By Peter Griffin 22/06/2016

We are less than a month out from the New Zealand International Science Festival, the biennial showcase of events, lectures, art and people that sees Dunedin become science-central for a full week.

The festival runs July 8- 16. This year’s line-up looks particularly good.

I’ll be heading down myself and am particularly looking forward to hosting a panel discussion on concussion and brain damage featuring former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons,  Prof. Damian Bailey from the University of Wales and Prof. John Sullivan from the University of Otago.

Former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons
Former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons

Concussion among rugby players was the focus of a major New Zealand Herald investigation earlier in the year which looked at a Ranfurly Shield-winning rugby team from 1964 that has seen five former players diagnosed with dementia. This would be well above the average across the population, but it is anecdotal information. How clear is the link between concussion on the field and dementia later in life?

That’s a complex and controversial topic, but one that New Zealand Rugby is taking seriously. This month it partnered with Statistics New Zealand to scrutinize the data and determine if there’s a strong correlation and causative effect.

Elsewhere, there are some great international guests heading down for the festival.

Albert Manero is the founder of a non-profit organisation devoted to gifting personalised bionic limbs to children in need.

A doctoral student in mechanical engineering at the University of Central Florida, he started Limbitless Solutions – a volunteer-driven organisation of engineers and developers of 3D bionic arms – as a solution to high cost artificial limbs. The organisation, which believes no child should be prevented access to a bionic limb – takes 3D printing to a new level by creating personalised bionic limbs. Its first arm cost less than $350 in materials – much cheaper than the $40,000 price tag of some prosthetics.

Submarine designer Lucy Collins
Submarine designer Lucy Collins

Lucy Collins, naval architect for the UK’s Ministry of Defence and a specialist in submarine design will also be in Dunedin.

Says Collins: “I’m a Naval Architect, an engineer who designs, builds and maintains anything that floats. The maritime environment is critical to our society – 90% of all world trade is transported by sea for example – so ship design is really important.”

Check out the full festival line-up.

Dunedin is a great town but if you are planning on heading down for the festival, book flights and accommodation soon, as prices, particularly for flights, will escalate quickly.