Winchester Science Centre
IAC Acoustics is always keen to support local businesses and organisations which have requirements for acoustic solutions and noise control products – whether this is for commercial enterprise, educational or charitable reasons.
Having worked frequently with Hampshire based architects, acousticians, music schools and universities, we were recently contacted by Winchester Science Centre (WSC). They were looking for local companies to partner with to develop an exciting new visitor experience to celebrate the International Year of Acoustics 2020. This celebration has since been extended into 2021-2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The aim of the exhibit was to provide an interactive and fun learning experience for children to explore while delivering an opportunity for them to hear and understand sound and science in action. Keeping young minds engaged and interested in something that can’t be seen or easily understood is a challenge we were up for meeting! Some coffee and brainstorming sessions later, the concept outlines for the construction of two exhibits within the exciting new visitor adventure were developed.
Ben Ward, Chief Executive of Winchester Science Centre:
“Sound is so important to our everyday lives and our aim is to showcase this in a fun, educational and accessible way. Our charity’s ambition is to make STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) accessible to everyone and we hope that we are one step closer to achieving this through our new visitor experience. It’s incredible to finally see our dream turned into a reality and we can’t wait to hear what our visitors think!
IAC Acoustics Managing Director, Fraser Alexander and Acoustic Engineering Manager, Greg Smith proposed the focus for the exhibition cover two areas – the perceived absence of sound and the effect of reducing sound. Fraser commented:
“Sound is such a major part of our daily lives and affects everything we do including our perception, communication, relationships, wellness and body balance. To exhibit sound’s absence and the effect it has on our senses was a great way to get kids to begin to understand the wider concept of sound in their everyday lives.”
Sound travels in waves, which reflect off the walls and other surfaces, creating an echo. However, the walls in an anechoic chamber or echo-free room are designed to catch and absorb the sound waves so that they can’t bounce back. This reduces the noise levels in the room. These rooms or chambers are used by professional test organisations, universities and for highly scientific product development of everything from vacuum cleaners and mobile phones to cars and trucks. Children are encouraged to crawl into the chamber and make a loud noise to hear how it sounds, or doesn’t sound, and how different it feels. Can they describe the difference? Where has the sound gone? Exploring and experiencing the absence of sound challenges our minds within this activity.
The Noise Attenuator or Silencer reduces the sound level between a ‘scream chamber’ and outside of the exhibit. The walls of the tunnel are lined with sound absorbing insulation – the insulation contains millions of air pockets that absorb the acoustic energy as it passes. Air flow is allowed through the attenuator in the tunnel, but the noise is significantly reduced. These types of products are typically used in HVAC air conditioning ventilation systems in all types of commercial and industrial buildings, such as offices, factories, hospitals and schools in order to provide a better environment and quieter ambient or background noise level.
Children can test the sound absorption effect themselves – either by having conversations through the tunnel, or by having friends and family shouting through the tunnel to them, hearing a vastly reduced sound level. This is possible even though confusingly there is a clear open space for sound to travel between inside and outside. They can also hit a button to play music and hear the difference from one end to the other as the sound travels through the sound absorbing insulated tunnel. It’s hard to imagine and comprehend that sound can be reduced even through an open space!
The IAC Acoustics sound exhibition at WSC will help you reconnect with your senses as you explore the sights and sounds of the exciting new interactive exhibition – all themed around sound, hearing and vibration.
We look forward to seeing you there!