National Science Week 2021

Inspiring Australia NSW is supporting 15 organisations across the state with grant funding to deliver National Science Week community events. This year’s campaign runs from 13-22 August 2021 and scientists across the STEM disciplines are finding ways to get community members involved in all kinds of creative ways!

There will be many large events on offer across Sydney including at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, at Centennial Parklands and Western Sydney Parklands. University researchers will be out in force, including at comedy shows, theatrical performances, live podcast recordings, family fun days, on the radio and as part of Vivid Ideas.

In the regions, community members in the Northern Rivers, Hunter, Paterson Allyn Williams, Central West, Sapphire Coast and Illawarra regions will have access to a huge range of surprising and memorable science themed events. Among unique experiences on offer are a Plague Masked Ball in Dungog, a chance to participate in the creation of a Devonian billabong in Canowindra, a food science table in Armidale, innovation workshops for young people in Ballina, science festivals in Bega, Newcastle and Wagga Wagga and an evening of stargazing in Wollongong.

2021 highlights

Each year in science week, Australian science and technology experts come out of their labs and connect with the community to share information about the global potential of their research knowledge. The highlights listed below are just some of the exciting events that will be on offer to community members across NSW this August. Visit the National Science Week website at to see the full program unfold as it evolves!

Sydney Science Trail
15 to 22 August, Australian Museum and Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney    

Inspiring Australia NSW will again support Sydney Science Trail presented for a second year by the Australian Museum and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. With programs targeting both primary and secondary schools as well as the general community, this year’s Trail will celebrate food, science and sustainability and includes live and online panels, hands-on workshops, interactive displays, science shows and a unique chance to meet real-life researchers. In addition to its lively schools program running from 16-20 August, Sydney Science Trail will present free family events presented across the two host sites over two weekends. Visitors of all ages will enjoy a diverse range of hands-on activities, talks, panels, science shows and self-guided tours for families presented by leading science communicators, First Nations educators, academics and scientific researchers. Don’t miss Astronomy at the Calyx from 6.00pm on Tuesday 17 August where you can join astronomers and science communicators to discover the night sky over Sydney’s beautiful garden after dark. Read more

Science week at Greater Sydney Parklands
11-3pm, 15 and 22 August.

With two major family events planned at Centennial Park from 11-3pm on Sunday 15 August and at Western Sydney Parklands from 11-3 pm on Sunday 22 August, visitors to Greater Sydney Parklands are in for a treat. There will be dozens of opportunities for them to explore the science of food and get behind Australia’s traditional food sources, the scientific processes used in food production, the latest research around food recycling, and what we are doing to conserve essential food sources. Researchers from Sydney’s leading universities and research institutes will also be on hand at each event to share their inventions and demonstrate scientific concepts. Details coming soon!

10-4 pm, Saturday 14 August, Australian National Maritime Museum

Join a family day of ocean science, exploration and discovery! Hear remarkable stories of individuals and organisations working to ensure our oceans remain healthy for generations to come. From the serious to the extraordinary, be amazed by the ingenuity of ocean scientists and take a first-hand look at ways you can be involved. Pilot an underwater exploration vehicle, undertake experiments, solve puzzles, explore the world’s only human underwater habitat and imagine what the future of our oceans might look like.

Be part of Prof Tracy Ainsworth’s Deep Blue on my Doorstep podcast at a live recording, participate in a story mash up with authors, illustrators, poets and percussionists and get familiar with the superpowers of seaweed and algae with cooking workshops. Look out for Significant figures presented by STEMPunk, a panel show in which you’ll find out what a mystery scientist does though games and activities.

11-15 August, International Convention Centre Sydney 

COSPAR-K will transform the International Convention Centre Sydney into an Awesome Activities Arena and Spectacular Speakers Schedule. There’s something for everyone, whether you can attend in-person or would like to connect in virtually via COSPAR-K TV powered by Microsoft. Among interactive experiences and activations will be a Mars Yard, Rocket Rescue, Drone Racing, Plants vs Mars and so much more! Speakers include the Space Gal, Corey Tutt and Adrian Brown, just to name a few. Read more

Too much stuff? The science of letting go
12-2pm, Sunday 15 August, Great Hall, UTS

In partnership with Vivid Sydney and the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University, Inspiring Australia will present a discarding workshop led by anxiety and hoarding expert A/Prof Melissa Norberg looking at the science of object attachment. This science-based talk and workshop will help you to understand why you may find it hard to resist acquiring and letting go of possessions you do not need. After learning why possessions are so irresistible, you’ll be guided through practical tips on how to take charge of your shopping habits and on how to declutter sustainably and effectively. Read more

The Science of Us
5, 17 and 19 August, online

To celebrate National Science Week, Inspiring Australia NSW is presenting three online webinars with the State library of New South Wales. In Limit your screentime (11.30 am, 5 August), cognitive neuroscientist Dr Mark Williams will look at the impact of excess screentime on our ability to concentrate and communicate with each other with. End Loneliness Together (12.30 pm, 17 August) is a panel discussion on how loneliness affects physical and mental health with researchers Prof Catherine Haslam and Dr Michelle Lim in conversation with Jennie Sager, CEO of the Nextdoor neighbourhood app. Rethink addiction (11.30 am, 19 August) explores why some Australians struggle to manage addictive behaviours that are detrimental to their relationships, their health and their financial and emotional wellbeing with addiction expert Professor Dan Lubman AM.  Read more

Live from the Lab
6.30pm, Tuesday 17 August, Great Hall, University of Sydney

Participate in an evening of science, music and conversation between Live from the Lab 2021 researchers and musicians. Featuring live performances and recordings woven between personal stories from the scientists, the discussions will breakdown the wonders and complexity of science with emotional responses captured in the new musical compositions. Hosted by Associate Professor Alice Motion, Live from the Lab is a collaboration between the University of Sydney and FBi Radio, which unites science researchers with musicians through a guided conversation series to commission new musical responses to ground-breaking Australian science. Read more

Science week at UNSW

UNSW’s National Science Week program is a hotbed of ideas and innovation bringing together internationally acclaimed leaders in science, medicine, technology and engineering. In 2021, learn why space weather is our chief adversary in the quest to set foot on Mars, how lab-grown meat might save the planet, why a zero carbon future is now well within our grasp, what pathologists really do and much more. With events taking place live at UNSW and online, join world-class scientists and global thinkers as they unpack some of the most extraordinary advances in science and technology already influencing our world. Details coming soon!

Sounds from the Ice
12.30pm, Wednesday 18 August, City Recital Hall

Join scientist, explorer, and author Professor Chris Turney for a fascinating journey through environmental change at the ends of the Earth. Chris is on a quest to understand how past climates inform what we know about future change. Working across the planet (from Antarctica to the tropics and up into the Arctic), he develops new records of past climate that extend historical weather records over millennia, improving our understanding of future abrupt climate change in Australia and globally. Read more

CLOAK Exhibition Launch and Symposia 
5pm, Wednesday 18 August, Broadway Central Foyer 

Scheduled as part of National Science Week and Vivid Sydney, CLOAK uses fashion and photography to explore identity and social inclusion in STEMM. Join a symposia on diversity within STEMM hosted by Eureka Prize-winner Associate Professor Alice Motion and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow Dr Victoria Rawlings. Listen to LGBTIQ+ speakers from STEMM disciplines, science and technology studies, critical education studies, and gender and cultural studies share vignettes from their research and lived experience in the lab, field, classroom and workplace. The symposia will end with the official launch of the CLOAK exhibition and accompanying video on the UTS Broadway Screen. Queer celebrations will follow.

The STEAM Room
7:30 to 10pm, 19 August, Giant Dwarf Theatre

Join Praxical in The STEAM Room, a science themed comedy night at Sydney’s Giant Dwarf Theatre. The event will highlight leading Australian research through a diverse range of comedians and emerging STEM communicators. Be amused as budding STEM comedians try their hand at stand-up comedy after being mentored by Dr Karl! Read more

Indigenous Science Experience at Redfern
10 am-3pm, Saturday 21 August, Redfern Community Centre                         

What can Aboriginal astronomy tell us about the night sky? How is our native flora used in bush medicine and soap making? How do Indigenous Australians make axes from stone and other artefacts? What can we learn about sustainable living from 60 000+ years of Indigenous culture? This free, community open event is a celebration of Indigenous and Western science. Get hands-on with a diverse range of interactive science activities accessible to all ages. Activities will include: Yarning with Elders on bush foods and medicines, Indigenous astronomy, 3D printing workshops, maths puzzles, making Aboriginal tools, physics and chemistry activities, and much more! You will also meet Indigenous Elders and student leaders from the National Indigenous Science Education Program who will be assisting in demonstrating the activities. The event will begin with a traditional smoking ceremony and official welcome (10 am). Details coming soon!

Science in the Wild                                             
11 am – 3 pm, Sunday 22 August, Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan

Celebrate National Science Week at the Australian Botanic Garden. Science in the Wild is a free family event where you can discover the fun of science and enjoy learning about food, science and sustainability in the outdoors with a wide range of shows, presentations and hands-on activities for all ages. Don’t miss Dr Karl who will be at the gardens from 1 to 2pm to answer all your burning science questions such as: Why is the sky blue? What is a black hole? Why do we get brain freeze? Here’s your chance to ask Dr Karl all your burning science questions be they chemical, physical, technological, astrophysical or astronomical! Details coming soon!

Northside Science
From 14-22 August, various locations

Community members on Sydney’s north side are invited by the Northern Sydney Science Hub to participate in a series of events including talks and discussions with researchers from the National Measurement Institute and Macquarie University. All welcome to join community discussions on the Northern Beaches, including with Kristyn Glanville and representatives of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Don’t miss the chance to spend a memorable evening with popular TV chef Adam Liaw, the winner of MasterChef Australia whose televised victory remains the most watched non-sporting television event in Australian history. Details coming soon!

STEM Hour: Bush Tucker
11am – 12pm AEST, 16 July 2021, online webinar

What comes to mind when we think about Australian cuisine? There are few things more Aussie than meat pies and the good old barbie. In our July STEM Hour webinar we will celebrate food that has been here for thousands of years, much longer than the sausage sizzle: Bush Tucker. 

Join us on a journey back in time when wattle seed, river mint and kakadu plum nourished generation after generation. Our webinar panel will share ideas on how to include native plants in inquiry-based STEM learning in early childhood settings and discuss why we don’t see more native foods commercially available. Read more

Inspire STEM: Food, different by design  
4pm – 5pm AEST, 9,10,13 August 2021, online workshop – NESA accredited      

Join Little Scientists for STEM afternoon tea. How loud is your sip and crunch? What effect does smell have on your taste buds? You were told to never play with your food but join us for a hands-on, play-based, inquiry-led investigation into food. Join this 3-part online workshop and discover how you can implement inquiry-based learning in your setting. Read more

STEM Hour: Food for Thought
11am – 12pm AEST, 16 August 2021, online webinar

Join Little Scientists online to ask: “How does a cow turn into a sausage?”; “Why is it ok to eat cows but not whales?; “Can I send my sandwich to a child who’s really hungry?”. This webinar panel will explore how children’s critical questions can be addressed in an honest and age-appropriate way that encourages further inquiry and supports a constructive world view. Focusing on philosophical inquiry and critical thinking in early childhood settings, our panel of experts will share ideas for critical reflection on the food we eat: Where does it come from? How is it made? Do all families eat the same foods? Read More  

In the regions

Touring regional NSW will be Significant Figures, a live panel show is presented by the STEM Punk Podcast that invites the audience to help find out what a mystery scientist does though games and activities. Don’t miss the regional tour of live shows presented in Wollongong at Science Space, Newcastle at the Museum and Wagga Wagga at the Thirsty Crow. Read more

In the Hunter: Gain greater awareness of the importance of pollinators such as bees and other insects to modern society through a series of interactive displays, lectures, demonstrations and site visits across the region at various venues including the Newcastle Museum, Maitland Museum and Lake Macquarie Galleries and in the Hunter Region Botanic Garden. Be part of the full day Hunter Science Festival on Sunday 22 August, a people friendly amalgamation of activities from all of the Hunter Innovation and Science Hub members from across the region. Later that evening, enjoy a thrilling performance of A Flying Photon by Rachel Rayner. Through humour, sequins and stars, uncover a bizarre piece of quantum mechanics which brings us both a sunset and the internet. Read more

In Dungog: The Plague Masked Ball will invite guests to create costumes that interpret viruses, contagion and pandemics. With celebrations proceeded by conversations, animations and musical performances that explore these topics, this is an event not to be missed! Other events planned over the weekend include micro-chats, science in the street and a science trivia night held in a popular local pub. Details coming soon!

In the Illawarra: Enjoy astronomy at Science Space Up Late on 17 August, with Telescopes, Sphero racing and hands- on activities including with Illawarra Astronomical Society whose members will be on site with their telescopes. This year’s guest presenter will be Dr Helen Maynard Casely of ANSTO who will lead an engaging and interactive exploration of our Solar System as she visits some of her favourite moons, planets and explains why they are so special. Read more

In Armidale: The New England Table: Different by design! will feature an exploration of the culinary culture of the region through a community dinner with local produce, accompanied by talks by local scientists. Participants will discover the complex science of food production and digestion throughout this unique dining experience. Details coming soon!

In Canowindra: The Orange Cowra and Cabonne Science Hub will lead the community in the creation of individual Devonian fish and plant habitats, including a giant, interspecies billabong led by Botanical illustration artist Angus Fisher and Artist/Animator Todd Fuller. Community members will extend their knowledge of the Devonian period through a site visit at the celebrated Age of Fishes Museum. The produced virtual Devonian Billabong will be published for public viewing at the completion of the series. Details coming soon!

In the Northern Rivers: Young people, aged 8 to 21, will have the opportunity to learn about innovation and technology in the agriculture sector during a series of Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Workshops in Ballina on the weekend of 14-15 August. Participants will have the opportunity to create their own DIY drone, hear from agricultural leaders and present their solution to a local, food sustainability problem to a panel of epic guest judges from the agriculture industry, science sector and higher education space. Details coming soon!

On the Far South Coast of NSW: The Sapphire Coast Science Festival returns with a Festival Maker Space hosted by Bega Valley Shire Council in partnership with 2pi Software at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre. Science Hub members will present displays and activities and member displays will be livestreamed, bringing the action into community homes. Other highlights will include an opportunity to learn from a Djiringanj educator how to collect, soak & grind lomandra seed on grinding stones, to cook them up as a damper for morning tea. The Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness will also organise five individual citizen science events, both live and face to face. Details coming soon!

In Wagga Wagga: The week-long Riverina Science Festival returns for 2021 in multiple venues throughout the region. This festival includes activities for all age groups, including a Food Odyssey, science for pre-schoolers, talks from plant scientists, sustainable gardening, and Indigenous science and engineering. This event is presented by the Riverina Science Hub and partner organisations. Details coming soon!

National Science Week is Inspiring Australia’s flagship annual campaign and is supported with funding from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment through the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer and the
Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Add your events to the national events calendar at