Sunday, May 5, 2013

And the countdown begins...

There are days when scientists work like bees in the laboratory and there are times when they show off the fruits of their work to visitors of the International Rice Research Institute. I've never been behind the scenes of the preparations stages so for one such event, this year's Ambassadors' Day, I was really stoked to be part of the exhibit team. Activities like this keep my creative juices flowing specially when faced with the challenge of explaining science to non-scientists.

During the prep stage, I noticed that there wasn't a lot of documentation. So I thought it might be a good idea to take photos as we went along. Here we go...

Friday, April 12
T - 21:05:30
This was a day of firsts (for me). The exhibitors met for the first time to learn the details about the event that were going to participate in and to start thinking about what we were supposed to present, and how.

I didn't find out how to switch this on until a week later.

As embarrassing as it may sound, this also was the first time that I've been inside the Board Room! Oh, and it's also my first time to encounter, in person, the microphone in the photo.

Friday, April 19
T - 14:03:30
This meeting was when the visual aids my group would use slowly started to take shape in my head. I had discussed this exhibit with my supervisor, of course; this time, I was thinking more about how to present the ideas in posters and hands-on exhibits. Ria and Paul gave us the preliminary floor layout in the exhibit hall and dimensions for posters that would fit into our display cases. Now armed with exhibit area dimensions and poster templates, it was time to go back to my team so that we could put ideas onto paper and onto exhibits.

Wednesday, April 24
T - 09:00:30
The atmosphere in the Board Room was one of excitement. I liken this meeting to a NASA launch status check. Everyone involved in the Ambassadors' Day was there, not just the exhibitors. Dr Bruce Tolentino was our Launch Director and the meeting participants were giving updates as if we were giving the final go/no-go statuses. True enough, this was the last meeting before the exhibits took "flight".

Monday, April 29
T -  04:00:00
The exhibit areas were all blank. It was the first time that the exhibitors had seen the space assigned to each group. This was nice because I always have difficulty imagining just how big a space is if only floor areas are given.

Ria discussing with exhibitors on additional requirements.
The GQNC exhibit area sans posters.
Clean slates ready for posters.

Armed with meter sticks and tape measures, we exhibitors visited the venue to see how we could physically fit our exhibit ideas onto the area given. The nice thing about this day was that we were all working with clean slates... we could personalize our respective nooks.

Tuesday, April 30
T - 03:00:00
The GQNC area finally started looking like an exhibit! Posters were being propped up onto poster boards, NimLocks, and MarcBrics. We've had help from Jimboy and the guys from the Physical Plant Services in putting posters into the MarcBric and in repositioning tables.

A PPS staff and Jimboy setting up the posters.
The wooden board's part of the exhibit?

Wednesday, May 1
T - 02:00:00
Despite the holiday, I dropped by the exhibit area with Ate Lucy and Cindy to set up the hands-on exhibits. Our mission: to position the cups, the samples, the post-its, and the labels. We needed to make sure that we got the cup blocking correct.

Ate Lucy and Cindy preparing labels for the exhibits.

A third poster was pulled out at the last minute and so we had to think about what we could do with such a good spot. My original label idea didn't work well on the black table so we had to rethink the approach several times.

Thursday, May 2
T - 01:04:00
By this time, my group had learned what works and what doesn't in terms of visual aids. The exhibit was pretty much ready except for that one missing poster. We also decided that our idea for sample labels were not working. Time to implement Plan C...

Just one more poster!!

We prepared a third poster on the fly (a simple one) and had it edited,  printed, and displayed much faster than the other two posters. For the sample labels, we changed the font and the background colors to better blend with the table. Truly, many people brainstorming is better than one person working on the concept. The poster was the product of what I had wanted to do and Jimboy's suggestions mixed together. The sample labels were a refinement of ideas coming from Cindy, me, and Ate Lucy.

Aside from prepping the exhibit area, the GQNC team had to make sure that the rice we were serving on Ambassadors' Day would be cooked properly. Ate Lucy practiced cooking the variety we were to use the following day, with the rest of us tasting the cooked rice and deciding the best rice:water proportion.

Friday, May 3
T - 00:00:30
(Photos taken after everyone had left the exhibit. Before the event, there was just so many people that I couldn't get a clean photo.)

Ambassadors' Day finally arrived. The exhibit was finally ready for viewing. I arrived early, coming a bit ahead of the GQNC exhibitors, for final touches: removing cup covers, placing paper under the table assigned to rice tasting, and prepping the materials for rice tasting.

GQNC exhibit

The other groups also did a splendid job in showing off their work. I was blown away by the complexity and the artistry of the Genetic Resources Center's (GRC) display. The goldfish swimming in a transparent box containing IRRI's submergence-tolerant rice (PBGB) was a nice touch because of the color contrast and presence of motion. The Seed Health Unit's (SHU) crowd-drawer, the winnowing area, allowed visitors to try their hand at removing the chaff from the grain.

GRC exhibit

PBGB exhibit

SHU exhibit

10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Let the games begin!