UNE to provide some ‘far out’ science experiences

Published 02 November 2012

More than 700 school students from 29 schools throughout northern NSW will travel to the University of New England next week to enjoy an experience that could change their whole perception of science and scientists.

UNE’s 10th annual “Science in the Bush” event on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 November is part of the University’s community engagement initiative Far Out Science, which won a $45,000 grant from the Australian Government earlier this year under the Government’s “Unlocking Australia’s Potential” program.

“The three-year Government grant has enabled us to extend the reach of ‘Science in the Bush’ by subsidising students’ travel to UNE,” said Dr Michelle Taylor, one of the organisers of the event. “This year we have students coming from schools – both inland and on the coast – that are several hours’ travel away, as well as from very small schools such as those at Ebor and Wytaliba.”

“Our feedback from participants in “Science in the Bush” in past years has indicated that the experience really does help them to see that science can be a fascinating pursuit and an attractive career option,” Dr Taylor said.

“Science in the Bush”, which engages students in a wide range of enjoyable, hands-on science activities, is the first event in UNE’s Far Out Science program this year. It will be followed by two “Consumer Science” events that will take science out into local communities. UNE scientists will be entertaining people with practical experiments in the science of everyday life on Saturday 17 November at Tamworth Shopping World, and on Saturday 1 December at Armidale’s Centro shopping centre.

As a precursor to these events, UNE – with sponsorship from the educational publisher Wiley – has conducted a competition for school students to design a logo for Far Out Science. The winner of the competition, from among more than 50 entrants, was Lily Scales, a Year 4 student from Ben Venue Public School. Her logo (pictured above as an expanding image) will be used on T-shirts, posters, and other items connected with the events.

This year’s “Science in the Bush” program includes several new activities in fields such as forensic anthropology, psychology and zoology, as well as activities in physics, chemistry, computer science, engineering, biology and pharmacy. “The program is growing in terms of variety,” Dr Taylor said.

A Science Leveraging Fund grant to Far Out Science from the NSW Department of Trade and Investment is helping with the expansion of the “Consumer Science” program in local shopping centres. The program began last year in Armidale, and this year’s expansion to Tamworth will be followed next year by events in other centres, including Grafton and Toormina.

“They’re designed to show people how science is relevant to their lives – particularly in the things they buy and use around their homes and offices every day,” said Dr Erica Smith, another of the organisers. “There will be demonstrations of the chemistry underlying the production of familiar polymers and detergents – and even foods such as ice cream.”