking questions of their peers than if it had been an adult presenting. It was interesting to observe!

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