Science Fair – A Call For Ideas and Participation

Last week I went out to dinner with with Shaun Hendy, Siouxsie Wiles and Steven Galbraith — on the agenda (beyond an excellent meal in one of the world’s top cities) was advance planning for next year’s New Zealand Association of Scientists conference.  The working plan is to hold it in Auckland in March 2014, celebrate the awesome science being done in New Zealand, and connect scientists across disciplinary and institutional boundaries.  

But as we talked, we realized we shouldn’t hog the fun for ourselves — and that we would love to see (for want of a better name) a Science Fair: a chance for everyone to find out who scientists are, what we have discovered, and what we are up to — and get involved with science themselves.  

So we chatted about what a Science Fair would look like, where we would hold it, and who would be there.   But after few minutes we realized that a Science Fair can also be a science experiment: we can make our plans with an “open notebook” and invite participation from Day One, rather than coming up with a scheme, seeking sponsors and then announcing the schedule.

The open notebook is a subset of open science, one of the hottest topics in science right now. It is not a result, as such, but rather it is a challenge to the way science does business: it is the belief that the papers we write should be freely available, the tools we use and create should be openly shared, and that the process of science should be transparent and inclusive.

So if we held a Science Fair, what should it look like? Who should come? Where would we hold it?  What should happen? Who should pay for it?  Here are some thoughts to start you off:

  • A big event downtown, in the Aotea Centre, and sell tickets for a couple of hours’  worth of stunning short talks in the ASB Auditorium? 

  • Would MoTAT be interested?   

  • Science-themed Pecha Kucha evenings?  

  • Amateur astronomers

  • DIY hovercraft

  • Makers and 3D printers

  • Tesla coils

  • Bacteria that glow in the dark

  • Sustainable energy

  • Computer games

  • Rube Goldberg machines  

  • Kinetic art

  • Lasers  

  • Robots

  • Robots and lasers in the same package

  • Ooblek

  • Earthquake engineering

  • Nanotech

  • Music and drama

  • A big name from overseas who can fill a big room? 

  • Something you can walk around? 

  • Or something you buy a ticket for?  

  • Not just Auckland

  • Bring your science question, the doctor is in — for kids and for businesses

  • Citizen science

  • Science fiction and real science: can I build a Tardis?  

Send an email, leave a comment, tweet an idea (#nzscifair), volunteer, promise money, sign up as a sponsor, or just tell us it is a crazy idea and it was tried once before and will never work. And we’ll see what happens next.