Far Out: Bringing science to the people of Northern NSW

There are many opportunities for people living in Northern NSW to participate in a broad range of accessible science engagement activities thanks to scientists and students from the University of New England in Armidale.

Far Out Science runs science outreach initiatives that target both school students and the general community.

Science in the Bush is an opportunity for country kids to visit a university campus, often for the first time. Each year around 800 students from schools all over the New England and Northern NSW regions come to the University of New England (UNE) for a day of science activities including fun experiments, quizzes and lively presentations that cover chemistry, sport science, physics, pharmacy, engineering, zoology and agricultural science.

Science in the Bush has been running at UNE with great success for several years. Recently, transport subsidies have enabled the program to extend its geographical reach to include schools from Indigenous and remote areas, with students travelling as far as 260 km each way.

Smaller schools even share buses to make the excursion accessible to smaller schools and more affordable for students from disadvantaged areas.

Consumer Science is another UNE initiative that takes science into local shopping centres on a Saturday morning. Simple, hands-on experiments are used to demonstrate the relevance of science to the consumer items people buy, like plastics, fruit and vegetables, ice cream and cotton. Eye-catching demonstrations show how disciplines like chemistry, pharmacy and agricultural science are relevant to everyday life.

Dr Michelle Taylor, a lecturer in UNE’s School of Science & Technology leads both projects and says that science is so much more than geeks in labs. Michelle loves watching kids and adults alike really enjoying activities and understanding that so many different areas of life involve science in some way.

In addition to the obvious community benefits, these kinds of projects also impart critical science communication skills to students. They learn to answer complex questions in accessible ways and in so doing, inspire people to find out more for themselves.

UNE’s 2013 Consumer Science program plans to offer consumer science in several NSW towns in the coming months.

The next session will be presented in Toormina

When: Saturday 29 June, 9am to 2:30 pm.
Where: Centro Shopping Centre

Michelle looks forward to continuing to introduce more people in regional NSW to concepts they would ordinarily have little or no opportunity to consider and hopes that many shoppers will stop for a few minutes to try their hand at some science experiments when Far Out sets up in Toormina.

Find out more: http://www.une.edu.au/science-technology/far-out-science.php