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A brand new, temporary exhibit has just been unveiled at Techniquest, designed by an inspiring team from Cardiff Metropolitan University as part of a pilot project that seeks to do just that.

Thanks to financial support from the Welsh Government’s SMART Expertise fund, the Data Physicalisation Technology (DAPTEC) Team have been beavering away in the Fab Lab at Cardiff Metropolitan University for many months, working around all the limitations that the pandemic and associated lockdowns involved.

Now, with the help of the Cardiff Harbour Authority, Cardiff City Council, Yard Digital Agency and the wardens of Flat Holm island, they have installed their prototype at Techniquest; turning the data being collected on Flat Holm into something that gives people on the mainland a better idea of what’s happening across the water.

Whether it’s how sunny it is on the island, how many gulls or other seabirds are nesting there, or where the best spots are on the island to find butterflies – by touching different panels of the exhibit, visitors to Techniquest can light up the map with colour, to discover more about the ecology of the island that sits so close to our shores, but which relatively few of have been able to visit.

You can watch the changing weather patterns as the data turns the ‘Toblerones’ – as the triangular-tube-shaped descriptor panels are fondly known – to give an impression of how sunny, cloudy or rainy the weather is on the island at any point in time. As visitors interact with the exhibits, the team at Techniquest actively feed back to the DAPTEC creators so they can continually improve the data process; making sure the protype continues to develop in terms of ease of use and clarity of information shared.


James Summers, Head of Projects for Techniquest commented:

“The world is full of data that is collected on a daily basis. However unless you are in that particular field of expertise, it can be difficult to make that data, engaging and accessible to everyone.  This project helps explore new ways of communicating data using physical interactive exhibits and allows people to see live data in a user friendly way.”

And it’s not only the live data that’s being turned into something more visual. The team analysed decades of data that had been collected through environmental data records, wardens’ logbooks and annual gull counts, to create a wealth of information that can now be easily accessed by the public in an impressionistic form.

The island of Flat Holm is a real ecological gem, that for many remains an unexplored, mysterious shape on the horizon. Yet the island has a fascinating history. The first human traces discovered there date back to the Bronze Age, while in the 18th century its position made it perfect as a smuggling base. The Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first wireless signals over open seas from the island in 1897 – and it once housed an isolation hospital for cholera patients.

Nowadays it plays host to various sustainable, green energy technologies and is officially a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The DAPTEC prototype exhibit will be housed until June on the first floor, in the Environment Zone, to allow visitors to Techniquest to get that little bit closer to understanding more about the island, even if they’re unable to make the journey there themselves.




DAPTEC’s Flat Holm Project has been led by Dr Fiona Carroll, Programme Director for Computing for Interaction and Computing with Creative Design at the School of Technologies with Jon Pigott, Senior Lecturer Artist Designer Maker at Cardiff School of Art and Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Paul Newbury, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Yard (a Cardiff-based technical marketing agency), and in partnership with Cardiff Harbour Authority.


For further information on the project and the project team visit DAPTEC

About Techniquest

Techniquest is Wales’ largest science discovery centre in the heart of Cardiff Bay. It provides STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) experiences for all ages and abilities, providing a platform to educate, entertain and make science accessible to all across Wales.

About Cardiff Met

Times Higher Education (THE) awarded Cardiff Met the title of UK & Ireland University of the Year 2021. The title recognises Cardiff Met as a progressive university with an excellent student experience, staff culture and impactful research and innovation. Cardiff Met is celebrating another strong performance in the Guardian University Guide 2022. It climbed 10 places and is now ranked 62nd out of 121 universities in the UK, and third in Wales. This follows on from its highest ever rise – 41 places – in the previous year’s guide.


The National Student Satisfaction Survey (NSS) has placed Cardiff Met above the UK national average for student satisfaction once again. Published July 2021, the NSS results show a 76% satisfaction rate. Cardiff Met has a strong purpose – to deliver high quality and high impact practice-focused and professionally recognised education, research and innovation in partnership with our students and industry. A key element of the University’s offering to students is the ’Cardiff Met EDGE’ – a core offering that enables every single student to develop Ethical, Digital, Global and Entrepreneurial skills, experience, knowledge, confidence and resilience.


Cardiff Met incorporates five academic schools across two sites at Llandaff and Cyncoed in Cardiff: Cardiff School of Art and Design; Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences; Cardiff School of Education & Social Policy; Cardiff School of Management, and Cardiff School of Technologies, as well as the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre,the International Centre for Design Research (PDR) and the The Centre for Health, Activity and Wellbeing Research (CAWR), Cardiff Met’s newest research centre.


The University has around 20,000 students from 143 countries enrolled on programmes located in Cardiff and at 16 collaborative partners around the globe, where students study for Cardiff Met degrees. Its commitment to enhancing the role of education in international relations and cultural diplomacy is aimed at enabling students to develop into global citizens.

The University has a long-established record for student employability with 94.8% of Cardiff Met graduates in work or further study six months after graduating.


The University is the first in Wales to be awarded both the prestigious Small Business Charter and the Social Enterprise mark in recognition of its work with business, and its commitment to supporting students in enterprise and entrepreneurship activities.  With a strong track record for sustainable initiatives and ‘green credentials’, Cardiff Met climbed 63 places in the independent sustainability league table People & Planet 2021, coming first in Wales and joint 5th in the UK. It also ranked top in Wales. The University is now developing a Master Plan to deliver Net Zero for its campuses by 2030.


Cardiff Met’s Global Academies (Health and Human Performance; Food Science, Safety and Security; and Human Centred Design) bring together research expertise to develop inter-disciplinary, international and impactful approaches to some of the most entrenched challenges affecting us locally, nationally and internationally. Cardiff Met was the first university in Wales to be designated as a University of Sanctuary and has an established track record of providing ‘Sanctuary Scholarships’ for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and academic staff.


SMARTExpertise fund

SMART Expertise forms part of an integrated ERDF funded suite of programmes to provide support to Welsh businesses and research organisations to commercialise new products, processes and services developed through research, development and innovation processes. Lasting 6 years (2014-2023) SMARTExpertise aims to increase commercialisation of Research, Development and Innovation (R,D&I) within research organisations in collaboration with industry.

What are the aims of the SMARTExpertise fund?

To encourage businesses and researchers to work together on innovative   projects in strategically important areas of science, engineering and technology.

To assist in securing competitively won follow-on funding

To assist the growth of R&D expertise and capacity in research organisations and industry creating Innovation Clusters


About YARD


About Cardiff Harbour Authority

Flat Holm Island is managed by the Cardiff Harbour Authority

Flat Holm Island has 1,300 recorded species and is valued for its coastal grassland, maritime cliffs and associated ledges and crevices, wild leeks, slow worms, moths, butterflies, bluebells and its breeding colony of lesser black-backed gulls

Flat Holm has the second largest gull population in Wales, representing approximately 3% of the British breeding population of this species. The lesser black-backed gulls are currently registered as amber and the herring gulls are categorised as red on the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 (BoCC 4) listing.