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Superbugs - a pop-up science event

'Superbugs' was an ISSF3 Public Engagement Proof-of-Concept grant funded project which intended to increase public awareness of the microbial world in, on and around us, and the threat of antibiotic resistance, through an innovative delivery model.

Video looking back at the Superbugs event.

We converted a vacant retail unit in the heart of Wales’s busiest shopping centre, St David's Dewi Sant (SD2) into an interactive and professionally designed microbiology ‘laboratory’ experience. By accessing natural footfall (approximately 700,000 visitors/week), we managed to take ‘science to the city’, with access for all public demographics.

Between 29 July - 11 August 2019, 6,566 visitors engaged with research scientists and immersive microscopy workshops, ‘fun-fayre’ games demonstrating the evolution of antibiotic resistance, and the chance to swab themselves and ‘grow their own microbes’.

A sticker-challenge created 1626 ‘Antibiotic Resistance Champions’ to spread the message across 200 schools throughout Wales, and more beyond.

Explore the activity stations

Visitors were welcomed to Superbugs and given their sticker collection card. They were then faced with three basic questions around antibiotics, stewardship, and resistance. Visitors were asked to answer by placing a pipette tip into the relevant jar, and then asked to repeat the exercise at the exit.

Image of visitors being welcomed to Superbugs.

Information boards were on display introducing visitors to the bacterial world. This included cuddly toy bacteria (courtesy of GiantMicrobes) for the visitors to interact with.

Image of visitors interacting with the bacterial world.

This was an information station showing just how widespread bacteria are. This was displayed using colourful agar plates with bacterial grown from a host of household locations and different body parts.

Image of visitors viewing the agar plates on display.

This station included a handwashing game to show how easy it is to miss dirt and germs, and then the chance for visitors to swab parts of their body and inoculate onto an agar plate. We then took these plates to our laboratory at Cardiff University, grew up the bacteria, and posted photos anonymously on Facebook for visitors to view at a later date by using their unique code. By the end of the event we had uploaded over 2100 photos of visitor swab plates.

Image of visitors taking swabs in order to grow their own microbes.

This was an arts and crafts corner. At the culmination of the event we had nearly 400 artworks decorating the walls of the Superbugs shop, a selection of which were also posted on social media. We are also in early discussions about the possibility of an artwork display to showcase some of the material produced for, and by, ‘Superbugs’.

Image of visitors enjoying the arts and crafts corner.

Here we enabled visitors to get hands on with microscopes, and up close and personal to a number of different bacteria of different shapes and sizes.

Image of visitors using the microscopes to view various bacteria.

Information boards provided the timelines of significant infections through history, and introduced visitors to the concept of antibiotics, what they are, and how they work.

Image of visitors studying the information boards.

A fun coconut-shy game, to teach visitors the difference between ‘susceptible bacteria’ (those that could be knocked down with the ‘antibiotic beanbag’) and those that were resistant (those that could not be knocked down).

Image of visitors playing the coconut shy game.

Another fun station which introduced the concept of bacteria ‘sharing’ DNA, and involved the visitors taking part in a ‘plasmid’ ring toss, trying to pass their DNA onto our giant bacteria model.

Image of visitors playing the 'plasmid' ring toss game.

A large bacterial thought tree was created by our visitors who were encouraged to leave their thoughts and comments on what they had learnt, or on the event itself.

Image of the bacterial thought tree created by the visitors to Superbugs.

The final station aimed to teach visitors about the lengths now being taken to combat resistance and discover new antibiotics. This involved an ‘Antibiotic discovery ball pit’ where visitors were blindfolded and encouraged to hunt for the ‘new antibiotics’.

Image of visitors in our Antibiotic discovery ball pit.

Contact us

For further information about the event, please email us, join the event on Facebook and follow #CUSuperbugs on Twitter.

Medic Engagement

Superbugs team

Core team

Science team

  • Jordan Matthias
  • Katy Thomas

Volunteers

  • Raya Ahmed
  • Abdullah Almusallam
  • Sarah Baker
  • Rebecca Bayliss
  • Marie-Claire Bell
  • Ian Boostrom
  • Simone Cuff
  • Karen Edwards
  • Refath Farzana
  • Ana Ferreira
  • Hyun-Sun Jin
  • Giulia Lai
  • Mei Ling
  • Mark Ponsford
  • Savitha Radhakrishan
  • Mike Roberts
  • Kirsty Sands
  • Louise Stack
  • Mark Toleman
  • Lucas Tselepis
  • Tim Walsh
  • Janis Weeks
  • Emma Widlake
  • Qiu Yang