Category Archives: Science Week

National Science Week grants for 2019

National Science Week grant round is open for 2019

The grant round for National Science Week 2019 is now open.

The total amount available is $500 000 and grant applications can be for $2000 to $20 000.

Projects need to be largely for general public audiences and be held in National Science Week (10 – 18 August 2019), or in the week immediately before or after.

Applications are open until 5.00pm AEDT (Canberra daylight saving time), Tuesday 20 November. We strongly encourage you to submit well before the cutoff time.

More information, guidelines and the online application form.

Winners of the Tasmanian Brain Break competition

The Tasmanian National Science Week Coordinating Committee is pleased to announce the winner of the 2018 Brain Break Tasmania photo competition. We asked everyone in the state holding a Brain Break morning or afternoon tea to submit pics of their best sciency baked goods for a chance to win a $100 voucher and some Science Week swag!

The panel of judges chose Albuera Street Primary School. This is what their organiser, Michelle, had to say: “At Albuera our Brain Break was a morning tea to thank our educators and support staff for all their hard work during National Science Week- at Albuera we value what showing gratitude does for wellbeing. Brain Break was a great opportunity for staff to celebrate all things science. One staff member made a cake which represented the workshops at our science fair. Can’t wait for next year!”

There were more entries to highlight, such as Chris at Scottsdale Library who took all of his grand kids to every single Library science week event, including Hour of Code and ‘Meet the Scientists’- a talk by local female scientists. Collegiate School had a Brain Break with a quiz, some logic puzzles and a space theme due a few of their students heading off to NASA at the end of the year. They also had periodic table cupcakes and said it “was fun to have people guess the element before they got to eat the cupcake”. Over at Fahan School, staff had a chemistry theme and also concocted some periodic table cupcakes. Felicty, the organiser, wrote: “…it was fun to hear their [staff’s] own memories of learning the periodic table from their own science classes.”

We hope to see even more fabulous Brain Break entries in 2019! Well done to all entrants!

So long and thanks for all the science

Science Week tear drop banners

National Science Week 2018 has officially come to an end. (But there are still plenty of opportunities to science – see The Science Never Ends blog post.)

What a fabulous celebration of science we’ve had over the past nine (plus) days! We will be collating the statistics and stories in the coming weeks, but we do know that there have been almost 2100 events, competitions and online activities in the event calendar, making National Science Week 2018 another HUGE festival!

Before we here in the national office sit down for a quiet cuppa and share all the amazing activities we’ve seen and stories we’ve heard, we’d like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank the many important people and organisations whose dedication and commitment make National Science Week so successful.

Firstly, we’d like to thank the National Science Week partners and sponsors who play a key role in ensuring the national reach of the festival:

  • The Australian Science Teachers Association, who have been instrumental in providing material and support to teachers across Australia to get their students and school communities involved in National Science Week;
  • CSIRO, who ran a number of events and outreach programs during August, as well as hosting our website this year;
  • the ABC, who not only ran this year’s citizen science project (Virtual Reef Diver), but also celebrated with a special suite of programs exploring the impact of science, innovation and technology on our daily lives; and
  • media sponsors Discovery Science, COSMOS, New Scientist, and Popular Science, whose support have been instrumental in spreading the word.

Secondly, a gigantic thank you goes to each of the state and territory organising committees and Inspiring Australia state/territory-based managers. Each volunteer committee is responsible for compiling a successful state/territory-wide festival, and it is no small effort. They do this through running local grant rounds, organising launch events and festivals, inviting interesting international speakers, and building the general excitement in local organisations, institutes and communities in the lead-up to August.

Through the course of the year, we work with some small businesses who help us to pull Science Week together:

  • Science in Public, our publicists who work closely with the organising committees to share the wonderful stories of science week;
  • Media Heads who are responsible for our ambassador interviews and tv community service announcements;
  • Bitcraft who build our website; and
  • Secret Labs who make the Science Week apps.

We are extremely grateful to all the scientists and researchers, including Nobel Laureates and Australians of the Year, who participate in events and share their knowledge, enthusiasm and insights with communities across Australia.

We’re so proud that the Governor General and some State Governors, the Prime Minister, several Cabinet Ministers, and many Members of Parliament and Senators, as well as State and Territory Ministers and Members of Parliament attended launches and events in their communities, and helped to spread the word. It is gratifying to have them support and honour the work of our scientists, researchers and science engagers in this way.

And last, but by no means least, we thank the thousands of amazing volunteers who collectively made National Science Week 2018 a truly amazing national festival. Science Week is a peak in STEM engagement activity across the year and would not be possible without this substantial grassroots dedication. We cannot thank you all enough for your passion and dedication.

Now it is time to put our feet up and take a moment to reflect on the achievements of Science Week 2018, before we turn our minds to creating new, exciting opportunities for 2019.

The Science Never Ends

bubbling dry ice

Today is the final day of National Science Week 2018. But don’t despair! That doesn’t mean that you have to stop sciencing! There are still loads of events happening around the country after today, and every other day too!
The Science Week website continues to list events that run throughout August, and beyond including:

  • Macrocosmia – Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, ACT
    Art and science meet in the work of glass artist Elizabeth Kelly. Macrocosmia is the result of her extensive research into microscopic organic structures. Until Saturday 25 August
  • Henry VR – Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, NSW
    Journey deep inside a Tudor painting to explore the hidden life of a king’s portrait, and the workshop of the artists who created it. Until Sunday 9 September
  • Robotics Digital Projection – Wagga Wagga, NSW
    The Riverina Science Festival’s 2018 digital projection is a celebration of all things robotic! This glorious animation from local artist Alice Peacock will celebrate emerging technologies highlighted throughout the festival, including drones, 3D printing, virtual reality and humanoid robots. Until Wednesday 5 September
  • Outback Water Project – Alice Springs, NT
    We encourage citizen scientists to collect water samples from central Australian waterholes via packs available at the Visitor Information Centre in Alice Springs whenever they’re out and about exploring central Australia in 2018. Throughout 2018
  • Pivot – Darwin, NT
    Welcome to a playground of semi-intelligent seesaws Until Sunday 26 August
  • Science-Art at the Extremes of Antarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean – Golden Grove, SA
    Science-Art photographic display on an expedition to Antarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean. See Australia’s only active volcano and the extremes of Australian territorial oceans. Celebrating a collaboration between an artist and a scientist from the Australian National University. Until Tuesday 11 September
  • Antarctic Interiors, Architecture and Ice – Battery Point, TAS
    A research exhibition exploring Antarctic architecture, interiority and the ice engaging with psychological, spatial and physical processes that characterise Antarctica. Until 28 September
  • Adventures Under Southern Skies – Mount Martha, VIC
    An exhibition of regional astronomy and sky photography by the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society in proud collaboration with PrimeSCI!, the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and Coolart Wetlands and Homestead. Until Sunday 26 August
  • @ltantis: A Science Fiction Radio Play Series – Murdoch, WA
    Written and directed by Stephen B. Platt as part of his PhD research examining Science Fiction in live performance, this radio play contains seven episodes, performed by an exceptionally talented cast. Until Thursday 4 October

Through the Inspiring Australia National Framework – Local Action approach, there is an Inspiring Australia Manager in each state and territory dedicated to encouraging communities to create, collaborate, curate and participate in public science engagement opportunities throughout the whole year. You can find contact details for the Inspiring Australia State and Territory Managers here.

This framework has also seen the development of Inspiring Australia regional science hubs dotted around the country that bring science engagement opportunities to their local community all year round, focusing on the fascinating science happening around the regions. (Again, contact the Inspiring Australia State and Territory Managers to find out more about what is happening in your region.)

Parents, teachers and students can also find events all year round at the STARPortal website. Launched in National Science Week 2017, the STARPortal is the go-to place for families and teachers to discover local STEM activities for the children in their lives and for providers to find partners for collaboration.

And don’t forget the online projects and competitions you can participate in, many from the comfort of your own home, including:

  • Virtual Reef Diver Citizen Science Project for National Science Week 2018
  • ANSTO’s new virtual reality (VR) app – now live within the App Store and Google Play for free download. For the first time ever, Australians can use the power of VR to take an amazing journey to the scale of an atom and go inside OPAL.
  • UNSW Bragg Student Science Writing Prize Write a short essay on ‘Technology and Tomorrow’ and you could win some fantastic prizes. Closes Tuesday 28 August
  • Presenting My Local Weather – Video Competition What’s the weather and climate like around you, and why does it change? The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) is running a national video competition! We invite school students to explore weather and climate in their local surroundings and present it in a (2 min max) video. Closes Friday 31 August
  • Geoscience Australia – 80 Days of Earth Discovery Join Geoscience Australia in exploring geoscience in all its diversity, the crucial role it plays solving the challenges of our nation and the people who make it all happen. Includes competitions and educational resources Until 20 October
  • Future Martians Podcast In this 12-episode series, Mars One astronaut candidates Josh Richards and Dianne McGrath speak with other candidates about the Mars One project, motivations for applying for a one-way mission to Mars, and what they are doing to become Future Martians.

These are just a snapshot of the many science events held year-round across the country. As National Science Week 2018 draws to a close, there’s no shortage of opportunities to keep you sciencing while you eagerly await Science Week 2019 to come around!

Governor General’s Rocket Design Challenge

GGs Rocket Design Challenge

As part of National Science Week celebrations, Questacon in conjunction with the Office of the Governor General launched the first ever Governor General’s Rocket Design Challenge.

Over 100 students from 28 different schools attended the event, taking part in a hands-on experiment that saw them designing, building and launching their own paper rockets. Teams competed on behalf of the Governor General and his wife Lady Cosgrove who launched the rockets in a thrilling finale.

The Canberra space sector community also played a major role in the day, with representatives from the University of New South Wales, Mount Stromlo Observatory, NASA Deep Space Complex, ANU Research School of Physics, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Geospatial Intelligence acting as facilitators at the event.

All in all, everyone had an amazing time learning about rockets and in particular, how to maximise flight distance. Although the day started quite windy, some teams managed to propel their rockets over 75 meters across Government House’s Eucalyptus lawn (some even came close to catching our drone!).

The winners of the challenge received a prize curated by Questacon along with a very special medallion from the Governor General. Participating schools also received their very own rocket activity kit so that experimentation can continue long after the event.

The event captured the essence of National Science Week; of making connections, celebrating science and learning, and encouraging the next generation of scientists.

During National Science Week, the team in the Science Week national office get out and about to see as many events as we can around the country, meet the dedicated teams behind the events, and be wowed by the creativity and passion that we see.

Science Poem of the Day #9

Today’s poem is from Law & Impulse: maths & chemistry poems, published by The Poets Union.

Tricia Dearborn

Making Pipettes

Rolling the hollow rod above the bunsen,
blue flame glowing orange where fire embraces glass,
turning it in the fingertips watching for something
almost ineffable, the particular shine that denotes
a particular malleability.

Then taking the rod from the flame
and in one swift motion stretching it,
six inches for a pipette (if making
capillary tubes, the full arms’ length
as if to say This far! to a sceptical crowd).

If attempted prematurely, it will force a sluggish length
that cramps up again too soon;
left too late and the rod’s slack belly
will droop into the fire, irreparably deviate.

Once the tube is cooled, take a file
and make a nick
at mid-point where you will snap it, rendering
two tiny mouths wide-open; fitting to the other end
a rubber bulb, a lung, to draw up some solution
that mustn’t touch the skin.

Patience, narrow observation and precision are required
to forge this least precise of measures.
A certain dramatic flair merely adds to the pleasure.

Take the plunge with Virtual Reef Diver


Each year National Science Week partners with the ABC and some of Australia’s talented researchers to create a national project that everyone around Australia, wherever their location, can participate in. The project involves real data collection that scientists need our help to gather through citizen science.

Over the years the projects have seen Australians doing all sorts of things such as monitoring their sleep habits, analysing historical ship records to help build an understanding of our changing weather, and identifying wildlife in images from automatic cameras in the wild.

This year we are celebrating the International Year of the Reef by asking Australians all over the country to help scientists identify areas of decreasing coral cover and other problem spots on the Great Barrier Reef, through our project Virtual Reef Diver.

The project was launched last week with interviews on ABC RN Breakfast, as well as an event at Queensland University of Technology’s The Cube with a discussion on the power of citizen science. At the 2018 Australian Citizen Science Conference in February Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel described his own three criteria of citizen science:

  • It has to be good science.
  • It has to be a door to science.
  • And it has to make the world a better place.

And according to these criteria, Virtual Reef Diver is the perfect citizen science catch!

It is providing scientists and reef managers with the important information they need to make critical decisions to ensure the Great Barrier Reef has a future. It allows all Australians around the country to dive into the beautiful waters, explore the reef and learn about the science involved in observing, classifying, modelling and predicting the future of the largest living thing on Earth! And that can only improve our understanding and care for our incredible natural world.

“The response we’ve had from citizen scientists has been amazing,” says spatial scientist and project leader Dr Erin Peterson from Queensland University of Technology. “We’re taking their classification data and feeding it into our scientific models of the Reef, to better understand issues like changes in coral cover across the Reef.”

So what is involved in taking part? Simply dive online and you’ll be shown underwater images of the Reef. Using the simple classifying tool, you are asked to identify whether there is coral, algae or sand etc at different spots in the images. It’s simple and fun to do – and by participating you could win a GoPro camera. You get more competition entries the more images you complete!

In a later phase of the project, divers and snorkelers will be able to submit their own underwater images taken on trips to the Great Barrier Reef, which will be made available for everyone to classify online.

And what incredible success we have seen so far with this Science Week project! Since the Virtual Reef Diver website went live we have had so much science-ing!

Total activity so far:

  • 176.1K images
  • 2.6 million data points
  • 2344 days

(data as of 12.30pm Saturday 18/8)

The project has been attracting some diverse attention, with interviews and promotions at the Brisbane Broncos NRL match in Brisbane this week, and ABC Science producing a Reef Diver video in Chinese!

A huge thank you to all involved. The project has seen a fantastic collaboration across numerous partners throughout our Australian scientific and community networks – check out the website to see everyone on-board. And there have been many reef and marine themed Science Week events providing hands-on as well as virtual opportunities to get involved.

And a fabulous well done to all you citizen scientists out there – awesome work! Keep identifying and clocking up the data points – remember the more images you do, the more competition entries you get. The competition closes on 31 August 2018, but please keep on classifying to your heart’s (and the reef’s) content.

So spread the word and get your friends, family, neighbours and workmates all taking the plunge with #VirtualReefDiver and participating in some citizen science that really will help the future of our Great Barrier Reef.

Photo courtesy of The Ocean Agency

Science Poem of the Day #8

Today’s poem is from Earthly Matters: biology & geology poems, published by The Poets Union.

Michael Sharkey

And So Good Night

Curious right to the end, Lavoisier
ordered a friend to make sure to look close at his eyes
when the blade had just severed his head.

He told him he’d blink if he had any consciousness left.
Doctor Guillotine’s engine was quick,
and the head fell at once to the deck:

nothing there for the friend.
But it seems the story’s a myth,
circulated long after the death of the man who discovered

that air is a mix of the gases he named.
No, politics got him at length – that and shock
and the lack of O2.

The last thing he did with his eyes
was to stare at the basket, not blink: blinking
calls things into play that a corpse doesn’t have:

muscles working as well as the brain.
Who’s surprised that he stared? John the Baptist,
in similar straits, was just meat on a plate.

Like Lavoisier, he’d said enough to get into that state
and who can say what he’d have blinked?
Nothing we read says he turned to Salome, and winked.

Jam-Packed Final Weekend

SciWeek banner at TMAG

How was your sciencing this week? Still want more?

Well, you’re in luck – because the final weekend of National Science Week 2018 is jam-packed with exciting events to experience, soak up and enjoy!

Whatever style you are after – family outing, workshop, music performance, movie night – National Science Week has you covered. Art, chemistry, beer, history, theatre, gaming and much-much more. You name it – we’ve got it!

Here’s a quick look at some of the events being held around Australia this final weekend, but do check here for more.

Mission to Space – Woden
Join us as we explore basic concepts of space exploration and build our own LEGO® International Space Station! For children aged 7 and over. 3:30-5pm, Friday 17 August

The Art and Chemistry of Egyptian Mummification – Bruce
This public lecture discusses in detail how ancient Egyptians used chemistry to preserve their dead in a unique mummification way. 12-2pm Saturday 18 August

Game Plus Fest – Watson
This special edition of Game Plus Fest is a celebration of game changers, change makers, and game makers through STEM stalls and talks. We’re combining with the AIE Open Day to bring you more! Discover STEM, games, gamification, VR, AR and more – even learn how to make games yourself! 10am-4pm Sunday 19 August

Astronomy in the Park– Centennial Park
Escape city light pollution and join local astrophysicists and astronomers at our annual stargazing event in the heart of Centennial Park. 5-7pm Friday 17 August

SCINEMA International Film Festival – Coffs Harbour
Join us, during National Science Week, for the largest science film festival in the southern hemisphere, the SCINEMA International Science Film Festival presented by Australia’s Science Channel, RiAus. 5-9pm Friday 17 August

Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival – Callaghan
Mini EV Prize Saturday 18 August 2018 at the University of Newcastle Callaghan Campus .The University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Science will be hosting the 2018 Mini EV Prize in conjunction with ‘Science in Practice – Developing our World’ during National Science Week. 8am-4:30pm Saturday 18 August

Citizen Science: Ocean Science and Virtual Microbes – Sydney
Hear about the latest UTS citizen science project from UTS Professors Martina Doblin, Kate Sweetapple, Dr Jacquie Lorber-Kasunic and Nancy Longnecker (University of Otago), and find out how you or your school can get involved. 2-3pm Sunday 19 August

HealthLAB at Nhulunbuy Shops (Woolworths) – Nhulunbuy
HealthLAB will bring modern technology to Nhulunbuy to show the public what’s under their skin and give them an opportunity to take and understand their own health measurements. This includes measurements of smoke exposure, upper and lower muscle strength, fat vs muscle percentage and more. 10am-2pm Friday 17 August

Solar Power Workshop – Casuarina Library
This National Science Week we are exploring renewable energies and technology with a hands on workshop. Learn about solar power and electronics through a fun and interactive project. 3:30-4:30pm Friday 17 August

Marine Science in the NT – Casuarina
Join the NT branch of the Australian Marine Sciences Association to learn about marine science happening around the NT and other parts of Australia. 9am-5pm Saturday 18 August

Fiftysix Creations in Mount Isa – Mount Isa Library
Taj Pabari, 2017 Young Australian of the Year for Queensland and the Fiftysix Creations Family will share their ideas and solutions for future-proofing the next generation of creative young people. 6-7:30pm Friday 17 August

Electric Car Rally – North Ipswich
Showcasing electric vehicles from past and present with over 10 exhibitors, expert talks and workshops. See what the future holds in electric vehicle technology. 10am-2pm Saturday 18 August

Virtual Reality Reefs – Winton
Many million years ago the QLD outback was covered by ocean and many marine fossils have been found. At present, Australia’s Jewel the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure. Visit our interactive display with quizzes, Virtual Reality headsets and real corals and learn more about how you can help! 10am-12pm Sunday 19 August

Marine Science in the Brewery – Beers and Oyster Reefs – Minlaton
Marine Science in the Brewery – Beers and Oyster Reefs is 4.30pm, Friday 17 August at the Watsacowie Brewing Company, Minlaton. Enjoy an oyster tasting whilst learning about the Windara Reef, oyster aquaculture and cultural sea country. Free for all ages. Numbers capped. 4:30-6:30pm Friday 17 August

Science in Action: From how to bounce raw eggs to extracting human DNA – Adelaide
The hands-on presentations will demonstrate how science is used in forensic cases to solve crimes. 10:30-11:15am Saturday 18 August

Brain Food – Adelaide
Join us for “Brain Food,” a National Science Week event held at the University of Adelaide, to learn more about how the human brain works and the neuroscience research going on in Adelaide, while enjoying a bit to eat from some delicious local food trucks. 3:30-5:30pm Sunday 19 August

Interactive Citizen Science Workshops: deciphering the warnings of our sentinel seabirds – Newnham
Globally, seabirds are among the fastest declining bird groups, with many impacted by plastics. Our local seabirds act as sentinels for the extent of plastic pollution. Join IMAS scientists for an interactive workshop on this topic as we explore the ingestion of plastics in Tasmanian Silver Gulls. 9am-5pm Friday 17 August

Festival of Bright Ideas – Hobart
The 2018 Festival of Bright Ideas is exploding with science for all your senses. See, hear and feel what’s happening in science in Tasmania through innovation, research and technology – plus you’ll discover science alive in some of the most unexpected places! 10am-5pm Saturday 18 August

The Climate Science Show – Penguin
Anton Kole will demonstrate five amazingly simple, yet spectacular and at times breath-taking, live experiments that will show before people’s very own eyes, how greenhouse gases are changing our climate. If anyone has ever wondered how our climate is changing, then this is a show not to be missed. 2-3pm Sunday 19 August

Textual Data Sonification and Algorithmic Composition Competition Performance – Melbourne
The Textual Data Sonification and Algorithmic Composition Competition challenges participants to write computer programs that take any text as input, and generate sheet music that can be performed by an a cappella vocal quartet (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). 6-9:30pm Friday 17 August

Public Outreach Astronomy: Nangiloc-Colignan – Nangiloc
Experience the wonders of heavens above with our mobile astronomical observatory, Southern Cross Outreach Observatory Project (SCOOP) at Nangiloc-Colignan District Primary School in Nangiloc. 1:30-9:30pm Sunday 19 August

The Giants of Palaeontology – Carlton
Dr Erich Fitzgerald and Dr Tom Rich, Senior Curators of Vertebrate Palaeontology at Museums Victoria, will talk about the biggest animals that ever lived, and the biggest list of volunteers on a dinosaur dig! 2-3pm Sunday 19 August

Bushland Wonders – Bedfordale
Celebrate the science of your local bushland at a school expo on Friday and community expo on Saturday. 10am-3pm, Friday 17 and Saturday 18 August

Antarctica VR Sneak Peak – Claremont
Get a sneak peak of this VR experience where you’ll spend a day in the life of an Antarctic explorer. See the work that goes into understanding climate change, managing eco-systems and conserving wildlife. 10am-4pm Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August

Point Moore Lighthouse Open Day – Geraldton
Celebrate International Lighthouse Lightship weekend with a visit inside the iconic Pt Moore Lighthouse and interactive presentations and displays on coast safety, conservation and more. 10:30am-1:30pm Sunday 19 August

Science Poem of the Day #7

Today’s poem is from Holding Patterns: physics & engineering poems, published by The Poets Union.

Magdalena Ball

Six Flavours of Quark

Up, down
strange, charmed
bottom and top,
that’s the six.
You know them; mapped them; found them when no one
else even thought to look.

I see them lined in pretty rows
well, not see as such
too small to see
but it’s almost like seeing.

The sweet reds; sticky greens; cooling blues.
like Italian ices I would lick
as a kid
tongue stained to match.

Their imaginary flavours
conjure childhood
goggle eyed
against something entirely new
unfathomably rich
impossibly sophisticated.

There’s something decadent
in being given a choice
something sexy, even
in giving a mundane, elementary particle
such sensual connotations.