Lab in a Box

By Peter Dearden 16/06/2015

Peter K. Dearden

Two weeks ago saw the announcement of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding for a range of projects around the country designed to support interaction between science and society in New Zealand.

This funding, along with that for participatory science, is remarkable, and the first attempt that I know of by our Government to ensure that the benefits and dangers of science are communicated to the public, and that they public gets involved in using science. This is a huge step forward in ensuring that science is used effectively, valued and understood in New Zealand, and I applaud the hard work of everyone involved in getting this project off the ground.

You might also have noticed that one of the grants came to Genetics Otago. We are delighted to receive funding with our partners, Otago Polytech, Otago Museum, the NZ Marine Studies Centre and Orokonui eco-sanctuary to develop a mobile science teaching laboratory to support science in rural schools and communities. I want to thank all the people and organisations who have pledged support including CoREs, University departments and community organisations. I particularly want to thank Icon Logistics who are helping us with design and build, and who we hope will be transporting Lab in a Box around the country.  These guys are awesome.

I wanted to highlight this project because it is an ambitious one, and one that could do with your help. If you have an interest or use for lab-in-a-box please let me know via the Contact form above. We would be delighted to have you on board!

Below please find the project abstract, written by the brilliant Dr Belinda Cridge who is a huge part of the team.

Lab In A Box 25

The first bits of design for lab in a box are underway thanks to the Otago Polytechnic WorkSpace group.
The first bits of design for lab in a box are underway thanks to the Otago Polytechnic WorkSpace group.

Aim of the Project

Lab-in-a-Box will deliver exciting, relevant science activities in rural communities. We will transform a shipping container into a mobile teaching and research laboratory and take it out to schools to educate and inspire. Lab-in-a-box is a flexible learning and engagement space deliverable to any location and used for almost any purpose. The arrival of Lab-in-a-Box might signal the start of a science learning module at a school; a community investigation into the health of a local river; the beginning of a locally-run science festival; or that the A&P show is getting underway. Lab-in-a-Box will generate excitement; the arrival of something new and special in town.

Lab-in-a-Box will be a resource to excite school students, communities and teachers about experimental science. We will particularly target primary and intermediate age schools, as our research shows that this age is the tipping point for interest in science, but aim to keep the platform flexible. Students carrying out science projects, a demonstration of rocket propulsion, an iwi investigating river health, a U3A meeting on astronomy or a primary school looking at microscopic pond life. All these, and more, are the aim of Lab-in-a-Box.

With Lab-in-a-Box we will help everyone turn their hand to practical science, discover how science works and what scientists do. Using resources like the Science Learning Hub and the Science Media Centre we will showcase the diversity of science and scientists in New Zealand. We will use their stories to inspire people and communities to give science a go and see where it fits in their own lives.

We will work with rural communities that aren’t readily exposed to science or scientists, but who are custodians of our land and water. We will reach farmers and show them how science can inform their business. We will work with local businesses to help them make new connections and collaborations with science. We will work with students and teachers to show them how much fun it is to discover, detail, describe, develop and sometimes destroy things. Hands-on practical work can inspire people in a way that a theoretical explanation just can’t.

We also want to produce better scientists. Research tells us scientists who engage with a variety of audiences develop new ways of seeing their own work. We want to train scientists, help them communicate their work effectively and develop the confidence to bring science out of institutions and into the farms, forests, rivers and hills. We will showcase young scientists and help them tell the stories of science; what they do and why they are passionate about it. We will spark new collaborations, new proposals and new jobs.

We’re going to achieve this by taking science to the people, by providing them with a science space, equipped with what they need to conduct the investigations that they want to find the answers to. We’ll help, encourage, support, develop and prompt, but we intend communities and schools to use the lab the way they want. This is the power of Lab-in-a-Box.

0 Responses to “Lab in a Box”

  • What a fantastic idea. We would most definitely make use of you…but…I would imagine you wouldn’t even get out of the South Island you would be so much in demand. Perhaps your idea will be picked up by others up here in the North?
    Keryl Lee
    Makuri School
    “He iti te kopara ka rerere I te puhi o te kahikatea”
    Though the bellbird is small, it can reach the crown of the kahikitea.

  • We hope someone will pick up the idea in the North Island, otherwise the lab will fit on a ship! North Island and the Chatham’s here we come!

  • Wow, this is fantastic news! Well done. I’m part of a team (of two!) setting up a similar venture locally in Wellington. I’ll be in touch!