The Great NZ Science Fair!

By Siouxsie Wiles 05/06/2013 14


At the amazing Kiwifoo earlier this year, Richard Easther floated the idea of doing something to celebrate the great science that is going on in New Zealand. Roll on a few months and Shaun Hendy asks us if we would like to help organise next year’s New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) annual conference. Hell yes, we reply!

Over a lovely dinner last week, Richard, Shaun, Steven Galbraith and I started throwing ideas around and a big public celebration of New Zealand science came up again. So we’ve decided to give it a go. But in the spirit of open science we have decided against organising this event in the usual way. So instead of a small number of people deciding what everyone else gets to see/experience, we want your help to make a really inclusive celebration of NZ science.

What should the Great NZ Science Fair look like? Who should come? Where should we hold it? What should happen? Who should pay for it? Here are some thoughts to start you off:

A big event downtown, in the Aotea Centre, and sell tickets for a couple of hours’ worth of stunning short talks in the ASB Auditorium?
Would MoTAT be interested?
Science-themed Pecha Kucha evenings?
Amateur astronomers
DIY hovercraft
Makers and 3D printers
Tesla coils
Bacteria that glow in the dark
Sustainable energy
Computer games
Rube Goldberg machines
Kinetic art
Lasers
Robots
Robots and lasers in the same package
Ooblek
Earthquake engineering
Nanotech
Music and drama
A big name from overseas who can fill a big room?
Something you can walk around?
Or something you buy a ticket for?
Not just Auckland
Bring your science question, the doctor is in — for kids and for businesses
Citizen science
Science fiction and real science: can I build a Tardis?

So if you are a scientist who wants to share your passion with the public, get in touch.

If you are living in NZ and want to know what awesome science is going on here, get in touch.

If you have any ideas for how we could fund this celebration, get in touch.

Or you could just tell us it is a crazy idea and it was tried once before and will never work.

Send an email, leave a comment either here or over on Richard’s blog, tweet an idea (#nzscifair), volunteer, promise money, or sign up as a sponsor. And we’ll see what happens next!


14 Responses to “The Great NZ Science Fair!”

  • If I’m in town, include me in (volunteer, PechaKucha speaker, stats in media talk if you want one)

    The ‘big event’ sets of presentations would need good planning and rehearsal — with support from Radio NZ you could probably get an audience that justifies the ASB auditorium, but you’d only ever get one chance to get it right. I actually think the auditoriums at the UoA business school are nicer, but they don’t have the same ‘this is really public not academics just pretending’ air to them.

    Something I’ve long thought would be a nice demonstration of statistics, the power of experimentation, and liquid nitrogen (all good things) for a booth at some sort of science fair: empirically optimised icecream.

    Get a simple three-ingredient +LN2 icecream recipe, make batches of two sets of proportions, give them out, get preferences, use response-surface ANOVA or similar to propose new sets of proportions. Repeat.

    The actual ingredients aren’t all that expensive. What I don’t know is what the local food/hygiene regulations are like — compliance costs or red tape might be prohibitive.

  • Count me in if (a) I’m in the country and (b) there is anything I can usefully contribute 🙂

    One really cool idea to get people doing some science and meeting some scientists would be to organise a BioBlitz (http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/bioblitz) – basically an intensive biodiversity assesment on a park or a patch of bush. Could wrap it with talks undiscovered species in NZ, and even get people to prepare soil sample for DNA sequencing .

    Would be a big project, and rely on getting a lot of experts on board, but could be neat way to get people involved while doing outreach.

  • Not just Auckland – yes – Wellington too please.
    Citizen science is a great idea and very much in the spirit of open science.
    How about promoting science book groups? We already have several in Wellington; most people who belong are not hard out scientists, just interested members of the public. It’s a great way to increase sciency-ness.

  • A very good initiative.

    Last Wednesday I went along with my son’s school as parent helper to the Fonterra Science Roadshow. I have to confess that I had never even heard of this.

    http://www.roadshow.org/

    Frederik

    I forgot to add that the roadshow will be at MOTAT in the school holidays.

  • Happy to help if I can.
    I’d like to second Carol’s point, not just Auckland. What about a multi-centre event, using computer technology to link centres? Talks/events going on simultaneously in multiple centres, relayed to a different room in each centre and even streamed live to anyone who wants to tune in. This might provide the opportunity for big name people overseas to provide talks without the hassle of getting them here?
    Carol, I would love to hear more about science book groups.

  • Lots I could write, but no time right now. (Later, hopefully.)

    Just a pointer to two events already running in the meantime. Taking nothing away from what you’re proposing, just awareness of what’s out there.

    Note Dunedin has an International Science Festival. Not sure what is happening this year (only last year’s stuff up, perhaps it’s every second year now?)

    Otago has an annual Hands On Science “school” before each university year.

    There’s ScienceTellers coming up down South, which I’ll try give a shout-out up on my blog next week (or sometime soonish).

  • Just get something out while the original of this is held up in moderation (thought two links would get through, but seems it must be one), here’s my comment-in-waiting without links:

    Lots I could write, but no time right now. (Later, hopefully.)
    Just a pointer to two events already running in the meantime. Taking nothing away from what you’re proposing, just awareness of what’s out there.
    Note Dunedin has an International Science Festival. Not sure what is happening this year (only last year’s stuff up, perhaps it’s every second year now?)

    Otago has an annual Hands On Science “school” before each university year.

    There’s ScienceTellers coming up down South, which I’ll try give a shout-out up on my blog next week (or sometime soonish).

    • Thanks for all the comments and great ideas. I can’t quite remember when we were thinking of but will find out.

      Thanks Grant for the links. I believe the ISF is every two years. I’ve been keeping on eye on the ScienceTeller website.

      I love the idea of having talks broadcast to different centres around the country 🙂

      Keep those ideas comimg!

  • A colleague has just emailed a copy of the 1964 Wellington Science Fair programme.

    Does anyone know who might have copies of programmes from other Science Fairs over the years???

    PS – It had names form the past who worked here at the old DSIR. The 1970 Auckland Programme would be nice to have. Nod nod wink wink.