Interview with Fabrizio Stavola

If you want to – and you understand Italian – you can also watch the interview on YouTube.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Today we have a new guest in the context of our FCHgo
interviews, Fabrizio Stavola from Milan’s National Museum of Science and Technology
Leonardo da Vinci. Today’s interlocutor, this stakeholder is not a company, nor a school or a
network of companies. So, why are we interviewing him? This museum has a particular role,
it is the most important science museum on national level and one of the most important in
Europe and it is part of international networks, as well. What do they do? Tell us Fabrizio,
start from here.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Thanks Barbara. So, the museum is the institution that at the moment has a particular role,
that is to build relationships between citizens in some cases, or rather, in most cases students,
and science, technology. This relationship, these connections happen mainly in two phases, in
two areas. We have a programme called Science and Citizens which builds activities and tries
to bring the world of research closer to civil society, and then we have our programmes which
involve schools and bring students – from as young as three years old, so, preschoolers to high
school students – to meet science and in some cases, the tools of technology.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Indeed you are saying something very important because
the museum is not a museum of science and technology directed exclusively or primarily to
schools but to citizens, so everyone can use it, everyone can go and visit the museum.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Exactly.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Everyone can use it as a place of learning, discovery,
knowledge…

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Exactly. The role we recognise is precisely the one of helping and supporting the easiest and
friendliest relationship between the subjects of science, between the protagonists of
technology and society. This attempt of approach has a moment particularly important for us,
which happens every year – theoretically last year it fell through due to some inconveniences,
but it is a particular moment we care about very much – which is precisely the open night of
the museum where we open the doors of the museum and invite the citizens to meet scientists,
researchers and technology protagonists to a dialogue, to talk to each other and tell each other
their stories as much as possible.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): This is very important and we like it, then, it is in the
logic of making sciences reach everyone through a direct connection with what is everyday
life. Because every time it is always thought, especially at school, that there is the book and
then there is life beyond the book, instead the museum creates this concrete relationship with
what is in the theory and how you go towards practice. Right?

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
We define it as active learning, in which the students, but not only, in our case the families
especially, but all the citizens can be somehow protagonists because they are the ones who,
with their hands get to touch objects, to produce experiences and therefore to build knowledge
and knowledge in the most direct way as possible. Obviously, as far as we can go, there are
fields that cannot be reached in our spaces, but for what we are allowed to do here, this is our
goal, our focal point.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Look, you are now inside the laboratory. You are in
charge of the laboratory activities in the educational field. Please, show us something also
related to hydrogen and renewable energies.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Okay. Personally, I take care of one of the museum’s workshops which is the one dedicated to
energy and the environment. It’s a bit of a gamble what I tried to do, in the sense that this
space is not particularly well connected at least from information point of view and data so we
could lose the connection at any moment.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Let’s try!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
The thing I would like to do is to take you around very quickly to show you how our spaces
are organized, which usually have this configuration where there are stations where groups of
young people could – I don’t know how we will get organized with this emergency – but the
idea is that they can work safely with their hands. Here what I want to present you are a
couple of kits that we provide to explore how energy can be exchanged from one vector to
another and how energy can be stored in some storage system. Just to show you some curious
objects…Where is the camera? Here it is. This is a flywheel and it is an element that usually
takes part in engines and anything else to keep the energy inside these systems at a certain
level. It is not very well known, in fact, it is difficult to understand its operation but the idea is
to try to understand it by yourself, then connect it with other systems such as small fans or led
lamps and see if there are any effects.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Sure. What you can’t do at home because maybe you
don’t have the instruments or you can’t do at school because maybe the laboratory is not
provided, you come to the museum and you experiment.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
You experiment…The idea is to make this experimentation as comfortable as possible. We do
not want to bring students back to a research level to discover things already discovered but
we want them to understand through their own initiative and interests. This is our goal.
Among the different objects available here, since the theme of your project is fuel cells, here
we have a… let’s see if I can show you…

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Here it is!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
The idea is that this small blue object is able, when powered, to split water into its
components of hydrogen and molecular oxygen and when it comes into contact with
hydrogen and oxygen it returns part of the electricity that was necessary for the
decomposition. In this way the idea of charge and discharge is quite visible or understandable
through both the levels of hydrogen and oxygen that are formed in the tanks, and when there
is a discharge we can connect LEDs and see that in fact some electricity is produced.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Look, before you told us backstage about the narration.
A fact that we have in common with the FCHgo project is the philosophy within the project
itself and that you also make your own. That’s what Professor Corni taught us.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Somehow one of the reasons why I am here is because Professor Corni is a guarantee and the
moment I saw him again on video, I hadn’t seen him for a long time. I found again his objects
and the way in which the energy is told, is treated and I immediately felt involved in this
project. As far as all about energy system is concerned, I cannot venture the idea of being his
godson but certainly his disciple, from the point of view of science teaching, I am on his side.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): We’ll leave this recorded and let him listen to it!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): I
can only be pleased!

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Because he will be very happy and we are pleased that
this aspect emerges.

 

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Now I will show you some of the objects, that I don’t say he will recognise but will find in his
own way. What we make available to young people are elements that produce the exchange
from light to electricity or from movement to electricity, like this crank dynamo, or models of
wind generators. The idea is to make them available to the students and to all visitors, in a
fairly free way, but always accompanied by our questions and answers to questions that they
come up with, gradually, during their exploration, trying to accompany them towards a more
coherent definition of energy.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Of course!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Then here in this laboratory we have a few quotes that don’t dare to show you but somewhere
there is one that says that energy is in fact a concept that is not easily grasped even by
scientists. All this, to say that the idea is to always, as far as possible, put our visitors at ease
in an attempt to make science as close and friendly as possible.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Absolutely. Can you show us the other part of the
laboratory too?

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
The other part is the most dangerous for the connection between…

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): We want to try … we want to challenge the connection 🙂

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Now I am accompanying you by the hand. Let’s see if I don’t drop the tablet. What I’m taking
you to see now, I don’t know what you can see, is the reservoir and below are the turbines of
this hydroelectric power plant model that in its aspect of water accumulation, and therefore of
energy, is one of the protagonists of our story because it lends itself so much compared to the
image of an accumulator that charges, then brings up a potential, a quantity of energy that can
be spent and then discharges it by turning the turbines. So the idea of the cyclicity of these
devices is another of the elements we like to present. I don’t know if you are still hearing and
seeing me.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Yes, we hear and see everything. Careful it’s holding up.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Unbelievable! Here we have a few burning glasses. This is the – I don’t know if you can see it
– phrase I was telling you “it is important to realize that in today’s physics we have no
knowledge of what energy is”. This was Feynman’s saying and this thing frees everyone from
any kind of embarrassment about the gamble of explanations. The other object with which we
usually conclude the path on sustainability because it is unfortunately one of those systems
that for reasons that are not particularly clear and well-known, still struggles today to be
developed and therefore to be known and so We usually keep it for last because it always
arouses particular emotions about to the fact that it does not produce pollutants, has an outfit
that recalls the idea of science that in some cases is in people’s heads so let’s say that it is the
final moment that we like to present. Now I’ll try to show you what this fuel cell produces. It’s
a bit old so it doesn’t use the photovoltaic panel as a power supply anymore but we make it go
with the mesh.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Go!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
What happens by powering this electrolytic cell below is precisely to develop the two
component gases of the water. Here we see bubbles that are produced inside these two
cylinders. In this way, with the clips that close the two cylinders, it is possible to accumulate
the two gases that were previously dispersing. As the gases accumulate they take up more
space inside the cylinders and you can also see the difference in volume between hydrogen
and oxygen – because one is rightly twice as much as the other…because water is made like
this – and when we decide to stop this process of vision, I disconnect the power supply, the
bubbles end. Let’s see if the fan is framed!

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): We don’t see the fan…

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): The
fan is here!

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Here it is!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
When I disconnect these two clips the two gases flow into the second cell that acts as a fuel
cell producing the reaction that generates the electricity that should power the fan. I use the
conditional because this thing is always an emotion.. and actually … Sorry it was stuck for a
moment…

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): It worked ! It worked !

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): I
continue with the gambles so I make attempts that will never succeed. I can even power a
light bulb. I don’t know if you see the light.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Yes! It’s on!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
And the electricity that powered the fan or now powers this led is the electricity that is being
generated in this cell thanks to the hydrogen we have obtained from water and oxygen that we
can take directly from the atmosphere. This is the most simply told principle of the fuel cells:
combining hydrogen and oxygen to form water and to reestablish the part of the electricity
that was necessary to split it in the first phase. Obviously this moment opens up a lot of
questions: how much energy is actually returned? How safe is hydrogen? All these questions
are the ones that open up and find a conclusion directly from the voice of the facilitator who
has accompanied you along this path. However, the thing that is functional to this kind of
activity is that it leaves open some questions that people can go and solve by themselves with
the means they have available, maybe going back to the museum and meeting a researcher
working on these topics. What I is that we are not the keepers, those who own the scientific
heritage from a theoretical point of view, we are only those who accompany in the most
familiar and friendly way those who are interested in science and technology and those who
are perhaps not particularly curious, but somehow we push them towards a connection with
science that can open up questions and curiosities that one could not even imagine before and
instead, here finds cues or even just questions that will then find an answer. Now I’m going to
redo the walk.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Awesome!It’s working. We’re all happy!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): I
can make this overview. This plan sequence worthy of I don’t know which director…

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): It makes you want to come there immediately …COVID
or not COVID.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Well then, we are open, not with the activities unfortunately, but only in the spaces – not even
in all spaces – three days a week: on Thursday afternoons, which we are also experimentally
trying to keep open until 9pm, on Saturday and Sunday, morning and afternoon. We have
been reopening for about a month and in October we will also open completely with the
activities and in the in the entire museum.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Look, can anyone come directly or is it necessary to
book? We give this information since we are here, because it can be interesting in this period
of summer holidays and closed schools.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): As
far as the activities are concerned, when they will be reopened in October, the usual procedure
will be the same, that is to say during the weekend access is included in the entrance ticket
and the booking can be made both online and directly at the time of ticket purchase. At the
moment the entrances are without reservation, you can arrive at the museum and buy the
ticket directly here. Obviously, there are limitations in the number that the decrees impose on
us currently, fortunately, also because otherwise we would not be able to guarantee the safety
of visitors, but let’s say that the museum offers such large spaces that we can accommodate a
good number of people at the same time.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Fabrizio, you took us on this trip to the museum, which,
I repeat, makes us want to come straight there and try all the buttons, to try everything!

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
You are all welcome of course! Surely it will be an opportunity to take advantage of the brand
new galleries hosting the new collection on Leonardo da Vinci which unfortunately had this
interruption for the covid, in the sense that we opened them at the end of 2019 and they were
only open for two, three months. Let’s say that our pride at the moment is enclosed on the M1
floor of the museum which has expanded the collection and made available a lot of objects
that were not always visible. This is another aspect of the museum, which someone will
probably be able to tell you about, that is to say that the museum collections are almost
entirely in storage and you can only see a small part of them. Fortunately, at least for
Leonardo’s part, we managed to make them available in a good part.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): This is nice. Then, I would say that we are used to the
mask and the necessary precautions by now but all these places are accessible and it is
important to start again, continue to bring young people and us, the adults, go there to learn
more. These barriers should no longer be considered as such. We have new habits that we
have made our own so let’s go and discover this new part of Leonardo da Vinci. I am close by,
I am in Tuscany, it is here a few km away….

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): the
house…

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Yes the house.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): Here in Milan we had the honour to host it
for a certain period of time so we share the pride of this heritage.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Absolutely! Look Fabrizio, I thank you…I’m very happy
that the connection worked…

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): In
fact, this has something miraculous .

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): This is also the good thing. We are registered but it’s a
bit like a live broadcast, so it’s nice too, when things are at their best. Thank you very much
again. Thank you also for creating this synergy between the FCHgo project and you. This
makes us proud.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
We are very happy too!

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): We are very happy. Thanks and good luck for the
activities. See you soon because we will come to Milan.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci): We
are waiting for you. Thanks to you Barbara!

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Thank you.

Fabrizio Stavola (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci):
Bye everyone!

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa srl): Bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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