Young scientists tell it their way

By Aimee Whitcroft 18/10/2011

UPDATE: I got the venue wrong: it Memorial Theatre, Kelburn Campus, Wellington 🙂

More on communication! Last night saw the first of two final Tell Us A Story events in Wellington.

tuas nerdnite
nerd nite Wellington and Tell Us A Story come together

Tell Us A Story is a VUW initiative encouraging postgraduate (read: young) science/engineering students to communicate with the public in an emotionally engaging way.  To tell their stories, not as they would at a conference or presenting a paper, but rather as they might talk about their passion with their friends and families.  And colleagues 🙂

These young storytellers could explain how they came to study their subject, or lessons learned from it.  They could talk about their origins, their current situation, or their plans for the future. They could even tell the story of the beastie (for example) which they study, as an anthropomorphic tale of life and love.

It’s all quite a cool idea.

Some 20 or so young students have battled through a number of heats, until only the top 10 remained.  Last night the public got see the top 10 finalists at nerd nite, an event* which seeks to showcase people talking about their passions, no matter how geeky/nerdy.  And my, was the venue packed – we must have had over 100 people crammed into Club Ivy, eager to hear not only what the young speakers were to talk about, but also what organisers Elf Eldridge**  and Elizabeth Connor might get up to, too.

I laughed a lot at Alex Barkers talk on electric shocks (while my friends and I mouthed ‘Safety Third!’ at each other), and was quite enchanted by Alexis Garland’s talk about the birds with which she communes. And, given that I live in Wellington, Laura McKim’s talk on active transport definitely struck a chord!

But all of them are lovely, really – there’s a great mix of earnest and fun-loving, moving and humorous, world-changing and world-understanding.  And sure, they’re not perfectly accomplished TED-like public speakers – not yet, at any rate – but I’m enormously encouraged to see young people, _in the field_, learning to communicate their work.  This is A Good Thing, and to be encouraged at every turn.

And it’s all going to happen again this Thursday up at Rutherford House Memorial Theatre, Kelburn Campus.

At each event, the audience is asked to vote for their top three, and the results will be pooled and final winners announced on Thursday.  And no!  I’m absolutely not going to say who won last night’s 😛

If you missed last night, videos will go up shortly on the nerdnite Vimeo channel, and, of course, you can attend on Thursday night, too.  It’s free!  And awesome.

Speakers for the night:

Alex Barker: My all time top 5 electric shocks

Fabain Westermann: War of the worlds

Alexis Garland: Bird talk

Laura McKim: Active transport

Tapu Vea: From the hood

Paul Mensink: The life of a fish

Anne Wietheger: An epiphany and a happy end

Kerry Charles: No child left outside

juan Rada-Vilela: Artificial intellegence

Azeem Muhammed: The story of Daniel Morely


* Organised by me, yes.  For over a year now.  It’s the only one in the Southern Hemisphere 😛  Go Wellington!

** My TOSP co-host

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