bed of nails

Project aims:

This project was supported by an IOP public engagement grant.

Objective 1. Experience related objectives are that participants find the bed of nails enjoyable interesting, informative and interactive.

Objective 2. Learning related objectives are to explain pressure and surface area to spectators. The air pressure around us is over 100kPa but we hardly notice it. Although a bed of nails may seem dangerous high heel shoes exert more pressure.

Objective 3. To engage spectators and get them interested in Physics by showing them that Physics is exciting, relevant and affects many aspects of our everyday lives. I would like people to be intrigued by the prospect of sitting on a bed of nails, curious as to the possibility of doing so and convinced by the experience after trying it out for themselves.

Objective 4. To reach diverse audiences. Two of the events take place within Sheffield city centre and the two craft fairs take place in Sheffield suburbs and attract people of varying age ranges, backgrounds and interests.

Summary of activity:

Over the last year I have designed, build, written risk assessments and demonstrated a bed of nails at six events in and around Sheffield. The bed of nails was designed to be modular and transportable, these aspects have been key in getting the interactive display to and from events.

Evaluation approach:

Metrics about each event was collected (Estimated number of attendees and description of attendees, gender, age)

Counting participants who sit on the bed of nails.

Count participants who visit the stall but don’t sit on the bed of nails. Average time spent sitting on the bed of nails was also estimated. Collect verbal feedback during event.

What went well:

1.The accessibility. Participants of all backgrounds and ages were able to try the bed of nails and experience the bed of nails.

2.Uniqueness. Nearly no one came to the stall having tried a bed of nails before. The stall offered a truly unique experience which participants were eager to partake.

3.Safety. Despite people being surprised that they were allowed to have a go no one person was injured as a result of trying the bed of nails.

What was learned: to attract people to the display to write a risk assessment to run an event

Top tips and advice for others

1.Advice to anyone else wanting to build a bed of nails. Consider using bigger nails (100mm long galvanised nails would be great).

2.Also consider having a few frames with differently spaced nails to help explain the physics.

3.Feel free to email me any questions

About this project


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Project type:

Started (approximately):

Dec 2012

Ended: (approximately)


Tags for this project:

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About the contributor

Jonathan Shimwell
The IOP (institute of physics) and the University of Sheffield

Taking a PhD in fusion energy, previously a physics teacher. Keen to promote physics.…

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