Funding boost for New South Wales STEM engagement

  • by National Office
  • 12 May, 2021
Funding boost for New South Wales STEM engagement

From Cowra and Springwood to Merimbula and Wollongong, community members across New South Wales will have a range of exciting new opportunities to connect with scientists in all kinds of ways, both during National Science Week from 14-22 August and throughout the year.

Inspiring Australia NSW’s annual science engagement funding round will support the delivery of dozens of community events, continuing a strategic approach to extending networks in order to increase public awareness of the critical role science and technology plays in our lives.

Since 2012, the NSW Government has supported the Inspiring Australia program that seeks to develop influential networks and connect science and engineering researchers to big audiences.

NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said that it was important that community members across the state are informed about the rapidly changing science, technology and innovation landscape.

“Scientific breakthroughs are accelerating faster than ever as urgent global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and food security continue to place enormous pressure on governments and citizens around the world,” he said.

“Australian scientists are at the forefront of new knowledge that can help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems and it is vital that the broader community understands why we must invest in and sustain a vibrant research culture and encourage more young people into STEM careers.”

Professor Durrant-Whyte said that by ensuring widespread community access to scientists, often in a recreational and family-friendly context, community members across New South Wales will be better informed about scientific research and the process of investigating critical challenges.

“As we make an effort to increase scientific literacy, people are able to make better decisions about issues that affect their lives and understand the importance of seeking evidence-based information,” Professor Durrant-Whyte said.

“Fostering lasting networks and supporting hundreds of community partners to deliver quality science public engagement experiences to a broad public is no mean feat. I commend all those who work with Inspiring Australia NSW in its collaborative approach to promoting our brilliant NSW scientific researchers and engineers and ensuring more people are aware of their achievements.”

NSW National Science Week 2021 grant recipients

Sydney Science Trail

Following from its success in delivering a collaborative, citywide, virtual program in 2020, Inspiring Australia NSW will support Sydney Science Trail, a free, four-day science festival presented both online and across two sites, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and the Australian Museum. 

Over two weekends, visitors 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 for the general public exploring the theme “Food: Different by Design.” 

A collaboration between Australia’s two oldest science institutions, the Trail will demonstrate their mutual vision for sharing science with the community and celebrating Australia’s role in advancing the world’s science and research knowledge. 

Featuring an extensive education component involving Australian research institutions and universities, the Trail’s onsite schools’ program will incorporate an Expo, entertaining science shows, and primary and secondary school workshops offered across the two host sites.

A key goal of Sydney Science Trail is to bring science alive in meaningful and accessible ways for the whole community: whether through learning about the importance of diversity within our ecosystems and the impacts of climate change on our lifestyles, or by understanding the overall relevance of science and innovation in securing our future – all the while, reflecting on the value of shared cultural and traditional wisdom within these spheres.

National Science Week at UNSW

UNSW will deliver an extensive program curated by the Centre for Ideas and the Museum of Human Disease with the aim of attracting and inspiring young audiences. Among its suite of innovative live and digital, interactive events will be surprising and exciting experiences that showcase scientists from a diversity of disciplines, career stages and backgrounds.

With a focus on outstanding women in science, the 2021 UNSW National Science Week program will feature outstanding Australian scientists showcasing their research achievements, ideas and discoveries. Highlights will include a conversation with an inspiring ocean defender, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, joined by leading Australian marine biologists in a conversation about the future of the oceans in the age of climate change and how women leaders are working for climate action.

In another high-profile panel discussion about Leadership in Action, science policy leaders will join a conversation with UNSW Science Dean Professor Emma Johnston. At the Australian Museum, UNSW will present an evening of entertaining talks about the science of sex featuring evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks with the host of ABC JJJ’s The Hook Up, Nat Tencic.

On UNSW’s Kensington campus, the Museum of Human Disease will present a range of programs targeting both students and the broader community, including a panel discussion that highlights how travel through the ages has moved disease and medicine, an improvised musical performance using pacemaker data and heartbeat recordings and the launch of an innovative app-based Cancer Counselling game.

Hunter Science Festival

Hunter Innovation and Science Hub will focus its 2021 National Science Week celebrations on the theme “Pollination Produces our Food.” Community members will gain greater awareness of the importance of pollinators such as bees and other insects to modern society through interactive displays, lectures, demonstrations, site visits and a Festival, with activities presented at Newcastle Museum, Maitland Regional Museum, Lake Macquarie City Council Galleries and the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens.

Other highlights will include a project to map the population of suburban hives and Pollination in the Gardens, a two-week series of interactive exhibits and experiments developed and presented with the Hunter Valley Amateur Beekeepers Association.

The Children’s University will also co-create hands-on STEAM bee activities with local artists and Maitland Regional Museum will present activities including a beekeeper talk on bees’ lifecycle, types, food & honey and the presentation of a “Design in honey” production display.

Out of this World in Wollongong

In the Illawarra region, community members will get a chance to go out of this world at Science Space during an evening that will celebrate STEM with astronomy. ANSTO’s Dr Helen Maynard-Casley 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.

Explore Science Space after dark and its hands-on interactive exhibits that cover all aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and visit the Science Space gardens where the Illawarra Astronomical Society will set up their telescopes.

Sapphire Coast Science Festival

The Sapphire Coast Science Festival returns to the Far South Coast of NSW with three main components planned for 2021. A Festival Maker Space will be hosted by Bega Valley Shire Council in partnership with 2pi Software at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, where Science Hub members will also present displays and activities. Key Maker Space events and member displays will be livestreamed, bring 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.

Innovation workshops in Ballina

In the Northern Rivers region, the Australian School of Entrepreneurship will deliver three engaging workshops over two days for young people aged 8 to 21 in Ballina. Each workshop will provide young adults with a real-world opportunity to learn about innovation in the technology sector along with a chance to identify a local food sustainability problem and brainstorm a solution to solve it.

Devonian billabong in the Central West

In the NSW Central West, the Orange Cowra Cabonne Science Hub will invite communities in Canowindra and beyond to imagine a world ruled by fish!

Long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the mighty rivers of the Central West teemed with bizarre ancient fishes – armoured fishes, fishes with lungs, and some huge predators with jaws like crocodiles. Thousands of their fossils were found at Canowindra and provide a unique glimpse into life during the Devonian Period.

This event series will be held both face to face and online and will bring local archaeologists together with animation and scientific illustration enthusiasts of all ages to work with artists Todd Fuller and Angus Fisher. Together they will create individual fish and habitats, including a giant, interspecies billabong. Community members will also visit the celebrated Age of Fishes Museum.

A Plague Ball in Dungog

Community members in the Dungog region will be invited to celebrate STEAM with a twist as the Paterson Allyn Williams Science Hub presents a masked ball on the theme of “The Plague”. Guests will be encouraged to create costumes that interpret viruses, contagion and pandemics and the celebrations will be proceeded by conversations, animations and musical performances that explore these topics.

Other events planned for the first week of National Science Week will include micro-chats, science in the street and a science trivia night held in a popular local pub.

Science on the North side

The Northern Sydney Science Hub will present a series of events including panel talks and discussions with researchers from the National Measurement Institute and Macquarie University and community discussions on the Northern Beaches, including with Kristyn Glanville and representatives of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

A highlight will be an 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.

Science in the Wild in Macarthur

The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan will present Science in the Wild, an outdoor family day that gives children and their parents the opportunity to learn about science in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. The 2021 theme will be ‘Future Food!’ in recognition of the United Nations International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

The Garden will be filled to the brim with activities, demonstrations, games and shows celebrating science, food and sustainability in one big day of fun. Vegetables, seeds, slime, rainforests, bees, recycling, reptiles, Australian bush-foods, 3D printing, plant-based meats, flowers, fruits and fossils will be just some of topics on show.

Visitors will be invited to dress up in their favourite food and science-themed outfits and there will be prizes for best-dressed.

The STEAM Room

Praxical & Stand-Out Comedy will present The STEAM Room, a science, tech, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) 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.

Partnering with established comedy room, Stand-Out Comedy, this event will bring together scientists, performers and you in a night of STEAM(y) excitement. 

Fostering STEM inquiry in the early years

Little Scientists will present a series of webinars for grown-ups entitled Inspire STEM to introduce  STEM exploration and inquiry-based learning to parents, carers and other community members working with children. With a focus on practical STEM elements, the webinars will also provide an opportunity to network, collaborate and reflect on implementation in practice.

A number of virtual STEM literacy incursions will offer children an opportunity to get up on their feet and conduct small explorations and fun activities, from measuring how loud a carrot and other vegetables crunch to investigating whether we can taste the difference in fruits of various colours.

Celebrating 70 years of the NSW Science Teachers Association

Inspiring Australia NSW will support the participation of regional teachers so they can attend the Science Teachers Association of NSW’s 70th Anniversary celebrations –  7 Decades in 7 Days

Seven celebratory events will be open to everyone and include panel discussions on significant scientific advancements, a family fun day at Taronga Zoo and a 70s Dinner Party at the Australian Museum with Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley.

Year-round science engagement funding

Five NSW Regional Science Hubs have received funding towards continuing their year-round engagement programs delivered in partnership with enthusiastic scientists and sparking lasting action that ripples through communities.

Hunter Innovation and Science Hub

Spanning events held in Singleton, Newcastle and Maitland and coinciding with a number of community festivals, young scientists will be invited to share their personal journeys to a life of science. Each of these enthusiastic speakers have made their mark as authors, artists, conservationists and entrepreneurs.

  • Bee Business: Dani Lloyd-Prichard, expert in bees, will present “Honey, Bees & Pollination”
  • Tara Berthold will recount her work in Kenya where Bee Fences are used to protect crops from raiding elephants
  • Dr Emma Grace will discuss the highly successful Flow Hive company which has developed world wide recognition for its revolutionary self-tapping bee hive. 
  • Fungi Business: Todd Elliott, a world expert on fungi and now a PhD student at UNE, will enthuse with his passion for fungi
  • Heidi Prichard will describe her journey to fungi through her recent studies in UON
  • Maree Elliott will speak of her interest in Natural History Illustration that led to a love of fungi.
  • Putting it on Paper: Successful authors Sami Bayly (An encyclopedia of Ugly Animals); Lynda McPherson (Native Terrestrial Orchids of the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens) and Dr Patrice Newell (Who’s Minding the Farm?: In This Climate Emergency) will inspire with their steadfast journeys to publication.
  • Stepping into Science: Honours student Kiara Harrison will take us into the latest research into human infertility;
  • Harry Callen will describe the journey from lectures into the fieldwork of environmental engineering
  • Willow Forsythe will let us know what it is like to undertake a PhD in flood mitigation awareness.
  • Through the Looking Glass:  Futurist and all-round expert Dr Gary Ellem will join conservation biologist Prof Matt Hayward to look into the future of our planet and our biosphere.

Science at the Local

In the Blue Mountains, Science at the Local will deliver a series of four webinars in the first half of 2021 as venues return to pre-Covid activity. Later in the year, the popular Sunday series will again bringing community members and scientists together at a local venue to talk about science. Each event will feature two leading scientists giving presentations on a wide variety of topics.

In 2021 to reignite the interest and aptitude for science among young people, Science at the Local proposes a new Future Scientists Award to highlight the work of young people and connect their work as ‘young scientists’ to the larger pursuit of science around the state.

In addition, Science at the Local will produce its YouTube & Podcast Series (4 videos + 2-5 podcasts) and partner with the local Blue Mountains Gazette to produce several pieces related to current scientific research.

Northern Rivers Science Hub

The Northern Rivers Science Hub will present a huge number of events between now and December 2021. There will be a series of three Science in the Pub events on the topics of: Camphor Conversion, Big Scrub Voices, Science of songbirds. A Pocket Forest Planting and community learning event will be held at the Dorrroughby Environment Education Centre.

Richmond Tweed Regional Library will present a new science engagement program comprising three events, including on the topics of Backyard Butterflies and Bees and public presentations targeting aged care facilities and the region’s home-schooling community.  There will be an Indigenous astronomy and lunar and planetary viewing held at the Lismore Quad during National Science Week and the Lismore Conservatorium will again present its popular Science of Sound evening presentation.

Other major events supported by the Science Hub include Big Scrub Rainforest Day 14-17, two climate science awareness raising events held as part of the Rising Strong Project Collaboration, four Landcare events aimed at increasing understanding of climate science. There will also be in-field walks and demonstrations presented in Tweed, Byron, Lismore and Kyogle local government areas.

North West New England Science Hub

In the New England region, the New England North West Science Hub will present its popular Science in the Club series held at the Wicklow Hotel every 3 months with 2021 topics including physics and astronomy, psychology and mental health, technology and agriculture.

Each event includes talks by local scientists and other invited experts, trivia and prizes, and is live-streamed with videos shared later to watch on demand.

To celebrate National Science Week in August, there will be a free science trivia night, based on the 2021 theme of Food: Different by Design. Each round will be accompanied by a relevant science demonstration or some fun science facts presented by local experts – with teams in the running to win some exciting science-themed prizes, and to take out the title of being the regions brightest scientific minds.

A new initiative – I’m a scientist – ask me anything! – will community members to engage directly with local scientists  at local markets to have all their burning questions answered – helping to break down barriers between the scientific community and general audiences, and improve scientific literacy in the region. They will also be able to drop questions into a question box in various local businesses or via schools, to be answered by scientists later. These questions and answers will be promoted to the local media, will be published online and shared via social media, creating a repository of scientific information that can be visited by enquiring minds.

As well as answering questions, scientific experts will model how to find reliable information and how to distinguish, in the vast amount of information we have at our fingertips, the science truths from the science fictions.

Paterson Allyn Williams Science Hub

With six science-based engagement events planned for 2021, the Paterson Allyn Williams Science Hub looks forward to engaging the community with science.

Among events planned are:

  • a Flying Foxes field day
  • lueprints for Local FButures, a community discussion with presentations from invited guests from the organisations ‘Beyond Zero Emissions’ and ‘1 Million Women’
  • a workshop on recording biodiversity and contributing to science to extend the tips and techniques of recording biodiversity and using citizen science apps including iNaturalist
  • an Environmental Documentary Community Screening ‘The Price of Activism’ + Q&A at the historic James Theatre, including presentations from Tim Silverwood, Prof Glenn Albrecht and scientists in the film.
  • a Field Day to engage with the natural history of the Dungog Common
  • a birdwatching breakfast looking at Bird Song and what aural cacophony can tell us about our environment with biologist Tim Low, the well-known author of ‘Where Song Began’.

In collaboration with Tabbil Forest Projects, there will be an opportunity for community members to learn about rainforest vegetation communities in the Hunter Region with activities led by plant scientists.

The Science Hub is also is negotiating with the Australian Museum to document and collect roadkill, bird strikes and other found dead native fauna for science, with a dedicated freezer to contain the dead fauna planned for Dungog.

Guest post by Inspiring NSW.

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