Sarah Chew is a person who is very passionate about her job with TechFest. Fresh from a day’s skydiving, she tells Natasha Mckim about the amazing programme of events coming up
Sarah Chew, 36, is the managing director for TechFest. TechFest started 40 years ago as a science and technology organisation and this is now the 23rd year of their festival.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH TECHFEST?I did my first TechFest in 1998 working for a company called Livewire productions. I did it before I went on my gap year as a presenter. I did that for a few years during university so I had worked with the science festival for many years, but with different hats on.I started in August 2010 as operations instructor and then took over as managing director in 2011. It is nice to appreciate the history of the festival and how it all started. We still work quite closely with people who have worked with us over the years.
WHAT EVENTS ARE INVOLVED WITH TECHFEST?We work with engineering and maths which is fundamental to what we do, but the majority of our events are science based. This year, our theme is “celebrating all things local”. Last year, we started to appreciate how much wonderful work is happening on our doorstep with cutting-edge research. Our opening event is back by public demand – forensics is always really popular, but this year we have put a different twist on it by including pathology, biology and geology and it is going to be really exciting.
DOES IT TAKE A LOT OF TIME TO PUT TOGETHER THE PROGRAMME?We have already started on next year now. As the festival has grown more and more successful, our other projects have as well. It builds more and more momentum throughout the year but you never really stop working on the festival
IS THE FESTIVAL AIMED AT THE WHOLE FAMILY?It is definitely a family festival. The goal we strive to achieve is to have something for everybody, including people who might not have children but enjoy science. It is hands-on learning and you are never too old to stop learning.
IS THIS SOMETHING YOUNG CHILDREN CAN GET INVOLVED WITH?The family series, Eureka, is held across city and Aberdeenshire libraries. We are starting our after-school science series with activities such as chemical wizardry. Kids can learn about things below the waves and engineering and be hands on.
HOW MUCH DO YOU INVOLVE SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES?People are still curious to hear about what is happening in the STEM community so that is growing and growing. Eureka will be after-school science and weekend activities at Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen.
DO STUDENTS COME TO THE FESTIVAL TO FIND HELP WITH THEIR CAREER CHOICES?When you listen to what young people are talking about when they are making their choices, they want to hear about people who do a different job they might not have heard about. The careers and transferable skills underpin the whole festival. You see more and more young people coming to our events and asking about what they should do at university.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO WALK AWAY FROM THE FESTIVAL THINKING?One of the benefits of working with all things local is meeting people. People have the opportunity to meet someone during the festival or start an interest base and that is an ongoing learning journey after the festival. It seems bigger this year and dynamic and more exciting. You can blink and you miss it. The festival is our flagship event but we have activities all year around.
TechFest public programme runs from August 26 – Sunday, September 18. For more information see www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk