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Three members of the Srinivas Group attended Cheney School's Iris Festival of Natural History, Classics, Art and More, bringing a stall of virtual reality and 3D printed models of embryos to engage students and the general public with how they study embryogenesis and heart development.

Members of the Srinivas lab, Dr Tomoko Watanabe, Dr Matthew Stower and Dr Shifaan Thowfeequ, attended the Cheney School's annual Iris Festival of Natural History, Classics, Art and More on Wednesday 27 March 2019.

Their stall was part of the festival's Natural History discovery zone and aimed to introduce concepts of embryo development, which is the group's core research topic, to the public.

Using a virtual reality kit, the team showed images of early mouse embryos taken with their confocal microscope, collaborator Micron's light sheet microscope, and MRI scans of older embryos.

They engaged with around 50 visitors, including Cheney School students, their parents and teachers, plus teachers from other local primary schools.

Visitors walked around, jumped through and peeked under the embryos, and sliced through the images to feel how we study and analyse our data. - Dr Tomoko Watanabe

The team brought a wealth of tools to aid public understanding of embryo development. Visitors were introduced to 3D printed models of embryos and developing hearts, a sticker activity sheet and a poster on comparative development across human, mice, chick and fish.

The visitors exclaimed their wonder on how the embryos of different species look similar. Little children were amazed that we all had tails in mummy's tummy. Older kids had the challenge of guessing correct species for 3D printed giant embryos of humans and mice, and they had an animated discussion among friends on what would make the embryo more human. - Dr Tomoko Watanabe

Their virtual reality kit was very popular, with a queue of visitors across all ages wanting to give it a try, some as young as three or four years old. 

Festival organiser, Dr Lorna Robinson, commented that the students really enjoyed the experience and were talking about mouse embryos in virtual reality the next morning at school.

Cheney's School's large annual community event is designed to celebrate the Rumble Museum at Cheney, as it continues the process of becoming the first Arts Council Accredited museum in a state school. 

More information and photos of the Festival is available on the Rumble Museum blog.

The full brochure for the event can be viewed here.

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