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Sparks Science Collider - Feedback


We collected feedback from our Sparks Science Collider event, and - in the spirit of openness - provide it anonymously here. There's a healthy mix of comments and some conflicting opinions to chew over.

We very much agree with a lot of it. Some we have no control over. Some we haven't yet worked out a solution without compromise - there are interesting issues that we believe are somewhat endemic to the hack model (maybe we can write about that at some point).

We'll use feedback to develop future events and general strategy, and offer it openly to you should you wish to do the same!

Questions - Your Project

Would you be interested in developing your project further?

  • (17x) Yes
  • I don't think I have the time.
  • Will complete and use as a learning platform.
  • Maybe.

This is one of our Litmus tests for an engaging event. Great to read!

Questions - The Event

What did you think went well?

  • (2x) Everything went well
  • Well organised, nice breakfast
  • Team work
  • Idea development
  • Organisation while the hack was going on was great.
  • (3x) Food.
  • Information before the event.
  • Technical facilities and materials.
  • (2x) Venue/space.
  • (2x) Everything.
  • Location, catering and organisation were good.
  • Most of it, I think the event was run as best it could be.
  • Brian's (USB microscope) workshop was fun.
  • Access to lots of fun tech.
  • Atmosphere was good.
  • Interesting data to work with.
  • Presentations.
  • The comic workshop.
  • Everything. I learnt a lot. An amazing experience.
  • Very friendly. Intimate vibe. Diverse mix of people.
  • The project creation stage.
  • Organisation- lots of food, resources, good atmosphere and friendliness. Workshops to attend.
  • Great hosts/organisers.
  • Mix of participants and experience.
  • Mix of workshops.
  • Overall, very worthwhile and fun.

What would you improve?

  • Have the mixer event on Friday night.
  • I didn't like the talks, I just wanted to get hacking.
  • Group formation
  • Communication could be improved. Emails were sent a few days before the event. Would have been better to get more notice.
  • Better keeping of time tables. Let people finish their sentences even though time is up on the final presentations. More facilitating/support of team-building.
  • Allow larger teams and release the datasets in advance.
  • Perhaps getting more developers who would be willing to help out, advise, or join teams.
  • The food (maybe).
  • A chance to find out who knows what at the beginning & talking about the projects earlier in the day would have made it easier to form/change teams and know who would be good to work with.
  • Giving people a chance to set up properly before the 3 minute presentations!
  • Better marketing.
  • Some workshop at the beginning to make people talk. I only learnt about the abilities of some people when they were presenting.
  • Just a little clarification or example of what the event is about in emails for newcomers (like me).
  • Perhaps a hackathon with a focus on solving a problem facing a local organisation.
  • The food. Not bad, but could be better.
  • Getting people to introduce their ideas and skills before forming the first teams.
  • Don't edit data based upon expectations of possible uses.
  • Wired LAN sockets, and no wi-fi timeouts.
  • More concise intro to data because it delays team formation and hacking.
  • Would prefer if people spent more time exploring the data before committing to one or a particular project.

Food, venue, internet - were somewhat dictated, but seem to have been widely well received.

Team-building/skills awareness - This is a real tough one for us. We ran a mixer event two nights earlier to help people discover each other, tried to leave the morning seating and early afternoon fluid, and had a round-the-room at 3pm to allow people the opportunity to switch teams. It's difficult to pitch how hands-on or -off to be to allow this to happen but not to disrupt those who already have a team focus. Conversely, some arrived with a fixed idea of what they wanted to do, but could not find people interested in joining it - we can't see a solution for that case.

Pre-event communication - absolutely. This should have more focus next time.

Your Satisfaction (1 [very unsatisfied] to 5 [very satisfied]

  • (11x) [5- Very satisfied]
  • (5x) [4- Satisfied]
  • (1x) [3.5]
  • (2x) [3 - Neutral]

Questions - The Data

What did you think of the provided data sets?

  • Great
  • (2x) Very interesting
  • Interesting
  • (2x) Good
  • Cool, but as a business person I could not really do anything with it.
  • I felt like there wasn't much context, as the raw data could have come from anywhere. More context would be great.
  • Very mixed. Cancer "dataset" not really attractive as PDFs on a website. Should have been CSVs or something.
  • Really good, and very different, so good choice of sets.
  • Very interesting, but a lot of it was already processed.
  • Very good. An interesting mix. Though some can be quite complex / difficult to understand.
  • Good. Would be nice to have more in-depth sets.
  • Interesting - lots of stuff I would have liked to work with.
  • Great. I would have loved to work with all at once.
  • Fancy, though out of my design world.
  • Good, but perhaps more planning or a wider/deeper range of data.
  • Very unique and interesting, although a bit technical.
  • Good, but could have been a bit more diverse.
  • Variety was good. More data, detail and larger sets.
  • More synopsis/background to the data.
  • (2x) Prefer in advance.
  • More (and larger) datasets.

We'd certainly like data sets in advance too ;)

Would you be interested in working with these, or other similar data?

  • (15x) Yes
  • Cancer research data.
  • (3x) Maybe/Unsure.

What other kinds of data would you like to play with?

(multiple choice...)

  • (11x) Local Government
  • (10x) Local API
  • (13x) Local theme (poverty, culture, community, etc.)
  • (9x) National theme
  • (7x) Game/service


  • Travel
  • Traffic
  • Raw scientific experiment data
  • CERN nuclear/particle physics
  • Postcode survival rates
  • Genome
  • Space
  • Data generated from an experiment done during the event

No hugely clear winner on the types of datasets. We're quite interested in space and quantified self.

Please let us know what you think, or if you think of anything else you'd like to see?

Questions - Personal Impact

Did you benefit from the event? If so, how?

  • Working with others. Seeing other stuff get built.
  • New people -> Ideas + fun
  • Made friends, learnt a few new skills. Great time :)
  • Good fun to play and improve with electronics.
  • Working with new people. Learnt about data.
  • Working with new people and new tech.
  • Being able to speak to like-minded people was good as it has helped me develop other ideas.
  • Yes. Working with new technology. Workshops were very good.
  • Had a lot of fun.
  • Learning how to program.
  • Learnt a lot about cancers.
  • It's always fun to build something.
  • Yes, encouraged me to focus and work on a project.
  • (3x) Met new people.
  • Yes, working with other people and their way of approaching things.
  • Cancer knowledge, tech knowledge and innovative practice.
  • Opened my eyes that innovation can happen outside of London.
  • Learnt how data can be used.
  • Learning new areas of study, and the scope was very interesting.
  • Learnt a lot about other fields.
  • Saw very inspirational projects.
  • Learnt by attending the workshops, researching a new field and collaboration.

Meeting people, collaborating and learning skills are themes - Is there scope for a 'graduates' network or one off event?

Would you attend another Sparks event?

  • (20x) Yes
  • Think about it
  • Yes, if interesting theme and better mixing.

This is another of our Litmus tests! :)

If so, how frequently should the event run?

  • More frequently than every 8(?) months
  • (2x) Yearly / every six months
  • Every six months
  • 2-3 a year
  • (3x) 3-6 months apart
  • 3-4 months apart
  • Every few months
  • (4x) Every 3 months
  • Every three months/one per University term
  • (2x) Every two months
  • (3x) Once a month
  • Weekly

Weekly isn't going to happen - that'd kill us! :-0
We feel quarterly / three times a year might work. This feedback seems to tally with that.

If we ran another event of similar standard to this, would you participate if there was an attendance charge? If so, what would be a reasonable cost?

  • Yes, depending on financial status
  • Yes
  • Yes, prefer no cost but £5-10 is reasonable.
  • Maybe. I'm not very good at buying tickets online; but at the door. £5 or £10? Preferably no change :)
  • Yes, £15.
  • (2x) Probably wouldn't attend.
  • Yes, but dependent on theme/conditions.
  • Yes, dependent on details of event.
  • Yes, £10
  • Not sure, possibly £10 max; depends on how relevant the data was to me.
  • Up to £10
  • Yes, I can affor under £10 at the moment, but would be willing to pay more in the future. £10-15.
  • Yes, probably ~£5.
  • Yes, ~£5-10
  • Yes, £50.
  • Yes, £5-10 would be very reasonable.
  • Would be offputting to newcomers, though £5 is not unreasonable if you've been to an event and know what it encompasses.
  • Yes, I've attended similar paid events. Given included food, £50-100 is not unreasonable, with a discount for students.

Questions - Anything More?

  • Could try a 48h hackathon next time! Could try forbidding sleeping. Would be interesting to see the end result of what the human body can churn out without sleep in 48 hours.
  • Shut out overnight was a long time.
  • Was worth having the pre-mixer.
  • Maybe do a 3D printing workshop.
  • Consider allowing teams of five rather than four.
  • Some drop out, or part-attendance.
  • Would like to use more exotic simulation, exploration, model, analysis tools and de-emphasise web-based.

48h 'enforced' no-sleep hackathon? OUCH! =)

We're keen to investigate venues, and how we could accommodate access through the night.

Four was a limit we set for practical (prize-award) reasons. We also felt it was about, or above the optimum team size for collaboration. We're interested in further opinions!

Future Events

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