Attractions as diverse as a ‘why sharks matter’ competition, ‘the science of whisky’ and smashing a world record for firing potatoes at high speed with a spud bazooka, ensured the ninth New Zealand International Science Festival more than delivered on its promise to ‘leave boring behind’.
The festival featured innovative community events that helped celebrate science and cement the reputation of Dunedin as a city of learning and discovery. Visiting international and national guests, leading experts and students from the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Otago Museum and many other partner organisations led discussions, presentations and interactive workshops across the city, with four guests going on to give satellite events at Auckland Museum.
Over 120 events were staged during the festival, with 90 per cent of them being offered free. A large number of workshops designed to appeal to all age groups were held during the nine days of the festival. Popular events included Australian science-show performer Dr Graham Walker, supported by Cooke Howlison Toyota, and Dunedin’s sister city Edinburgh-based stunt scientist Tom Pringle – otherwise known as Dr Bunhead – supported by Mitre 10 MEGA, presenting his DIY family event and propulsion themed Blast Off show, to capacity crowds.
Beginning on Saturday, July 5, the festival culminated on Sunday, July 13 on the Dunedin waterfront with a marine science day – dubbed ‘fish and ships’ – led by the University of Otago. It included workshops, talks by experts including Malcolm Francis from NIWA and marine explorer Ryan Johnson, displays and hands-on activities for all ages.
Festival director Chris Green said that the 2014 festival was more diverse than ever before, with an impressive line-up of international science stars from around the globe creating a huge demand for both free and ticketed events.
“This year’s festival saw international scientists working with local scientists to deliver interactive presentations – from evening talks for students, families and adults, to hands-on events for kids, teenagers and young professionals – to hopefully inspire the next generation of young scientists.
“We’ve reached a wide range of audiences with an increased focus on teenagers, working with sponsors to create location- based events, and take science to the community, with demos in the Wall Street Mall, and kids’ workshops in libraries and other locations around the city,” Mr Green said.
Festival highlights included an evening on sustainability with Professor Terry Collins, billed as the world’s first ‘green’ chemistry lecturer, supported by the University of Otago and University of Auckland, Division of Sciences; presentations by UK science communicator and brain trauma victim James Piercy, supported by Otago Museum; and workshops and presentations by Kiwi expat Ryan Johnson, marine explorer, white shark scientist and National Geographic documentary filmmaker.
Alongside the ‘science of whisky’ and ‘great fermentations’ events for adults, the festival hosted popular workshops for kids, teens and families including a ‘science of sport’ night, ‘dining in the dark’, ‘fight like a physicist’, ‘anatomy of a crime scene investigations’, and a ‘learn about the heart’ session.
The festival was framed by a stand-out University of Otago Science Expo on the first weekend. A display of technology and design presented by Otago Polytechnic and a Bio Blitz event which provided a snapshot of life in Dunedin’s Botanic Garden and attempted to record as many living species as possible, took place over the final weekend.
Winners of the ‘Sharklab’14 ‘why sharks matter’ competition were Jessica Naidu (Years 1-6), Kyla Smith (Years 7-8) both from Liberton Christian School, Dunedin; Alexander McAdam and Hamish King (Years 9-13) and Kathy Richards (out of school) also both from Dunedin, winning GoPro equipment from Photo Warehouse. The judging panel consisted of white shark expert and festival guest Ryan Johnson; Damian Newell, More FM; Adelle O’Neill from the University of Otago Marine Science Department and Riley Hathaway (13 years) a TV presenter from Young Oceans Explorers. Winners’ entries can be found at: http://www.scifest.org.nz/competitions/sharklab-14/the-winners.
The 2014 New Zealand International Science Festival was sponsored by two major funding partners, the University of Otago and the Dunedin City Council.