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Science Workshop Fun at Archbishop Runcie

Hello to all ASTEROID fans out there! We are excited to bring you another update on a recent science workshop we delivered. This time, it was with our lovely friends over at Archbishop Runcie school!

I think we can all agree on how fun and interesting Science can be, and there’s nothing we love more than learning new scientific knowledge by playing some exciting games and taking part in fun activities! On our recent visit to Archbishop Runcie School, we brought some vision and memory-themed activities for everyone to enjoy.

At the start of the workshop, everyone was introduced to our friend Adam. If you look at his picture below, you’ll see something quite unusual about him…

Using Adam, we talked about our brain and two of the things we need it for: to see and to remember things. Everyone then took turns to take part in our carousel activities:

1) Making Shadows
Here, we learnt about how shadows are made – by an object or shape blocking the light that travels from a light source, such as a torch, a lamp, or even the sun! We then used a lamp and a homemade shadow puppet theatre show to play a fun game using shadow puppets. We acted out some famous nursery rhymes, and everyone guessed what they could be based on what they could see! Below are some of the puppets we used. Could you guess which nursery rhymes they could be?

2) Boundary Extension Drawing Game
Here, we looked at a picture of a scene. In the scene was a teddy bear sitting on a step. We then hid it away and tried to draw the scene from memory. Afterwards, we brought back the picture and compared it to our own drawings. We found that a lot of us drew the background of the scene as bigger than in the original photo. We learnt that this is due to a phenomenon called “The Boundary Extension Error”. This happens because our brain understands scenes as part of a continuous world and so we are not limited to objects right in front of our eyes. So, when we are asked to remember a scene, we tend to include a lot of the background!

3) Copying Game
During this activity, we all sat around a circle and took turns performing an action, such as patting our heads. However, every time an action was performed, the next person had to perform a new action on top of the one before. This created a sequence of actions, that became harder and harder to remember! This showed us that our memory has limits, and after some time we will start to forget things!

4) Scene Drawing Game
For our final activity, we listened to a story and then drew objects based on that story. Afterwards, we compared our drawings to demonstrate how our brains imagine scenes and object differently to each other!

Everyone seemed to enjoy the activities we had in store. Not only that, but we also learnt more about how we see and how we remember things.

That’s our update for today! Keep your eyes peeled for another instalment of our blog, coming soon!

By Therese

North East meets West Yorkshire: Our presentation at the North of England Ophthalmological Society Spring Meeting

The day was beautiful and sunny, with the Spring flowers beginning to blossom across cities as I set out to travel to West Yorkshire, namely to the city of Bradford. The Cedar Court Hotel was an astounding venue that was both inviting and contemporary, which sparked excitement for the day ahead. Not only was I impressed by the red carpet and chairs with beautifully lit rooms, I was greeted warmly by many Ophthalmologists and other healthcare professionals that I had never met prior to this meeting.

The registration was quick and a demonstration was given in regards to the technical IT devices that I was to utilise later in the afternoon. It was very organised and everything was well structured. Tea, coffee and refreshments were available around 9:00 with a chance to peruse the exhibitor stands and familiarise oneself with the new developments in the world of Ophthalmology.

Several talks mapped out the morning, where I learnt much about the operating procedures, specific conditions of the eyes and even witnessed trauma patient case studies that left me a little shaken for the morning – exposure to fine details of surgery represented in videos/photos. I’ll spare the details…

As the afternoon approached, I got ready for my upcoming presentation and just a little after 13:00 I arose to give the talk on ASTEROID at the stage behind a podium. My aim was to create awareness of ASTEROID and inform professionals of our current progress. I had 5 minutes to deliver (but what felt like whizzing) through my seven-slide presentation with an opportunity to answer questions for a minute, thereafter. I informed members of our progress with the testing – having tested over 900 children now! Excitedly, I outlined the many advantages of ASTEROID as a 3D eye test over current tests and mentioned our plans to further improve ASTEROID and implement various techniques.

I had fulfilled my aim and received a pleasant round of applause with positive feedback in regards to my presentation. Many people approached me over lunch and the afternoon tea break to discuss ASTEROID. It was wonderful for people to express keen interest in this fun 3D eye test and envision its success, potential and efficacy.

Following several other fascinating talks, the day rounded off around 17:30 as I made my way back to the North East – Newcastle.


I thank the North of England Ophthalmological Society for accepting our abstract and providing ASTEROID with the opportunity to present during the free paper segment. It was a great experience and a platform to network and showcase this promising test.

By Sheima Rafiq

Watch this space for more adventures from #teamAsteroid 🙂

Alert! Asteroid update heading your way!

As you all know, we recently attended the Great North Children’s Research Committee Conference, where we showed off the new updates for the Asteroid game! We are always thinking of ways to develop Asteroid for better accuracy and performance, and we presented our progress on this during the conference. We even won a prize as one of the best posters!

But before we all get too excited, let me explain how the new updates came about. As you probably know (depending on how much you enjoy reading these posts…) we regularly visit museums in and around Newcastle so that members of the public can have a play on Asteroid and our other vision-related games. More recently, we spent two fun-filled days at the Discovery Museum and the Centre for Life to promote and test our new updates. Here are a couple of pictures to show what we got up to:

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During our data collection in schools, we noticed that the younger ones found it a bit trickier to finish the game all the way to the end without any problems. So, as a team, we met together to think of ways to improve the game itself; a lot of tea and cake were involved. All that sugar propelled us to come up with some new ideas, which have since then been installed on to the tablet. Our friends at both FluidPixel and the computer sciences department here at Newcastle University did a great job of formulating and designing our ideas into a reality, and we can’t wait to see the impact it has for the game itself!

Without further ado, here are the new changes:


Shuffling Animation

Our participants are always super keen to finish the game once they have started, which is brilliant! But sometimes, this means that they press on the screen to enter their answer without pausing to look at the other options. To try and fix this, we designed a new ‘shuffling’ animation, so that each trial is separated by an animation of all four boxes being shuffled… just like a deck of cards! This will hopefully encourage our plays to pause before choosing an answer.





Non-3D Trials

During the beginning of the game, trials do not just show a 3D shape, but one with an extra clue: a different colour. However, we found that this can sometimes confuse participants, so that they look for a different colour on all the other trials too. To avoid this, we replaced colour cues with a frame cue which fades out as the trials go on, so that they know that they only need to look for the same shape in 3D, without needing to pay attention to the different colours on the screen.





Tablet Tilting

We noticed that the positioning of the tablet changes how clear the 3D image becomes, which makes it difficult for our participants to play the game. It is important to place the tablet parallel to the face to avoid this. By doing so, we are making sure that the game is working properly, and that it is indeed measuring what it needs to measure: the participant’s stereoacuity.





Now, we may be biased, but we think that these updates proved to be very promising! They reduced the amount of accidental presses, and encouraged the children to take their time. In any case, it didn’t affect how much fun children had while they played on Asteroid. There were definitely a lot of smiley faces all around!

That’s all from us for now. Until next time, m-eye friends!

Our trip to the GNCRCC


Hello everyone.

The RAs (Jess, Sheima, Carla and Therese) and our poster
The RAs (Jess, Sheima, Carla and Therese) and our poster

Well, Friday was an incredibly exciting day for the Asteroid team. Our wonderful research assistants (myself, Carla, Therese and Sheima) attended Great North Children’s Research Council Conference (or GNCRCC) at the Sage Gateshead. The day involved attending many interesting talks about involving the public and patients in research, as well as meeting other researchers and presenting our poster: ‘Participant Influence on the development of ASTEROID’. Here’s a little summary…

The beautiful Sage
The beautiful Sage

8.30am – We arrived, collected our GNCRCC packs and put up our poster for everyone to see. Then there was a little bit of time to quickly look around the Sage. What an incredible place! I feel very lucky to live in such a gorgeous part of the UK.

9am – The talks started. It was hard to pick our my favourite as everyone was so interesting; however a definite highlight has to be the YPAG (Young People’s Advisory Group) talk. One of their young members, Ria, gave a fantastic talk about some research that she had done in her school. As a qualified teacher, it makes me very happy to see young people being so confident and engaged in science. Well done Ria!

1pm – Lunch time! Well done to the Sage for organising such delicious food – and fantastic lunch time entertainment! Having heard a talk about the health benefits of singing, we were then treated to hearing the RVI choir sing some of their favourite songs.

My programme and lanyard for the day
My programme and lanyard for the day

1.30pm – Back to the afternoon talks. It was inspiring to hear about all the fantastic work that is helping improve the lives of people.

3.45pm – The winners of the poster prizes were announced… I could not have been more surprised to hear my own name being read out along with the title of our poster. We had won! Shocked and flustered, I squeezed past the rest of my row and hurried up on to the stage to collect our prize.

We won! :)
We won! 🙂

4pm – A final chance to look at the posters, chat to everyone else at the conference – and celebrate our win! A lovely end to a wonderful day.

The eye-mazing Research Assistants

Whey-EYE man! Welcome to another blog from the Asteroid Team.

As we sift through our data collection, we have finally found some time to introduce ourselves! We have visited so many schools in Newcastle, and many of you might be wondering, “I had a great time learning and playing on Asteroid, but who were those lovely ladies giving out lots of stickers and certificates?”. Well, wonder no more! Here are the Asteroid Research Assistants (RA’s):

RA #1 Carla F. Black

Favourite Asteroid game: Football planet – I’ve always been a football fan!

Favourite food: Pasta Bolognese – I had to give that answer, being half-Italian!

Favourite animal: Possibly baby meerkats (for the cuteness factor)

Hi everyone! As part of the Asteroid team, I am thoroughly enjoying working alongside my friendly, knowledgeable colleagues on such a worthwhile vision project and engaging young children in science.

On each visit we make to schools, nurseries and museums around the region, we are greeted by wonderful and enthusiastic children, keen to try out our eye games. And as a mum to two wonderful sons (aged 5 and 2), being out on these visits certainly feels like home from home to me.

Being from a science background originally (I worked as an optometrist before moving into finance and then having my children), it is also really rewarding to see the children we work with finding science so fun and interesting.

Away from work, my hobbies nowadays tend to be taking my sons to theirs  (e.g. swimming, sports or toddler groups, days out to the beach or park in all weathers) and spending time with family and friends.

Look out for “Team Asteroid” at a museum, school or nursery near you, soon… look forward to hopefully meeting you then.

RA #2 Jess G. Hugill

Favourite Asteroid game: Chicken farm (of course!)

Favourite food: So hard to choose! Probably a nice cheesy pasta… or pizza… or chocolate…

Favourite animal: Probably cats – especially my big fluffy cat called Salem!

H-eye there everyone! It has been so brilliant to be a part of the Asteroid team the last few months. Who knew that there was a job that involved being able to travel around Newcastle, meeting amazing kids and playing eye games every day?! I definitely feel very lucky! Before I started this job, I worked as a teacher (I know…sorry!) I then went back to Uni to get my Masters in Psychology but I really missed working with kids every day, so it is a dream to have found a job that fits both of my interests. When I’m not at work I love to run, ski, cycle and (most importantly) EAT! Luckily for me, my lovely Research Assistant buddies share my love of food. We even sometimes treat ourselves to cake after a hard day of work!

RA #3 Therese P. Casanova    

Favourite Asteroid Game: Shape World

Favourite food: Today it’s lasagne. Ask me again tomorrow!

Favourite animal: Penguins. They are always planning something…

It is so great to be part of the ASTEROID project, as well as to be part of a fabulous team of Research Assistants to collect data from great schools in and around Newcastle. Every school we have visited has been so welcoming to us, and every child has been pleasure to work with! Now, a little bit about me… I finished my undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology from Durham University in 2012, and I am now almost to the end of my Master’s degree in Health Psychology (gulp!). I have had plenty of experience working with younger people – I have worked as an administrative assistant and as a tutor in schools before. My hobbies are what you would call eclectic. I like to read, play badminton, and to sing. I have recently gotten into swimming, as I thought it was about time that I learn how to!

RA #4 Sheima K. Rafiq 

Favourite Asteroid game: Shape World (nothing beats Mr Square’s birthday party!)

Favourite food: Rice – in all shapes and forms. Oh and watermelon 🙂

Favourite animal: Penguins as they are cool, cute and can swim in the sea – I love the sea

Heyyy everyone! It has been a wonderful experience testing so many of you in schools, nurseries and at various museums. I hope you had as much fun as we did. Prior to this job, I worked as an Orthoptist testing children and adults in the eye clinic in hospital. An Orthoptist is a special eye person that looks at your eyes carefully to ensure they are working well together as they should be, sometimes Orthoptists might prescribe patching to help your vision and use fun pictures and cool prisms and funky glasses to test your eyes. You might see a few in your school soon. Now, with the boring bit over, a little about me… I love to read books, paint canvases and I enjoy baking cakes (and eating them of course). I speak 3 languages plus a little bit of Danish as I was born in Copenhagen – the capital of Denmark which houses the famous little mermaid statue and offers the most delicious pastries. Yumm.

Research Assistants, left to right: Jessica, Sheima, Carla, Therese

We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about us! Stayed tuned and watch this space for more of our blogs from #TeamASTEROID

Using your eye-deas to improve Asteroid!


Hello eye enthusiasts, and welcome to another exciting instalment of (drumroll please….) ASTEROID ADVENTURES!

We here at Asteroid HQ are always trying to make the Asteroid the best it can be. We’ve been to a lot of schools and nurseries in Newcastle, and we always like asking our participants how much they enjoy playing Asteroid. It is important to us that their feedback and results change the game for the better! Because of this, we decided to take our Asteroid tablets out to the Great North Museum and the Centre for Life to find out more on how we can improve them.

Those of you who have been to either the Centre for Life or The Great North Museum know how much fun they both are – jam-packed full of activities for young ones and their parents to learn more about science. What a perfect fit for the Asteroid 3d eye game! During both sessions, we met some lovely and clever children for some more 3D eye games and activities. There were some older children, but there were also some younger participants. Our youngest visitor was 19 months old! Of course, we had our eye-catching optical illusion displays and distortion goggle activities in store as per usual. But the stars of the show are always our Asteroid tablets – everyone who took part was so excited to have a go that some people queued up to wait for their turn. The more, the merrier – that’s what we say! Of course, everyone who took part walked away with a little prize afterwards: a fabulous certificate signed by Dr Vancleef and a sparkly sticker! What more could be better??

Have a look below at some of the pictures we took before we opened to public visitors. If it looks like we had a lot of fun, it’s certainly because we did!


Below are two pictures from the Meet the Scientist area at the Centre for Life. We brought along our Asteroid tablets, and also displayed our website. On the right are three out of the four Research Assistants: (l-r) Jess Hugill, Sheima Rafiq, and Therese Casanova. Looking very happy, girls!

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Below are three pictures from the Great North Museum visit. Here, you can see Jess trying out one of our distortion glasses. You can also see Carla Black, another of the Asteroid Research Assistants, peeping in the photo. 


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I hope you enjoyed this instalment of the Asteroid Blog. Until next time!








Work Package 1 Celebration event, from the other side

Back in the days when summer was around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to host a small “Celebration Event” to congratulate ourselves on the completion of Work Package 1 (or “WP1” for short) of the project. The notion being to rally together the core team who have been involved with WP1. The Ophthalmologist & Orthoptists from Newcastle Eye Clinic, Game developers from Fluid Pixel, Patient Panel members, local Optometrists, along with everyone based at the University, were invited to come together for a brief update on the project’s progress followed by food, drinks, and socialising. Sounds simple enough, surely we can get that arranged in no time – as long as we can find a date that everyone can attend… ah, now that’s where things get interesting. Well, perhaps not “interesting”; more like “tricky”. June, July, and August roll on without a date that could host a worthy attendance. We’ll just have to hold the meeting in September then. No, wait, that’s even worse. Ok, Wednesday 5th October 3:30pm ‘til late (late = 5/6PM). Done. It’s actually happening, FINALLY. There’s a date in the diary and it’s after summer so hopefully people can make it. They can! Well, nearly everyone – this isn’t a perfect world where I can summon people on request. People have work, lives, and other commitments that our event doesn’t stand a chance in competing against. We have a slight majority of 15-20 attendees, though. That will do nicely.


So, the date is set and the (rough) numbers are in. Grand! Now it’s time to make sure we have enough provisions. A finger buffet feels right. But not with sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are sandwiches but they are a bit boring and people get full up on them or just won’t eat them. Why? Because it’s nearly dinner time or because you’re on a diet that only allows you to eat food that’s sexy. So let’s keep it simple, picky, and tasty. A variety of Indian/Eastern-hemisphere inspired savoury items along with some chocolate dipped strawberries, cake and booze sounds… mmm… not bad, not bad at all (don’t you feel silly for not coming along? J). Sorted. That’s the important parts taken care of. All that needs to happen is for everyone to turn up and eat said provisions. Jolly good. The last reminder email is sent out a day or two before the event, and of course, there’s a dropout L but fear not, there’s usually other people who turn up last minute at these sorts of things as soon as they realise there’s free food & booze, right?


It’s now 3:25PM on Wednesday 5th October (2016…). Ah, excellent, the foresight of extra drop-ins comes true – “the force” is strong with this one. Numbers are bang on somewhere between 15 and 20 people (but if you insist, let’s say “18” if you really must know). Jenny (“Prof Read” to you, in that case) opens the event with a few words on the overall progress. Then we have talks delivered by: Graham & Craig from Computing Sciences on the eye tracking and distance monitoring; Stuart from Fluid Pixel on the game development; and Kathleen on how public and patient involvement/engagement (PPI/E) has contributed to the project’s direction. Followed by the RAs – Carla, Jess, and Sheima (Therese couldn’t make it, just saying… maybe she had better things to do…. but let’s not make a fuss or name and shame anyone, after all, she had a stand in photograph so we could pretend she was there), introducing themselves and informing how WP2 is going so far. Jenny then closed the event with a thank you to everyone for their efforts. This was the cue to get stuck in to the provisions, as a reward for said efforts.


Overall, the event went well. Everyone was happy: the talks were short and sweet; the food was satisfying and plentiful; and it was appreciated to have the chance to get together and celebrate the past 18 months of endeavours. Here’s to the remaining Work Packages of the project – may they be as successful, and as worthy of celebrating, as the first 🙂




A SEEriously Good Time at the Discovery Museum!

Hello eye enthusiasts!

When working for the Asteroid project, there are few things better than getting to see children enjoy the Asteroid 3D games! And let me tell you, our recent visit to the Discovery Museum was no exception. On Friday 28th October, the Asteroid research team, along with Teresa from the Newcastle Eye Health Clinic, got the chance to reach out to half-term museum goers and show them how fun Asteroid is. For a whole day, people were able to have a go at the Asteroid tablets, play some eye games, and have a look at some weird and wonderful optical illusions on display. Bean bags were involved – if that doesn’t spell out fun we don’t know what else will!

As the morning rolled on, more and more people stopped by the Asteroid area to find out about our research and have a go at some fun eye activities. Some even gave consent to take part in the study itself! Everyone seemed to particularly enjoy the optical illusions we had on show, especially the Moiré Effect and the Ames Room. For example, seeing a repetitive, overlapping pattern like the picture on the left creates the illusion of movement. This is the Moiré Effect in action.



The Ames Room, on the other hand, gives us insight on how our perception of the world around us works. The effect of the Ames room works best when it is seen through a peephole, in which case what you see would look like the picture on the right. Even though the room appears to be proportionally “normal”, it is actually built differently to most rooms. The floor is actually on an incline: The left side is lower than the right. The walls are also different – even though they look to be perpendicular to the floor, they are actually slanting outwards!

Everyone who took part in the activities seemed to really enjoy learning about the illusions on display. One visitor even expressed how much it showed her that “what you see isn’t always what you get”. Children of all ages came to play on the 3D tablets, which were by far the most popular choice for everyone who came by. In some parts of the afternoon, there were queues of excited youngsters waiting for their turn!

6 hours and countless bean bag throws later, it was time for the team to pack up and leave the museum. Before we left, we said goodbye to our friend from the Discovery Museum, Thomas Elwick, who was so accommodating throughout – he even had the chance to play on Asteroid himself! As the museum’s learning officer, he was keen on giving visitors a chance to learn more about how it’s not just our eyes that help us to see, but our brains as well. It was a brilliant day for the Asteroid team, and we hope that everyone we met enjoyed themselves just as much.

Watch out for our next blog post… it’s going to be eye-mazing!