All welcome to join Science at the Local in Springwood to launch National Science Week in New South Wales on Sunday 4 August. Our FREE family event from 2:30-4pm will feature the state’s Chief Scientist & Engineer, a Digital Farmhand robot demonstration and expert talks on how technology is transforming NSW.
Held at the Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub, this will be an opportunity to:
- Meet a Digital Farmhand robot and see how it works to monitor and irrigate crops, and identify and eradicate weeds.
- Hear how advances in sensor technology and farming automation are helping farmers maximise crop yields in a time of climate uncertainty.
- Find out how students at 10 regional NSW high schools are gaining coding skills through the robotics program, which may lead to a career in agricultural science.
- Learn how NSW is supporting research to deliver smart, cost-effective solutions to challenges in areas like health, energy, quantum computing, water management, recycling and digital security.
Join NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte and Professor Salah Sukkarieh of Agerris and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at The University of Sydney to see first-hand how scientific and technological innovations are creating innovative businesses and providing exciting career opportunities for STEM graduates.
Engage in a conversation about transformational technologies that have global applications and agricultural robots that are inspiring students and helping farmers.
“The Ag Robotics STEM Program for high school students in regional NSW is helping to bridge the digital knowledge divide between the city and the bush,” said Professor Sukkarieh. “Our hope is that many will go on to choose careers in agricultural science or other STEM-related fields where they can make a difference in NSW regional communities.”
“This is a terrific example of great research being translated into powerful outcomes to deliver smart, cost-effective solutions to agricultural challenges faced by Australia and the world,” said Professor Durrant-Whyte.
“National Science Week is Australia’s national celebration of science and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to kick off this year’s state-wide program here in the Lower Mountains,” said Science at the Local co-founder Hamish Clarke.
“It’s a real coup to have two such accomplished scientists speaking. And did we mention they’re bringing a robot?” added fellow co-founder Kevin Joseph.
What: How science is transforming NSW
When: 2.30 pm, Sunday 4 August
Where: Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub, 104-108 Macquarie Rd Springwood
Cost: This free community event is open to all. A ticketed event, bookings essential
About Digital Farmhand
Following a 2018 pilot where Digital Farmhand robots developed by Professor Sukkarieh were introduced to high schools in Orange, Dubbo and Junee, a $1.3 million Ag Robotics STEM Program is now being rolled out across NSW.
“Initially, the Ag Robotics STEM Program was designed to show high school students in regional NSW that, in addition to being exciting devices to code and control, agricultural robots can make a real difference to the rural environments in which they live,” Professor Sukkarieh said.
“By helping to bridge the digital knowledge divide between the city and the bush, our hope is that many of these students will go on to choose careers in agricultural science or other STEM-related fields and end up applying their skills to regional communities in NSW.”
The Ag Robotics STEM Program also introduces the surrounding agricultural community to the benefits of this technology. On days when the robots are not required at the school, local small landhold farmers are given demonstrations of its capabilities, which include monitoring row and tree crops, watering crops and identifying and eradicating weeds.
The commercial potential of the Digital Farmhand and its bigger brother, the Swagbot, which can also assist in herding cattle and monitoring animal health, is enormous. NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said that Australian-made innovations like Digital Farmhand and Swagbot have a huge potential to reach international markets.
“This is a terrific example of great research being translated into powerful outcomes to deliver smart, cost-effective solutions to agricultural challenges faced by Australia and the world,” he said. “The Ag Robotic STEM Program also engages the next generation of potential scientists.”
About the speakers
Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte is NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, tasked with drawing together business, research and government to drive innovation in NSW and provide independent advice. He is a world authority on machine learning and robotics, and their application in areas including cargo handling, mining and defence. He works part-time for the University of Sydney as Special Advisor for the Western Sydney Strategy and has won numerous awards, including 2010 NSW Scientist of the Year. From 2016-2018, Professor Durrant-Whyte was Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Ministry of Defence.
Salah Sukkarieh is Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney, and CEO of Agerris, a new Agtech startup improving agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability. He is an international expert in the research, development and commercialisation of field robotic systems and has worked across logistics, commercial aviation, aerospace, education, environment monitoring, agriculture and mining. Salah was awarded the 2017 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science and was a 2019 NSW Australian of the Year nominee.
About Science at the Local
Science at the Local is a popular community initiative that brings locals and scientists together in the cozy confines of the local club. Since 2014, bimonthly talks have featured a wide range of speakers and topics, and partnered with groups like the Blue Mountains Conservation Society and Penrith Observatory to deliver special events. Science at the Local is run by high school teacher Kevin Joseph and bushfire researcher Hamish Clarke and acts as the Blue Mountains Science Hub with support from Inspiring Australia. Find out more
Photos by Bruce Ritchie. This event is supported by Inspiring Australia and the New South Wales Government as part of National Science Week.