Brain Break in CBR – Part Two!

Brain Break in CBR – Part Two!

It’s school holidays again and there is EVEN MORE for you to explore and enjoy of Canberra’s best science and technology!

1) The Shine Dome

This iconic building houses most of the Australian Academy of Science, whose role it is to champion, celebrate and support excellence in Australian science. Nick-named the Martian Embassy (because they need an embassy in Canberra too!), the building is a Canberra landmark. It was built in 1959 (and doesn’t it look like it?) and is on the National Heritage list. It is actually on the campus of the Australian National University and used to be called Becker House.

The Dome was designed by architect Roy Grounds and is 710 tonnes of copper covered concrete, surrounded by a narrow moat of water which was emptied, sand-blasted, re-sealed and re-filled in 2014. It has custom-designed furniture and inside  the domed ceiling of the main auditorium needed suspended baffles to muffle the echo, complicating its simple shape.Interestingly, t was then found that the striped eucalyptus walls created a dizzying sense of optical confusion that made people feel sick, but that was eventually fixed by adding strings between each panel of wood, which also act as a sound muffler (source: Radio National, Blueprint for Life).


At the very least, you have do to the obligatory selfie outside, inside there is a series of public science events (a new theme every year) that are fascinating – bringing science and innovation to the masses (well, those of us who care enough to buy tickets!). And did you know, you can even hire the Shine Dome for your next event? Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to grab your Shine Dome postcard from the National Library giftshop!


2) CSIRO Discovery Centre

The CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for those that need to know) Discovery Centre is located on Black Mountain. Open on weekdays, it has self-guided interactive exhibitions that explain the history of the CSIRO and the innovations it has helped with in Australian science for 150 years. Aeroguard? CSIRO. Wifi? CSIRO. Polymer (plastic) banknotes? CSIRO. And much, much more!

An absolute hidden gem of Canberra where the kids can also learn a lot about scientific concepts.

And don’t forget (because goodness knows I’m all about the coffee and snacks) that they have the Discovery Cafe!


3) National Botanic Gardens

Another hidden gem on Black Mountain (well, maybe not such hidden and not something you automatically think of when you think “science”) is the National Botanic Gardens (we have all the “Nationals” here in Canberra!). The Gardens are an exquisite collection of Australian native plants – they have both a living collection and a herbarium – and the plants are displayed for everyone to enjoy as well as for research into plant classification and biology. The Gardens also cultivates plants threatened in the wild. This helps protect them against extinction and provides information which might assist reintroduction to their natural habitat.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens has received eco certification from Ecotourism Australia – the only national programme recognising Australia’s best sustainable businesses. It is only the second botanic gardens in Australia to receive such accreditation.

AND they have great activities for the kids, adults and families, including concerts, hands-on art and craft and guided walks.

AND if that wasn’t enough – there is the Visitor Centre, Botanical Bookshop, Cafe AND the Jindii Eco Spa!!!!


4) Telstra Tower

It’s one of Canberra’s most iconic buildings. You can see it from just about every part of Canberra and in my humble opinion, a Canberra vista is always improved with Telstra Tower in the background. You may or may not be aware that it is a fully-functioning telecommunications tower, which qualifies as “sciencey” enough for me. It centralises essential communication facilities on the one structure:

– Major trunk line radio-telephony facilities

– Television transmitters for national and commercial services.

– FM radio transmitters

– Radio paging (Telefinder services) facilities

– Mobile radio telephone base station services to vehicles

– Cellular phone base station

More science – the mountain is formed of early sedimentary rock (most surrounding mountains are igneous ie. produced by volcanic heat) the term “Black” most likely derives from the thickness of the dry sclerophyll vegetation. The mountain, predominantly quartz impregnated sandstone was, according to historical records, first climbed by white men on 8/12/1820. It is said that Charles Throsby-Smith and james Vaughn used it as a vantage point in an effort to locate the Murrumbidgee River.

It rises 195.2 meters above the summit of Black Mountain and also has 360 degree views of Canberra (but not on a misty day!).


Telstra Tower was originally named Telecom Tower, however locally it was simply known as Black Mountain Tower. It’s construction was not without controversy, however,  and protests against the Tower on aesthetic and ecological grounds were strongly voiced during the earlier stages of the approval procedures, and at the various hearings which included a lengthy Supreme Court case.

The lower level of the Tower’s entrance foyer, houses the Telstra Heritage Exhibition which traces the history of Australian telecommunications as well as a theatre showcasing a video, produced shortly after the Tower opened in 1980 on the tower’s design and construction.


5) National Rock Garden

I know, right??? I didn’t know we had one either! But we do! It’s actually just the start of a much bigger project, but a good spot to stretch the legs and maybe picnic if you are that way inclined. The National Rock Garden is located off Lady Denman Drive and will eventually celebrate Australia’s rich geological heritage  with a permanent display, showcasing the diversity of the rocks, and minerals that contribute so significantly to the nation’s landscapes, heritage and prosperity. In the interim, the rocks on display are still fairly impressive – with a series of Federation rocks from each State and Territory.

And the views! Don’t forget the views!


6) The National Arboretum

The National Arboretum Canberra is truly a jewel in the crown of an amazing city. Born out of burnt out pine plantations from the 2001 and 2003 bushfires, it is an amazing collection of 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around Australia and the world.

Wherever you walk, you are greeted by amazing vistas of the surrounding hills and over Canberra:

But it’s from the air that the design of the Aboretum really comes into its own!

The Village Centre is the is an award-winning, architect-designed building with panoramic views over Canberra provides a variety of high-quality visitor services and facilities, including a restaurant, cafe, gift shop, information hub, and the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection.

And if you feel like a bit of fancy lunch, the Conservatory restaurant is seriously good:

The unique nature-themed Pod Playground is a wonderland for kids:

And the science behind the the Aboretum is cool too! Check out theAnd the new opened Gallery of Gardens and the Canberra Discovery Garden:

And, Canberra company APositive has developed cool Augmented Reality – ARboretum also allows you to explore information on the site’s forests. Scan surrounding landscapes and immediately access the Arboretum’s web content on specific trees, their origins and their significance!

I think that’s enough to keep you busy for a bit more! But keep an eye out – we have EVEN MORE science to show off in the National Capital!!!

Brain Break in CBR – Part One!

Brain Break in CBR – Part One!

Sure, you could head down the coast on holidays, with everyone else. And deal with this:


OR you could explore the wonders of our nation’s capital – Canberra!  Inspiring Australia ACT is here to give you the heads up on all the best “science” that Canberra has to offer. Just because you are on holiday, doesn’t mean your brain is! (but shhhhh, don’t tell the kids they are learning – they’ll be too busy having fun!


1) Questacon

For many of us, Canberra is synonymous with the National Science and Technology Centre, aka, Questacon. It’s a national institution and the Freefall is an Australian right of passage. If the last time you were there was on your Year 6 excursion, then perhaps it’s time for a revisit?!


The great thing about Questacon is that it keeps refreshing itself and there is something new every time you visit and they have fantastic exhibitions that are always changing. Currently, you can explore the maths behind everything at Samsung’s Mathamazing and ByteWise (on until 1 March, 2017). The exhibitions encourage visitors to playfully explore maths concepts through logic puzzles and mathematical models.

Who says people don’t “get” mathematics? Look at all the mathematicians!


I love the way Questacon always manages to make complex concepts interesting with “hands on” options. But read the writing too, because you learn more!


The thing I love about Questacon (OK, one of the things!) is that you can you can go as deep or as not-so-deep as you want – you can just push the buttons and see what happens, or you can read all the info and get a deep understanding. And you can visit multiple times as your kids grow up, and get a bit more out of each exhibit each time as they get old and wiser.

The other new-ish exhibit is The Shed maker-space. I am loving this! Just watching kids (and big kids!) tinker away, designing, testing, playing and making is a cool thing to watch. It’s even better to do. Trust me!


And most of the other exhibits you may know and love have been tweaked, shiny-ed up and added to. LOVING the Awesome Earth Gallery and the cloud chamber and the new Ice Bodies – seriously, I could watch those for hours!


And you really need to watch at least one Excited Particles show – I’m an (ex) science teacher, and I still learn something new every time I watch one. Plus, they are funny!


My hot tip is to get there early – it does get a tad crowded in the holidays, particularly on a hot day, so if you don’t want to be elbowing all the little kids out of the way to have a go (what, me?), so try to make this your first stop for the day. There is a cafe on-site, but also lots of lovely picnic spots nearby.


2) Walk of Wonder!

Once you’ve exhausted all the exhibits inside the big Q, did you know there is a world of hidden science to explore outside? Apart from the big granite ball (who doesn’t love that?), you can download the Questacon Walks of Wonder app from your preferred app store before you even leave home. These guided tours take you on a 30-60 minute wander around Questacon and the Parliamentary triangle, to explore the sneaky science hidden in the things you never even noticed. A fantastic way to spend some time out in the fresh air and also explore some very cool public art!


3) Jerrabomberra Wetlands

What a hidden oasis, right in the heart of Canberra, after your lunch/coffee stop at Kingston Foreshore (Max Brenner chocolate, anyone?), there lies an amazing ecosystem (albeit, man-made when they dammed the Molonglo River to make Lake Burley Griffin) that is now home to an amazing array of birdlife. Take your walking shoes, hat, sunscreen and binoculars (but leave Fido at home please!) and see if you can spot migratory birds from Japan, turtles, water dragons or a platypus. There are also plenty of organised activities, lots especially for kids, including drawing, clay sculpture and bug hunts – check the website for the latest!


4) Geoscience Australia

After the animal spotting, you might want to try something a little less active and movable. Head down to Symonston, where the enormous Geoscience Australia building is surprisingly welcoming! There are LOTS of displays of rocks, minerals, and everything geological. Learn about earthquakes, the science of Minecraft or check out the Periodic Table of Mobile Phones – all for FREE (my favourite cost of admission). There’s even a library, with dinosaurs on display and where you can delve into someone’s PhD on geology (quite fascinating). And I learned that the earth is really active and movable!


Outside, there is the amazing Geological Timewalk. This will really put things in perspective for you! It’s a physical representation of geological time in the landscaped gardens of the Geoscience Australia. The TimeWalk leads you on a 1.1 kilometre journey through the Earth’s 4600 million year (Ma) history and represents the evolution of the Earth from its formation though to the present day. There is an accompanying app to help you discover even more, as you ponder the vastness of geological time and check out some pretty cool rocks!


5) Mulligans Flat Twilight Tour

After dinner (check out the Visit Canberra site to help you choose – lots of family-friendly options too!), why not experience the amazing work that the folk at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary are doing in helping conserve and restore the wildlife of Canberra! While you can go any time during the day (except on Total Fire Ban days), it is at its best during the night, when the nocturnal animals come out! And they include eastern bettongs, quolls, stone curlews and a host of other things. Tours are led by an ecologist, so you know you are getting the best knowledge as well as spotting unique Australian wildlfe (plus, the cute!!!).


Get a great night’s sleep, because tomorrow is Day 2 of your Brain Break – Canberra has so much more to offer!



Let’s face it – 2016 has been a crazy year around the World; we lost beloved actors, Britain decided it didn’t want to be in Europe anymore and we won’t event start on the global ripple effects of what happened in the States last month.

With the 24 hour news cycle reflecting a fairly dreary year let’s take a moment to refocus on the good stuff happening in our own backyard in Canberra.

In no particular order the science events for 2016 that inspire us!

1. Tourists got their science on for 2016

Photo Melissa Adams via Canberra Times

Questacon topped the 2016 list for Top Tourist Attraction at the Canberra Region Tourism Awards. This is in conjunction with the iconic museum being considered for the Australian version of Monopoly!

2. Canberra’s top minds are working hard to beat cancer!

Photo via ANU News & Events website

ANU Researchers made a breakthrough in the process of DNA repair – which may lead to new Cancer drugs. Watch this space!!

3. Kids got hands on with Science In Action!

Oskar Rug, 10, using the hang gliding simulator. Photo: Rohan Thomson via Canberra Times

Canberra’s Kids hung out with Daleks, tried virtual hang gliding and extracted DNA from strawberries for National Science Week event – Science in Action.

4. For the adults – National Science Week engaged us with chocolate and gin!

Photo: LiliGraphie via Canberra Times

Organisers of Canberra’s National Science Week catered to the adults! The workshops involved 3D printing chocolate moulds and learning the science behind distilling gin!

5. Science collided with the art scene

Photo via Canberra Times

Canberra artist and Questacon educator, Dan Power, won the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize which was on display at the National Archives.  With a background in biology Mr Power communicates his thoughts on conservation and the environment through his art making!

3. Canberra Calling Mars!!

Photo Rohan Thomson via Canberra Times

Canberra received a shiny new antenna to aid in future space missions at Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. ET may finally get enough reception to call home with DSS36!

7. We had some pretty cool visitors in the Capital

Photo AFP via

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin visited the Nation’s capital for Mars – The Live Experience where he was joined by an expert panel to discuss the next hurdles in space travel and the next goal – people landing on Mars!

8. We had some pretty cool science communicators as well!

Photo Eugene Gologursky via Canberra Times

Maybe better known as ‘Hawkeye’ from M*A*S*H Alan Alda popped into the ACT to promote public engagement with science and partner up with ANU’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science!

9. Canberra scientists worked on delivering a basic human need

Photo via ABC News

 Developing ‘Hot bubble technology’ Professor Barry Ninham and Professor Ric Pashley have developed a cheaper and more efficient way to sterilise water for the millions around the world that don’t have access to clean drinking water. Canberrans making a difference!!

10. Canberra’s scientific girl power heads to Antarctica

Photo Jay Cronan via Sydney Morning Herald

In December nine ACT scientists will head to Antarctica on an all-female expedition aimed to promote women in science and leadership and how they can contribute to a more sustainable future for Earth

11. Canberra received some wholesome brain food

Photo Evana Ho via The Wholesome Show website

Following on from their successfully show Kinda Thinky Science Communication experts Dr Rod Lamberts and Dr Will Grant brought us some fresh perspectives, ripe experts and a platform to get the brain food Canberra needed with their new The Wholesome Show

12. At King O’Malley’s your pint came with a side of science

Via Pint of Science Canberra Facebook page

King O’Malley’s had a full house, full pints and brains full of science for a series of lectures in May held at the pub. Everything from robots, automated cars, brains to gravitational waves were discussed at the sell-out event

13. Canberra’s first Space Camp blasted off!

Photo Ingrid McCarthy via YMCA Space Camp Facebook page

While everyone else was watching the AFL Grand Final – Canberra’s first ever YMCA Space Campers spent the October long weekend doing all things science – from building rockets to Mars Rovers to hanging out in Canberra’s science institutions getting a crash course in science and engineering from the experts

14. Our next generation of Scientists came to Canberra for National Youth Science Forum

Photo via Inspiring Australia

While their schoolmates were enjoying the summer school holidays, this dedicated bunch, heading into Year 12, worked on everything from science, sports to group dynamics in a 12 day program for National Youth Science Forum.


What has inspired you in ACT science this year?

If an event has inspired you contact us via Facebook, Twitter or email!



Spooky Science Competition!

Spooky Science Competition!


While we LOVE all things evidence-based, peer-reviewed here at Inspiring the ACT, we are not beyond having a little fun with the seasons! So as part of engaging the Territory’s primary school students with science, Inspiring The ACT is launching a “Spooky Science” competition. Test your knowledge of the science behind Halloween, do a spooky experiment and let us share in your Halloween science – your school could win a Spooky Science prize pack!

  • 1st prize – Candy Chemistry set prize pack
  • 10 runners up – Astronaut Ice-Cream prize pack

To enter:

  1. Play Spooky Science Quizling Quiz and record your score! 
  2. Have a go at dancing-ghosts-experiment and take a photo!
  3. Email with your Quizling score, picture/photo and one sentence on why you like science to

Entries are open from the 24th of October to the 31st of October.

Winners of the Spooky Science Competition prize pack to be announced the 1st of November.

Follow our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or website for the latest news on what’s Inspiring the ACT.

Space Camp: Out of this World

Space Camp: Out of this World



Space Campers and their parents at the final awards ceremony


While Canberrans were enjoying the October long weekend, going down to the coast or potentially enjoying the two back to back fairytale grand finals, over forty enthusiastic kids from Canberra and surrounding regions were learning more about the Universe we live in at Canberra’s very first Space Camp.

Space Camp, organised by YMCA and Inspiring Australia, was designed to get kids from grades 6 – 9 engaged with Space-related organisations for an action packed long weekend full of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The long term goal of the inaugural event is to get kids interested in pursuing careers in STEM through the Space industry flourishing in the ACT region.

The program may have already started to fulfil its long term goals engaging students with STEM and the local space industry; Year 8 student Elizabeth Drew, “Loved learning a whole  bunch of new things including robotics and seeing what’s around Canberra space related”. Elizabeth could also see herself in science after school, “doing something space related after doing this camp.”


Space Campers tinkering at Questacon where they designed their own Mars Rover landing modules

Students had an action packed long weekend learning everything from programming basics, to drone flying and even building their own Mars rovers. Year 7 student Mitchell Schmidt said he was excited to come to Space Camp as he was “interested in meeting the astronaut and learning about drones and robotics” as he wants to go into engineering or robotics after school.


Skyping former NASA astronaut, now Boeing employee, Chris Ferguson

The success of the event could also be attributed to the dozen University students, from a variety of academic backgrounds, who also gave up their long weekend to help organisers keep the kids engaged and to assist in the activities across the four day event.

Volunteer Annabelle Nshuti, who is studying a Bachelor of Science at ANU, has loved Space since she was in grade one and wished they had a program like this when she was in school. Annabelle loved, ” the UNSW event where we had to help plan a mission to Mars! I absolutely loved the inter-activeness of camp breaking down difficult concepts.”


The Virtual Reality of the Solar System was a massive hit with students and volunteers alike with one Space Camper exclaiming, “Virtual Reality was my favourite thing  – in virtual reality you got to walk inside the Sun and touch Planets! I even compared Mt Everest and Empire State building on Mars as well as the Mars Grand Canyon compared to ours – it’s 20 times bigger!

Man behind the Virtual Reality set-up Migara Liyanagamage from OzGuild, a local Canberran start-up, said “I’m excited about helping the kids explore the Planets and get them excited about Space – especially using new technology”.

Event organisers attributed much of the success from the engagement with sponsors and institutions around the Canberra area who enthusiastically got on board to show the students exactly how exciting Space can be – especially in Canberra.


Sponsors included the YMCA, Boeing & Geospatial Intelligence and Defence Science and Technology Group as well as organisations that supplied their time and expertise. This includes but was not limited to Mt Stromlo Observatory, Canberra Deep Space Network, UNSW Canberra, Canberra Innovation Network, Questacon , Canberra Rocketry Group, Canberra Portable Planetarium, MSATT teaching telescope  and The Creative Element Team to help get Canberra’s next generation of scientists excited about Space.

Event organiser, Ingrid McCarthy from Inspiring Australia, was very pleased with success of the event, ” We had happy parents, excited sponsors, engaged volunteers but most importantly inspired kids! We will definitely be using the feedback from this camp to build on the success of the event for 2017!”


The Science of Flowers

The Science of Flowers


It’s Canberra, it’s Spring time and that can mean only one thing – Floriade!!

Floriade is Canberra’s Spring time event where organisers attend to over one million bulbs and annuals to bloom in spectacular fashion in beautiful patterns.

This year Floriade is held between September 17th to October 16th with the theme for 2016 – ‘Reflection’ which will be portrayed in the garden beds and entertainment.

Inspired by the Canberran event and the season, Inspiring Australia has teamed up with mobile app Quizling to bring you a little extra science this Spring.

Quizling is an educational mobile app that teams up with museums and institutions to bring educational and engaging quizzes to life!

In a test of the user’s speed and academic accuracy you can race your friends to find out who knows the most about our flower friends!

Test your knowledge about our flower friends before checking them out at Floriade by clicking here!