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Satrosphere: 35 years of legendary school trips to Aberdeen Science Centre in photos

Primary school science lessons often involved volcano experiments with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. But a school trip to Satrosphere in Aberdeen was a fun journey of discovery that brought science to life.

A school trip to Satrosphere, now known as Aberdeen Science Centre, is a fun journey of discovery that brings science to life. Image: DC Thomson/Roddie Reid
A school trip to Satrosphere, now known as Aberdeen Science Centre, is a fun journey of discovery that brings science to life. Image: DC Thomson/Roddie Reid

Did you really go to school in the north-east if you didn’t go on a school trip to Satrosphere?

These days it’s known as Aberdeen Science Centre, but for the purposes of pure nostalgia it was Satrosphere for generations of schoolchildren.

If you were lucky, science at primary school consisted of bicarbonate of soda volcanoes, evaporating salt water in a saucepan, and perhaps pushing iron filings around a plate with a magnet.

But a trip to Satrosphere was a God-tier school excursion – especially if you lived in Aberdeenshire, because then you also got to go on a coach to the big city.

Back in the day, the home of science in Aberdeen was at Justice Mill Lane, where Satrosphere opened on October 3 1988.

The early days of SATRO

Satrosphere at its Justice Mill Lane, Aberdeen. Image: DC Thomson

Not to be confused with the Stratosphere – part of the Earth’s atmosphere – the name Satrosphere came from the acronym for Science And Technology Regional Organisation (SATRO).

Satrosphere started life in 1988 as a series of annual science and technology exhibitions in Aberdeen, but there were calls to make it a permanent fixture.

The proposal won the backing of the council, and it was hoped the project would help establish the city as a centre of excellence in technology.

Satrosphere’s first home was meant to be in the former casualty department at Woolmanhill Hospital in the city centre.

Satro was poised to move its exhibits and Discovery Dome into the boarded up A&E department in October 1988, which had been empty since 1978.

1986: Members of the Stocket Computer Club show off their Spectrum-controlled trains at the science fair in the Music Hall set up by Satro. Back, from left, Euan Webster, Peter Drysdale, Victoria Gooday, Roy Koruth and Fraser Mitchell. Front, Inga Bruce, Graeme Fraser and Meg Bruce. Image: DC Thomson

But vandals had broken in, smashed up every sink and most lavatories, and also stole the copper piping and boiler for the heating system.

The budding attraction in Aberdeen could not afford to bring the building up to standard, so it was back to the drawing board.

Satrosphere made science accessible for schoolchildren

But the centre wasn’t homeless for long – the following year a permanent site was found at the former Aberdeen Motors building in Justice Mill Lane.

With around 7,000-sqm of space to play with, Satrosphere could also provide lecture rooms, video-viewing areas and a community laboratory in addition to its main exhibition space.

Innes Cook was appointed as development officer for Satro, and said she hoped it would attract locals and tourists, but would “chiefly be a resource for local school pupils and teachers”.

1987: Bright spark p7 pupils at Broomhill Primary School switched on a successful project after following a simple course in electricity, and built a model tram and trolley bus. The high-powered project was designed to bring industry into the primary school classroom and was backed by SATRO. From left, Pamela Woodman, Lynda Todd, Theresa Carle, Joanne Bertram and Clare Cruickshank. Image: DC Thomson

When Satrosphere opened its new premises in February 1990, it became the first attraction of its kind in Scotland.

Pupils from Towie Primary School and Mintlaw Academy were the first to visit and take the hands-on message to heart, giving Satrosphere a huge thumbs-up.

It was officially opened by astronomer, lecturer and TV presenter Heather Couper, who said: “It is the best I have seen.

“This new hands-on discover place in Aberdeen offers an innovative and more accessibly fun way to explore science.

“It is an important move towards changing the public attitude towards science and technology.”

Trailblazer and broadcaster Heather Couper, who was also president of The British Astronomical Association. Image: Photo by Geoffrey White/ANL/Shutterstock

Spinning chairs and pooping sheep

The early exhibits included the Bernoulli Blower, a globe suspended by a jet of air, which was immediately a hit with younger visits.

Towie head teacher Margaret Phillip, who had won an Institute of Physics teacher of primary science award, said Satrosphere was a “superb” learning opportunity.

It certainly fulfilled the aim of catering for school groups from across the north-east.

1989: Broomhill Primary School pupils from Class 6 and 7 pictured with their model lighthouse, just one of the models made by them with the assistance of technicians from the Hydro Board in conjunction with SATRO. Image: DC Thomson

To the slightly sheltered teuchter primary pupil, Aberdeen city centre was a busy metropolis with buildings taller than two storeys high.

And behind the unassuming entrance to Satrosphere awaited an exciting world of interactive discovery.

Top exhibits included the super-sized Newton’s Cradle, gigantic bubbles that enveloped willing participants, and hitting pipes with ping-pong bats

For those who studied Standard Grade physics, Newton’s laws of motion could be demonstrated in person by being strapped into a chair that spun round.

1990: At the opening of Satrosphere on February 15, Towie Primary School pupil Amy Thomson was amazed by the Bernoulli Blower, which suspended a globe in mid-air. Image: DC Thomson

For everyone else, it was just an absolute caper spinning as fast as you could.

But for kids of the 1990s, the top exhibit, undeniably, was the famous pooping sheep.

Aberdeen Science Centre continues to innovate and excite

Anyone wishing to relive their youth and watch food pass through a sheep’s digestive tract will be thrilled to know that the pooping sheep is still at Aberdeen Science Centre for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

The centre at the former tram shed on Constitution Street underwent a £6 million major redevelopment, reopening in 2020.

Jim McKenzie had a pooping sheep named after him in Aberdeen. The research engineer created the famous sheep which is now displayed in Aberdeen Science Centre. Image: DC Thomson

Now, 35 years after it first opened, Aberdeen Science Centre continues to innovate, and lead the way in making science fun and accessible to schoolchildren.

Perhaps our gallery of photos will reignite some core childhood memories of fun trips to Satrosphere?

Photos of Satrosphere in the 1990s

1990: Five-year-old David Rennie and his sister, Yvonne (7) of Inverness, play a tune on Satrosphere’s pan pipes. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Measuring the distance between Aberdeen and the North Pole were Towie pupils Becky Johnson, Joanne Dennerley and Melissa Grimley. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Satrosphere prizewinners from St Margaret’s and Broomhill Schools were starry-eyed after winning a storytelling competition. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Fraserburgh Central School pupils, left to right, Raquell Fawdry (9), Euan Thomson (11), Pamela Sutherland (9) and Margaret Third (9) found out about the Cartesian Divers exhibit at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1990: The winners of the Press and Journal competition for young scientists enjoy their reward – a visit to the Satrosphere exhibition in Justice Mill Lane, Aberdeen. The youngsters from Cabrach and Lossiemouth, and several parents, braved the snowy roads and chaotic traffic conditions on a free bus provided by Alexander’s Coaches, of Peterhead. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Appearing to shake hands with himself is Dr Richard Johnson, of the Satrosphere Centre. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Jenny Simpson, of Stuartfield, gets to grips with magnets on a visit to Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1990: The Shakkin’ Briggie at Satrosphere’s former premises in Justice Mill Lane was a 16ft model suspension bridge where visitors could weigh in. From left, Ryan Abel, Barry Abel, Ritchie Tosh and Michael Tosh, all from Bridge of Don. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Blowing up a small storm at the wind table at Satrosphere were, from left, Douglas Elder (4), Laura Taylor (9) and Fiona Elder (9), all of Strachan. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Lesley Fyfe and her son, James (7), from Drumoak, enjoyed the Musical Waves machine at Aberdeen’s Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Broomhill Primary pupils Jane Davie and Alex Ander discover the magic of chemistry. Image: DC Thomson
1991: Hydro Electric Board chairman Michael Joughin, back right, shows Newtonhill Primary School pupils the principles of making electricity from water with the Satrosphere exhibit sponsored by the company. Image: DC Thomson
1991: Seven pupils from Mid Yell Junior High School, Shetland, demonstrated their bell-ringing skills at the Satrosphere hands-on science exhibition in Aberdeen. Back rom left, Marlene Henderson, Jenny MacDonnell, Sarah Clark, and Linda Anderson. Front, Mandy Slater, Elaine Tulloch, Anne Brown and teacher Christine Guy. Image: DC Thomson
1991: Children from Luthermuir Primary School visit the inter-active science exhibition at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1991: Keith Wood (9), left, and Keith McKessar (9), both Kellands Primary, Inverurie, tried their skills on the model construction site at the Festival of Toys. Image: DC Thomson
1991: Countess Lovelace with pupils from Cults Primary School, left to right, Richard Nicoll, Paul Loveridge, Peter Mathewson, Jenny Dundas and Lindsay Warrack. Image: DC Thomson
1991: Edward Mason, left, and Quentin Russell, both 11, learned how colour is produced on TV. Image: DC Thomson
1992: Andrew Scott, director of Aberlour Summer School, centre back, with pupils, enjoyed an afternoon at Satrosphere in Aberdeen. Image: DC Thomson
1992: Welcoming Michael Faraday, the 19th century inventor, as he arrived in his electric milk-float at Aberdeen’s Satrosphere were pupils from Robert Gordon’s College. Image: DC Thomson
1992: It was fun for Neal McKay and Charlotte Morris, six-year-olds from Middleton Park Primary School, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, as they got caught in the arms of the deep-sea diving outfit at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1992: Donald Macmillan tried out the control desk and sent messages from one end of the exhibition hall to the other. Image: DC Thomson
1993: Welcome Marie Curie, the historical character steps out of a 1926 Singer car to a warm welcome from Seaton P1 pupil Ryan Murray. Image: DC Thomson
1993: Suzanne Wilson generates electricity by pedalling an exercise cycle at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1994: Meiklemill Primary School pupils Caroline Fraser-Wilson, 11, and Richard Nicol, 12, met Nessie at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
1998: Emma Watson, 7, of Tullynessle primary school, near Alford, with Earl a guide dog that she met while on a visit to Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson

Satrosphere in the 2000s

2000: Matthew McGinty, a member of the Tillydrone group who have been attending science workshops in Satrosphere masters the art of bubble blowing. Image: DC Thomson
2002: Sandra Ross, 6, from Walker Road School gets to grips with the Newton’s Cradle in the Satrosphere tent at the Craibstone Kids Out Fun Day with clown John Wyper, a volunteer from Westhill Academy. Image: DC Thomson
2003: Walker Road School pupils Reece Duncan and Hanna McHugh find out about birds at Satrophere’s ‘Our Feathered Friends’ workshop. Image: DC Thomson
2007: Seven year-olds Katie and Ross peer into the mirrors of a kaleidoscope during a hands-on science demonstration at Inver Primary School in Ross-shire under the guidance of Ann Larkham from Satrosphere. Image: Andrew Smith.
2007: Pupils from Smithfield School, from left, Karra Kennedy, 11, Narvana Hewitt, 11, Cieran Barnes, 11, and Dean Gavin, 12 programme their Robot. Image: DC Thomson
2007: One small step for Juuso Hirvonen, 12, of Kittybrewster Primary School as he tries on an astronaut suit after a lesson on space. Image: DC Thomson
2009: Firefighter Mark Hannan from Central Station giving a demonstration to Cameron McGregor from Seaton Nursery at Satrosphere’s ‘Wonderful Water’ day. Image: DC Thomson
2009: Satrosphere celebrated its 21st birthday in 2009. Three-year-old Sannon Docherty celebrated with a Leptictidum, one of the exhibits on show from the Walking with Beasts exhibition. Image: DC Thomson
2009: Walking with Giants brought a huge increase in visitor numbers to Satrosphere. Abi Wood from Stonehaven, posed by the mammoths. Image: DC Thomson
2009: Wesley Hutchison, 5, from Summerhill was one of the children who discovered more about mammoths. Image: DC Thomson

Satrosphere in the 2010s

2010: Satrosphere Science Centre played host to the BBC Walking with Dinosaurs exhibition. Rebecca Miller, 7, gets a close encounter with a dinosaur. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
2010: A partnership with Shell saw an exhibition featuring a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Wallace and Gromit at Satrosphere. Five-year-old Lewis Blackburn from Hannover Street School received an early viewing of the exhibition. Image: DC Thomson
2010: Dr Ken Skeldon with Mill O’ Forest Primary pupils Maia Giles, 11, and Ewan Matheson, 11, at one of the exhibits. Image: DC Thomson
2011: Pupils from Port Gordon School were at Satrosphere getting taught about green issues like renewable energy.<br />Back from left, Eve Cowie, Dawn Cowie, Catherine Holloway and, front, Aiden Craig, Luis MacRae and Caitlin Cowie. Image: DC Thomson
2011: Christopher Williams (4) and Amy Robertson (3), carrying out an operation on a bear with a broken leg at the Teddy Bear Hospital exhibition at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
2011: Ania Bowie (9) with her little sister Zara aged 5, and Catriona Lovie (10), help make teddies better at the Teddy Bear Hospital. Image: DC Thomson
2012: Iona Ledingham, 5, and Dayna Ledingham, 10, with the interactive model of flooding. Image: DC Thomson
2013: Jamie Snelling aged four-and-a-half made electricity at Techfest at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
2013: Kieran Walker, aged 8, became incase inside a bubble in one of the popular exhibits. Image: DC Thomson
2013: Spinning wheels was Shelby Davidson, aged four-and-a-half, with mum Kellyanne Wiseman. Image: DC Thomson
2013: Deri Thomson (7) looking at bits of meteorite and lunar rock in the science centre’s collection. Image: DC Thomson
2014: Pippa (8) and Ciaran Hall (10) got involved with festive activities at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
2014: Kingswells pupils Kirsty Murdoch, Fraser Wood, and Rebecca Verow with project co-ordinator Christine Dunhill at Satrosphere. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
2015: Young explorer May Pirie, aged 3, discovered some of the exhibits at Satrosphere. Image: DC Thomson
2015: The Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages Dr Alasdair Allan visited Satrosphere during a Summer science school for teachers. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
2015: Children from Manor Park Primary and Dyce Academy were amazed at Aberdeen Science Centre to witness the launch of the first British astronaut Tim Peake into space. Image: DC Thomson
2015: It was to infinity and beyond for Ethan Lomax with his balloon rocket at Aberdeen Science Centre. Image: DC Thomson
2016: Brendan Linden (5) and Daniel Christie (6), met dozens of robot models, cyborgs and androids from TV shows and films at Aberdeen Science Centre. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
2016: Marietta Madrzak (7) and Sophia McFarline (7) came face to face to robots at the exhibition at Aberdeen Science Centre. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

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