Guest Post – the CAT Experience

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In March Oscar visited the Centre for Alternative Technology with his school. He wrote an article about his experiences at the Centre on his blog, and he has kindly given us permission to reproduce it here.

Guest blogger Oscar

From the 8th – 11th March 2013 I was lucky enough to join a group of my school friends on a visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales. In brief; it was a truly inspiring trip and I was able to talk to some really interesting people who work at the centre. The centre is built on an old slate waste tip from a slate quarry that used to be in action close by.

Solar panels at CAT

According to our guide, the centre was founded in 1974 and it aims to experiment with different environmentally friendly ways to produce electrical energy. As soon as you pull up in the, less eco-friendly, car you notice the most obvious ways they are producing electricity. The photo above was taken from underneath a roof of solar panels. The amazing design allows light into the sheltered area, yet is covered in solar panel tiles.

One of CAT’s wind turbines

Another aspect of the centre is all the wind turbines – however retro some of them were (see picture on above). It was an insight to be able to stand next to one blade off a modern wind turbine. They a huge! Although, in my opinion, that is not a bad thing. I think the modern wind turbines look futuristic and do not ruin the landscape – they enhance it. Imagine if there were wind turbines in London! How different our opinions of them would be. There is the debate that they are a danger to bats. This is due to the blades spinning at a speed that the bat’s sensors do not pick up and they, sadly, will fly into the blades. I’m sure there must be a way to stop this.

Not only is the centre truly educational – it is a place of enjoyment. I will never forget being in the mole tunnel. The darkness allows you to find your way around without the need of sight – much like a mole. There are small lights which help you see due to health and safety, however, these lights are small and do not let you see that much in front of you. The tunnel leads you to a small room that has enlarged plastic bugs behind glass windows – it is as if you are looking through a huge magnifying glass at the bugs. The whole experience is made even more interactive by Megan the Mole talking to you as you stroll around. As you leave the tunnel you must take a moment to stroke Megan the Mole’s nose… it may only be a pretend mole, but it is incredibly soft.

Megan the Mole

The wind turbine workshop is one of those memories I will never forget. Our tour guide ran the workshop and the aim was to make the wind turbine (small scale model of course) that generated the most electricity when placed in front of a fan. Before the workshop we had been briefed on wind turbines and shown some full size ones (well from a distance away). I tried to make a very… well…erm… a different unique design out of a recycled plastic cup. Well that didn’t work, but our team did have one of the best designs in the end. Not that I am competitive 😉

Now the memory I definitely will not forget is the sensory walk. That was one of my favourite moments on the trip. Sadly, I couldn’t find anyone who took a photo of me doing it, so you’ll just have to imagine it. We were in a  woodland and the trees were connected by a rope. Each participant was given a helmet and blindfold to put on and we were led to the rope. The aim was to complete a sort of obstacle course whilst feeling our way around – there were people dotted around the course to help us if we lost the guide rope. I had heard that at some point we had to crawl through a tunnel so as soon as the rope fell onto the floor I assumed we would have to crawl. If memory serves right – I believe I army crawled most of the course and halfway around there was a river. I had heard people step into it and get wet so I knew it was approaching. I used my hands to feel the ground and I noticed a change of texture – it was sand. I felt a bit further out and touched water so I stayed clear of it. In the end I did army crawl through part of the river fully with a few friends – because we felt like it. I won’t say much else about it, because if you do go to CAT on a school trip I do not want to ruin the sensory walk. I’ll just repeat – it was amazing and so much fun.

Towards the Eco-Cabins

And that was that. We left on the Sunday to everyone’s great sadness. My time at the Centre had been full of surprises, excitement and most of all, enjoyment. Thank you for all the experiences CAT. I hope to visit again and I recommend anyone checks it out – especially schools. This is the perfect school trip and the students will learn so much – I know, because I learnt so much.