UNE takes ‘consumer science’ to the shopping centre

Published 15 August 2011

chemNational Science Week got off to an exciting start in an Armidale shopping centre on Saturday when scientists from the University of New England entertained shoppers with practical experiments in the chemistry of everyday life.

Dr Michelle Taylor and Dr Erica Smith from UNE Chemistry, assisted by several of their colleagues and students, gave intrigued members of the public at Centro shopping centre an insight into the chemistry behind some of the sights, smells and sounds they encounter in the home and in the workplace.

“We aimed to show people something of the science involved in their everyday lives,” Dr Taylor said. “And we were kept pretty busy doing so. Although we stayed an hour longer than we had intended, they still didn’t want us to go.”

The demonstrations included the chemistry of liquid nitrogen, dry ice and hot packs, the making of latex rubber balls, and “scratch-and-sniff” cards linking the smells of chemical compounds to their molecular structure.

This was the first event in “Far Out Science”, a series of events that UNE is staging throughout National Science Week (August 13-21) with the help of a grant from the Commonwealth Government. The other events include a two-day “Science in the Bush” experience at UNE for school students, and “Radical Wine” – an evening of discovery about the science of winemaking.

More than 800 school students from throughout northern NSW will travel to UNE on Thursday the 18th and Friday the 19th of August to take part in hands-on activities designed to help them realise that the study of science – and the pursuit of a scientific career – can involve a lot of fun. “‘Science in the Bush’ will also help them to appreciate the relevance of science to all aspects of our lives,” Dr Taylor said.

Thursday’s activities will be for secondary students in Years 7 to 9, while primary students in Years 5 and 6 will be the participants in the activities on Friday. This is the first year that primary school students have visited UNE for “Science in the Bush”.

“Our National Science Week grant from the Commonwealth Government is enabling more students than ever to experience UNE’s ‘Science in the Bush’ this year,” Dr Taylor said. “It’s helping them to travel by bus from places such as Macksville and Inverell, and from many small schools such as those at Bendemeer, Tintinhull, Moonbi, Deepwater and Nowendoc.

“Radical Wine”, on Friday 19 August at Armidale Town Hall, will enable people to explore the sensory aspects of wine through simple, hands-on experiments presented by UNE scientists and Dr Renee Smart from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, and listen to presentations by Dr Paul Smith from the Australian Wine Research Institute and local winemaker Sean Cassidy. The event, which will include opportunities to sample wines from vineyards around New England, will start at 5.30 pm and continue till 8.30 pm.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows UNE’s Dr Ben Greatrex demonstrating some chemical magic to young shoppers at Centro.