Celebrating science

This year’s National Science Week campaign presented more science engagement events across the nation than ever, with activities, talks, exhibitions and shows on offer around the country and online to cater for every age group and every taste.

There were over 1600 events nationally and more than 320 in NSW alone. National Science Week’s seventeenth annual campaign has again delighted, surprised and entertained Australians from all walks of life.

In NSW, the growing network of Regional Science Hubsunited more than 190 businesses, government organisations, schools, researchers, universities and community groups to work together and deliver local outreach initiatives in their regions. Supported with funding of $75,000 from the NSW Government and Inspiring Australia, many new science engagement experiences were presented by Hubs across the state, including through the delivery of major festivals in Dubbo, on the Sapphire Coast, in the Northern Rivers and in the Hunter.

Among regional highlights were:

  • Bioblitzes and nature walks that identified and mapped marine life, flora and fauna on the Sapphire Coast
  • Science/art exhibitions in regional galleries in New England and Sutherland Shire including a project to discover the world of antsand the hugely popular Neural Knitworks craft project to raise awareness of mind and brain health through the creation of a textile brain at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery
  • Poster presentations, on campus workshops and science awards in the Riverina
  • Science fairs and sustainability expos in LismoreDubbo and at schools in North Western NSW

More than 40 NSW schools joined the celebrations, many exploring this year’s theme: Food for our future: Science feeding the world, a topic inspired by the International Year for Family Farming. With activities covering issues like food security, agricultural sustainability and innovation, students were encouraged to consider the central role of science in putting food on the table.

In Sydney, celebrations kicked off with Dr Karl and Adam Spencer’s hilarious live show My Geeks Rule that entertained a packed house at Sydney Town Hall. Thousands of visitors attended the Australian Museum Science Festival or shared Indigenous science and culture with students and Elders from across NSW and as far away as Arnhem Land with the National Indigenous Science Education Programat Redfern Community Centre.

In Centennial Parklands, rain and a grey sky only added to the atmosphere at Science in the Swamp, a wonderful day of outdoor science fun that attracted more than 3000 people who enjoyed activities presented by 25 stallholders including a talking tree, giant crystals, wildlife, astronomy, geology and conservation displays and an opportunity to frolic in the snow.

Visitors to the Australian National Maritime Museum enjoyed Endeavouring Science, a unique series of events on land and at sea exploring why cannons explode, diseases at sea and turn of the century botany. Hundreds of people considered how science techniques have changed over the last 200 years abord the replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour.

Hundreds of people snapped up tickets to the sell out Space Oddity show at the Powerhouse Museum featuring a super science session with astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, biologist Carin Bondar (both from Canada) Destin from the SmarterEveryDay youtube channel (US), Nerd comedian Dr Justine Rogers and Australia’s youtube science star Derek Muller from Catalyst and Veritasium. Watch Derek’s interview with Commander Hadfield,

This year’s national citizen science project, Weather Detective, has been sailing along at full speed – with more than 140,000 weather observations uncovered by over 10,000 citizen scientists reading through 100-year-old ship log books in search of the weather observations. It’s not too late to get involved: if you sign up and make at least 20 observations before Friday September 5, you’ll go in the draw to win a tablet device! Check it out at http://www.weatherdetective.net.au/

Media coverage of this year’s National Science Week campaign was unprecedented, with hundreds of press articles, TV and radio interviews reaching millions of people. In particular, the national Neural Knitworks project produced by the Southern Sydney Science Hub attracted dozens of media reports, and as a result, almost 12,000 people visited the Neural Knitworks page on the National Science Week website. Following scientifically informed patterns, hundreds of people across the country contributed almost 2,000 handmade neurons to the exhibition now on show at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery until 16 September. Neural Knitworks has been a standout success, not only inspiring project participants to learn about the brain as they reap the mind health benefits of yarn craft, but more importantly, to consider the latest neuroscience research and learn what they can do to keep their own brains healthy.

A huge thanks to everyone who gave their time and energy to this year’s remarkable campaign. Your efforts have helped raise awareness of the important contributions scientists make to the community, the relevance of science to everyday life, the need to ensure that we encourage young people to pursue careers in science, technology, maths and engineering and the critical importance of continuing to fund Australian research.

Jackie Randles is Manager Inspiring Australia (NSW).