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Sugar buildings teach lessons on diabetes

Youth at Think Science use their imagination to build structures from sugar cubes with the help of two artists

  • Students learn to build sculptures from sugar cubes at the Think Science 2017 taking place at the DWTC on 19Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News
  • Students learn to build sculptures from sugar cubes at the Think Science 2017 taking place at the DWTC on 19thImage Credit:
  • Students learn to build sculptures from sugar cubes with the help of artists Brenden Jamison (blue shirt) and Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: Half a tonne of sugar cubes, two British artists and plenty of lessons to ponder on the global epidemic of diabetes at the Think Science Fair.

Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels are working on a sugar metropolis installation and have set up some 30 sculptures, including a few iconic buildings of Dubai, like Burj Khalifa.

The Sugar Science project, organised by the British Council as one of the events of a year-long creative collaboration between the UK and the UAE, is a participatory sculpture installation through which the artists were brought to inspire architects of the future.

The artists are using their workshops to address mainly the science of sculpture and architecture and the science of sugar and have more than a 100 students interacting with them.

“We have been inviting students to use their own imagination and creativity to build structures using sugar cubes,” said Jamison. “We show them different techniques [of building] and then the best pieces will be a part of the overall installation.”

Jamison said that while the one-hour workshops with around 20 participants explore engineering stability and contemporary design, they also raise health awareness on the global epidemic of diabetes through the quantity of sugar on view in the sculptures.

For example, the students were able to calculate the number of sugar cubes used in each structure and deduce from that number the calories and units of insulin needed to offset that quantity of sugar.

“We have education sheets that show these details of some of the sculptures. The iconic Burj Khalifa was created from 5,040 sugar cubes and it has 10,080 calories. It needs 627 units of rapid acting insulin to offset that amount of sugar,” said Jamison.

The two artists, who have been working together in combining art and science since 2013 and doing installations with sugar cubes all over the world, also built other sculptures at the fair aimed at educating students.

“We created some sculptures of the double helix and sucrose molecule as part of the education part of the workshop, and we have used it to discuss health with them,” said Revels.

Jamison says he has enjoyed seeing how these youngsters came up with their own unique and imaginative sculptures built from sugar cubes. “Some of the participants worked over an uncompleted structure and this hybrid architecture became really interesting.”

Hannah Henderson, head of UK-UAE 2017 Year of Culture, said the British Council is leading the delivery of many cultural events across the UAE in 2017. “This collaboration between the UAE and the UK is designed to build upon the already strong relationship between the two countries. For this event, we wanted to bring arts into STEM environment and explore multidisciplinary approach.”

She said the council had organised 20 different projects to date, which included musical performances, exhibitions, educational workshops and more.

A total of 300 inventions are on display at the Think Science Competition in the Dubai World Trade Centre, which concludes on Thursday. Think Science is a programme run by the Emirates Foundation, an Abu Dhabi government body that aims to improve the welfare of the UAE’s youth.

The competition, which is now in its fourth year, sees 820 students from 100 schools and 20 universities vie for awards. Winners with the best inventions will be awarded on Thursday.