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
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.
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”.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
Satrosphere in the 2000s
Satrosphere in the 2010s
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