Science in Another Frame: An Evening Where Science and Art Meet.

Science in Another Frame: An Evening Where Science and Art Meet.


Canberra’s artists, scientists and enthusiasts of both swapped perspectives for an evening of interdisciplinary discussion at The Science Hidden in Art event, held at ANU in May.

Over 100 attendees with scientific and artistic interests were treated to an evening of interactive discussion at the ANU Acton campus in a student led event.

Enthusiastic guests actively engaged in discussion about art and science with one guest commenting,

“I like that there were artists and scientists talking about disciplines outside what they usually would – it was good to see that connection.”

 Speakers included Dr Tim Brooks, an ANU lecturer in both Visual Arts, Engineering and Computer Science who spoke about Markov Chains in Visual Arts and Dr Mark Edwards who spoke about Visual illusions from his background in Engineering and Psychology. Professor Paul Francis, another guest speaker, is an ANU Astrophysicist interested in the colours and sounds of the universe.


Other speakers included Jessica Herrington, an ANU Masters student studying visual neuroscience interested in ‘image texture’ – how the brain process different images, as well as Erica Seccombe, a visual artist who has worked with the ANU Department of Mathematics since 2006 creating stereoscopic projection installations from ‘volumetric data’.

Students from ANU’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science ran the event using a grant from Inspiring Australia which they affirmed added to the success of the evening providing catering and other supplies needed to make the event a hit.


Patrons praised the informal structure of the event,

Discussion between speakers and audience was facilitated by food and ample space, lowering barriers between audience members and speakers”.

This event was part of student’s assessment for the semester, as they are required to learn practical skills in communicating science including event management where they take science to the general public.

Invention Convention CBRIN Networking Night

Invention Convention CBRIN Networking Night


Inspiring Australia ACT is continuing to develop our networks to increase connections between STEM and entrepreneurship. Back in January, we partnered with Questacon’s National Invention Convention, to introduce 24 young inventors from around Australia to the concept of networking.

The Invention Convention is an opportunity for 14-18 year olds from around the country to really explore STEM and innovation. They run National and regional workshops where students can work with techsperts from Questacon and innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs to turn ideas into reality.

At the National workshop in January, we helped bring entrepreneurs together with the young inventors for a Networking Night at CBRIN. The students had a session before hand on what networking is, why it is important and how the evening would run. When they arrived at CBRIN, they got a guided tour of our program and coworking spaces.


Then, down to the business at hand! Meeting strangers and telling them about yourself and your project! Most of the kids (14-18 year olds, remember) were very nervous. This can be a difficult thing for adults to engage in, so they did very well in engaging in the exercise. We set up the room so that each student (or sometimes pairs of students) got to meet with real-life, actual entrepreneurs who were running their businesses in Canberra. They got to explain what project they were working on and the entrepreneurs had tokens representing money, other resources (including time, access to space or technology) or referrals that they were able to distribute to the students (they were representative, not real!). The students in return were encouraged to pass on their email details to the entrepreneurs, and some contact was made after the event! A bell rang and everyone moved on to the next entrepreneur.


Food and (soft) drinks were served, and the students learned the difficult real-world issue of juggling food, a glass of drink and talking, without spillage!


The evening was a big success, if the reluctance of both the students and entrepreneurs to leave their conversations was any guide! Many of the students indicated that once they got over their initial nerves, they were really interested in hearing and talking to the entrepreneurs to get hints, tips and maybe even some future leads and investments in their ideas! The entrepreneurs reported that they were very impressed with the innovative ideas that these young people had created!


We will definitely run another networking night at next year’s Invention Convention! Meanwhile, applications are open for both Regional and National workshops in 2016 and 2017, so if you are or know a young person with bright ideas, click HERE!

ACT National Science Week Seed Grants Open!

ACT National Science Week Seed Grants Open!


With the announcement last week by the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science of the successful National Science Week Grant recipients for 2016, the ACT Coordinating Committee would like to congratulate the following:

  • Australian Academy of Science – “On the Job” project – laboratory and field technicians working in science around Australia will be invited to grab their smartphones to film and submit audition videos, showing what it’s like to work in the science and technology fields. Seven selected finalists will star in professionally-produced video blogs.


  • Dr Graham Walker – will present fast-paced science demonstration shows for teens and families, using readily available materials and equipment. This touring show will visit the ACT, Queanbeyan, Kiama, Nowra, Batemans Bay, Moruya, Cooma and Goulburn.


  • Canberra Institute of Technology – shoppers in Canberra will learn to spot different clues and find their inner scientist by participating in visually-based identification activities. They will explore personal identification by biometric characteristics as well as identifying different diseases and animal identification from camera trap data and scats.


  • Larry Brandy Aboriginal Story Teller – will show how the traditional owners of the land used their knowledge of their environment to survive, by sharing examples of Aboriginal science in a fun and interactive way. Shows will be performed in early childhood centres, libraries and cultural centres.

Darius getting painted1

  • Scout Association (ACT Branch) – Scouts will do hands-on chemistry activities with the help of experts and trained demonstrators from the ANU School of Chemistry. Joeys, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers will explore chemistry across themes of environment, health, bushcraft, biology, and art and culture.

Photo 25-10-2015 22 28 29

Well done everyone! We can’t wait to see the end products of these inspiring science communication ideas!

Missed out on National funding? Don’t panic! The ACT National Science Week Coordinating Committee has $10,000 worth of funding to be allocated! We are offering seed grants up to $1000 (incl. GST) to support science engagement events, programs and activities conducted between 1 July and 31 October 2016. Preference will be given to events that occur at least once in or very close to Science Week itself. National Science Week runs from 13-21 August in 2016. The seed funding is designed to assist innovative, interactive events that are able to attract new audiences. These grants are not intended to fund existing activities.

Applications close 5pm AEST, Friday 29 April 2016. Any questions please email

Apply HERE!!

If you are a school and are looking to do something for National Science Week, don’t forget you can also apply for up to $500 (from a pool of $90,000) for a science week event or activity. In 2016 we will embrace the ‘Technology’ in STEM, in particular autonomous technology, with the National Science Week school theme Drones, droids and robots. These are open to ANY Australian school (preschool through to colleges). Applications close 22 April 2016. Apply for Schools Grants HERE!



Young scientists and innovators – NYSF

Young scientists and innovators – NYSF

While seemingly the rest of the world has been on holidays, here in Canberra, we have been a veritable HIVE of activity in the STEM and entrepreneur space!

4 January 2016 (and again on the 18th) saw two hundred eager National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) participants descend on the Nation’s Capital. NYSF is a 12-day residential program in January for students going into Year 12, who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM!). The aim of the program is to show the students the wide variety of study and career options in STEM fields. The NYSF program consists of a mix of scientific, formal, personal development, and social activities. These range from laboratory visits to sports evenings and from a swing dance to working on understanding group dynamics.


This year, for the first time, NYSF included a session on Entrepreneurial Thinking. So often, when we think of STEM careers, we picture academic or commercial research. You know, white lab coats and equations on blackboards!


But as we at the Canberra Innovation Network like to remind people, innovation and entrepreneurship are going to be key drivers in the Australian economy – the way we need to support innovation needs to constantly adapt. So the good people at NYSF decided to let the students in on another career avenue – entrepreneurship! What if you have a fantastic idea that is going to solve a big problem? What do you do with that idea? So in conjunction with us here at Inspiring the ACT, we gathered a range of Canberra-based entrepreneurs to hear about their journeys and what they thought about innovation and problem-solving and running their own business as a career option.

Hosted by PWC‘s Joshua Gilbert, the panel included:


You already know how enthusiastic we are here at Inspiring Australia about innovation – not just entrepreneurship, but encouraging innovative thinking and practices in the workplace. But we weren’t sure how these young high schoolers with PhD’s and research careers in their sights might feel about it.

The answer?

The LOVED it! Not only did they listen intently to the presentations, but they also had many intelligent, thought-provoking questions for our panellists during the Q&A session. And they pretty much mobbed them during the break!


We hope that we have opened their eyes a little to what the opportunities post-qualification (or maybe, even, pre-qualification!) might be – if they have a passion for solving problems and want to make the world a better place, there are opportunities in the innovation and entrepreneurial field that might take them further than they ever imagined! Amongst the pearls of wisdom were the following:

  • “I never thought I’d be able to change the way electricity works from an office in Canberra!” – Lachlan Blackhall, Reposit Power
  • “One of the biggest thrills in my life is that our technology helped make the world a safer place” – Murray Rankin, Rankin Securities
  • “There has never been a better time NOT to know stuff!” – Erica Hediger, Creative Element
  • “Innovation happens when you study lots of things and there is an intersection of knowledge” – Katie Doherty, Solution Solution
  • “Entrepreneurial thinking requires you to take risks and make mistakes” – Rish Ratnam

I don’t know about the students, but those entrepreneurs inspired ME to think more innovatively!! Actually, I do know they inspired the kids too, because many of them reported back, saying that session was a real point of difference and for some, it was even their favourite session out of their whole NYSF experience – I think we might do it again next year 🙂

Inspiring the ACT would like to thank the National Youth Science Forum for the opportunity to work with them in inspiring the next STEM generation and the entrepreneurs connected to CBRIN, for their time.


Women in Science – Challenges and Solutions

Women in Science – Challenges and Solutions

In the middle of National Science Week, I had the pleasure of attending The League of Remarkable Women in Science exhibition at the CSIRO Discovery Centre.

CSIRO exhibit

This exhibition was organised by Dr. Anne-Sophie Dielen and Britta Foster, with the support of the ANU Gender Institute and Inspiring Australia. It started life as Tumblr blog, interviewing 40 female scientists working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) about what it means to be a women in science in 2015, what challenges they have faced as well as rewards of working in science. They also shared their visions of what could make a difference for gender balance in research.


The scientists featured in the blog and exhibition have achieved successful careers no matter which hurdles they found on their way. They have all taken different routes, but all have remained true to themselves and are extraordinarily inspiring examples for the next generation of female scientists.

Objects from the National Museum of Australia were also displayed, linking women in science from the past to the present.


A public discussion forum was also held at CSIRO Discovery. A panel of scientists, both men and women, discussed their own experience as well as the initiatives that could lead to better diversity and gender balance in research. The forum was chaired by Prof. Brian Schmidt and the Hon. Karen Andrews MP.






Dr Sophie Lewis, ANU; Dr Britta Foster, ANU; The Hon Karen Andrews, Prof. Elanor Huntington, ANU; Dr Anne-Sophie Dielen, ANU; Prof. John Evans, ANU; Dr Megan Heming, Dr Craig Wood, CSIRO; Prof. Brian Schmidt, ANU

I left feeling very inspired by amazing women in science, the men willing to stand up and call out gender inequity and again by the huge numbers of science supporters we have in Canberra – the event was a full-house and we could have easily had double the time for questions!

The very exciting news is that Dr Dielen has agreed to be the Chair of the ACT National Science Week Committee for next year, so science is in good hands!!

What do you think is the biggest hurdle for women in science?

Science in ACTion – 2015 edition!

Science in ACTion – 2015 edition!

Science in ACTion is designed to be a free, fun, family event with interactive science and technology displays. It was held in the Former Transport Depot (Old Bus Depot) in Kingston. I was so impressed by how these (mostly) high-level scientific and research organisations made their work accessible to “normal” people, without a science degree! I learnt so much!!

Science in ACTion




Everywhere you looked, there was a chance to learn something new – about scientific phenomenon, facts, cutting-edge research, and the applications of science to the real world. It really, truly was science in ACTion!

People were able to examine a crime scene:




Get up close and personal with wildlife:




Ponder a future in aviation:


Test their science knowledge:


Explore virtual reality:



Learn about how plants make energy:



Learning how logic and puzzles help keep our nation safe:



Investigate light and radioactivity:



Explore 3D printing technology and innovation:



Uncover coding and computing and research:



And just plain ol’ be curious!



We also had some “special guest stars” in the form of a giant inflatable plant cell (learn science while you bounce!). I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that only children were allowed on it…



The irrepressible Graham Walker’s Science Show-Offs taught more people more science, while they thought they were being entertained:




And super-special guests arrived (but not via the ramp, because apparently these are the models that can’t fly yet!):



What a fantastic weekend! We estimate over 5000 science enthusiasts came through the doors. We got great feedback on the interactivity and variety of science and tech on display. The biggest complaint was that people wanted MORE – we’ll take that on board for next year! 🙂

Did you go to Science in ACTion?

What was your favourite exhibit?

How can we make it better?