What Can You Do With Play Dough? Canberra’s Smallest Scientists Making Robots for National Science Week.

What Can You Do With Play Dough? Canberra’s Smallest Scientists Making Robots for National Science Week.


Canberra’s scientists in the making had some extra fun experimenting with play dough, electronics and robotics in Ohm Innovation’s workshops for National Science Week.

Children and their excited parents had ‘hands-on’ learning about robots and electronics through play on the 13th of August at the CBR Innovation Network building.

Parents and their children, working in teams, put their knowledge and skills to the test putting the fundamentals of robotics and electronics into their creative designs.

Children used play dough moulded into shapes or their own design, with circuits and even household odds and ends like toothbrushes in their electronic creations all the while learning about their robotic constructions.


Event organiser Mr Arvind Ramana was thrilled with the enthusiasm from Canberra’s children and their parents.

We were overwhelmed by the interest and awareness that the kids demonstrated, says Mr Ramana. “There were families who travelled over 70Kms for the workshop, kids who brought in their own kits to add to our circuits and one kid, who in spite of a broken leg, limped his way to the workshop. He was obviously in pain – but his quest to learn was admirable.”

Interest in the workshops for National Science Week was so high, that organisers needed to allow extra room for the keen walk-ins who were unable to book online for the sold-out event.

Due to the success of the event, organiser Ohm Innovations is considering running the workshops on a regular basis potentially working with play groups and schools to bring their fun and innovative robotics to more of Canberra.

‘Electronics with Robots and Play Dough’ was part of a series of events for National Science Week aimed as igniting people’s imaginations with science and interested in how they can engage with science.


Choc Tops, Popcorn and  Science for National Science Week in the ACT

Choc Tops, Popcorn and Science for National Science Week in the ACT


Movie-goers got more for their admission at Palace Electric Cinema for National Science Week as patrons were treated to Sci-Fi films, choc tops, popcorn and Q&A with scientists in the field.

“Science at the Movies” featured blockbuster thrillers I-Robot, Martian and Interstellar at the niche cinema in New Acton followed by discussion with panels of experts including:


The ACT National Science Week Coordinating Committee who organised the three movie nights, encourages Canberrans to ‘Ignite your Imagination’ for National Science Week – using feature films to get people engaged with science and scientists in the community.

One of the event organisers, Ingrid McCarthy, was pleased with the number of Canberrans who came to the event across the three evenings, said “The movies are a great platform to get people thinking about science in a new light, it’s fantastic to see so many people engaging with events across National Science Week.”


The three feature films chosen for Science at the Movies tie in well with National Science Week’s school theme of “Drones, Droids and Robots” each film showcasing how interest in STEM subjects could translate to greater jumps in technology in the future.


Attendee of the event Caitlin Miller remarked,

“It was really interesting to hear the discussion from the panel after the movie – to hear the real world scientist’s take on Sci-Fi fantasy – that fantasy might not be that far in the future!”


The event, as part of National Science Week 2016, was held from the 13th to the 21st of August, encouraged people to go out and engage with science in their local community through a variety of events held across the country.


Event organisers for National Science Week were also keen to show that events are not just for the school kids with a range of activities for adults including a variety of 18+ events such as “Whisky Business”.

National Science Week in the ACT hosted a range of interactive events including making your own wearable tech, 3D printing your own chocolate mould and even a little bit of physics in the pub.

Canberrans, with a large number of scientific institutions in their backyard, were spoilt for choice with events to cater to everyone across the week, setting that bar high for National Science Week 2017.

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 actscienceweek@gmail.com

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!



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!

Science in ACTion!

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?

2015 National Science Week Launch

2015 National Science Week Launch

This was my first National Science Week in the ACT and WOW! What a week it was! Celebrating the theme of the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, we had a full program of exciting live science events around the ACT – starting with the Launch of National Science Week!

This year’s launch was at the impressive National Library of Australia – a fitting location to “Ignite Your Imagination”!

Science Week Launch


We started proceedings with a Community Launch. It was so great to see a wide range of families and community members coming together to celebrate science!



From what I understand, it wouldn’t be Science Week without the always entertaining, always educational Dr. Graham Walker’s Science Show-Offs! Another first for me as I enjoyed learning (more) about pressure and molecules:





We were then treated to dance routines inspired by the feathered Liz Lea Dance and her enthusiastic students from Radford College performing the Light Dance.




After that, it was time to move upstairs to the foyer of the Library, for the more formal proceedings of the Official Launch. Director-General of the Library, Ms Anne-Marie Schwirtlich AM, opened the proceedings, followed my our MC for the evening, Dr. Merryn McKinnon (Chair of the ACT National Science Week Committee), Professor Brian Schmidt (Nobel Laureate) and Meegan Fitzharris (ACT Legislative Assembly).






After all that talking (although, to be fair, it WAS inspiring talk!), it was time for some action!

The future of science is in good hands, if the students at Melrose High School and their Prime Minister’s 2014 Award Winning science teacher Geoff McNamara are any indication! They presented an informative and engaging description of their work on emission spectra and what that has taught us about life, the universe and everything:



We also learned about how light behaves in lasers and optic fibres:




Even Swinburne University’s Alan Duffy and Science and Technology’s Catriona Jackson found it fascinating!

We were then further entertained by Liz Lea and Radford College’s Light Dance and more Science Show Off’s (for those brave enough to endure the cold!):




All in all, a very inspirational evening of science!

I can’t wait to show you the rest of the week 🙂

~ Ingrid – Inspiring Australia ACT Program Manager