Science Fair

Science stepped out of the lab and into The Edge for a day of volcanic eruptions and brain explosions.

The Context

The Edge’s Science Fair marked the end of the Bioscience quarter. Running in late June, 2012, the program provided an excuse for the team to experiment with things like liquid nitrogen sorbet, vege powered lamps and yeast powered racing boats.

The Science Fair was a free, all day event, offering hands-on activities which proved that science doesn’t have to be done in a lab. Over the course of the day 1000 citizen scientists made their way through the event.

The Nuts and Bolts

The program featured a variety of workshops including Make and Take Sessions. These thirty minute sessions were a series of fun workshops that gave participants a chance to get a bit of bioscience on their hands and aprons.

Preserved Specimen Jewellery — a crash course in crafting jewellery from botanic samples preserved in acrylic. Brooches, earrings, necklaces and pendants were among the accessories made.

Vege Powered Lamp — budding scientists were shown a way to power a small LED lamp, using fruit and vegetables for fuel.

Bio Volcano Model — (a Science Fair classic!) In this biological take on the model volcano, Vesuvius enthusiasts used a yeast-based magma for their models’ explosive endings.

Liquid Nitrogen Sorbet — participants mix-n-matched their favourite fruits and flavours, creating their very own sorbet flavour explosion with the rapid freezing process of liquid nitrogen.

Bio Boat Derby — a mix of biology and engineering, participants built yeast-powered racing boats and participated in a series of heats leading to the Grand Final.

Belly Button Biodiversity — scientists became subjects as they inoculated agar plates with swabs from their own navel. The activity progressed onto Facebook whereby photos of bacterial growth were uploaded, tagging the individuals so they could track the progress.

Aside from these short sessions, there were a series of 1.5-2 hour workshops on the day that looked to develop the skills and knowledge of attendees.

Microscopy for Fashion — this workshop used The Edge’s microscope and camera adaptor to teach the basics of Microscopy, including optimisation and creative treatment of images before preparing them for digital printing onto fashion textiles.

DIY Organic Textiles — this workshop was the first in an ongoing collaborative project to experiment with the use of a combination of yeast and bacterial cultures to grow a cellulose textile for use in fashion.

Bio-Acoustic Soundscapes — combining sound and biology, this workshop showed how bioacoustics recordings could be composed into a soundscape of the body using the software program Ableton Live.

Spoken Science — Lead by Brisbane-based writer and poet, Scott Sneddon, these workshops were delivered to help young and aspiring scientists better articulate their complex scientific ideas and concepts, and therefore make them more accessible for audiences. Participants in this workshop were also given an opportunity to present their ideas at the Mad Scientist Tea Parties.

The Learnings

  • Next time around double the number of seats available (and then double it again)
  • Managing capacity on free events is tricky
  • Always timetable a break between scheduled volcanic eruptions

The Legacy

  • The kombucha continued to grow in the basement, fuelling workshop on sustainable fashion and jewellery making
  • Spoken Science participants went on to present at the Mad Scientist Tea Parties
  • Liquid nitrogen sorbet facilitators went on to deliver workshops as part of National Science Week

Mad Scientist Tea Parties

Filling minds with science and mouths with tea, the lab coats were off for this series of scientific talks.

The Context

The Mad Scientist Tea Party was an excuse for us to get suave about science. Starting as part of our Bioscience period in the first half of 2012, this talk series was established as an intimate seminar with each event featuring a keynote presentation, as well as shorter contributions from local scientists and enthusiasts alike.

Aiming to engage with the community and make scientific concepts and theories more accessible, the Mad Scientist Tea Party targeted a wide range of demographics, ranging in age from 16-64 years old, and included both practising professionals and enthusiasts.

The Nuts and Bolts

Leading up to each event The Edge held a series of workshops called Spoken Science. Hosted by Brisbane-based writer and poet, Scott Sneddon, these workshops aimed to help local scientists better articulate their often complex ideas and make them more accessible for audiences. Participants were also provided with an opportunity to display their new found communication skills in a 3-5 minute presentation at the event.

SLURP brought the tea to the party, with as much mad flavours such as Pina Colada and Banana Split to Russian Caravan and Old Man’s Eyebrows. SLURP’s flavour innovations were a perfect match for the events.

With an exceptional reception from the public the Mad Scientist Tea Party was extended into the Cosmology period where we explored the science of the universe.


Svenja Kratz – a contemporary Australian-based artist interested in interdisciplinary practice with a focus on cell and tissue cultures. Svenja has worked at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at QUT where she also completed a PhD in bio-media art.

Keith Armstrong – a part-time Research Fellow at QUT and freelance new media artist, with research focusing on how scientific and philosophical ecologies can both influence and direct the design and conception of networked, interactive media artworks. Keith’s artworks have been shown across the globe.

Drew Titmarsh – a Post-Doctorate Fellow and PhD candidate in Bioengineering at UQ, focusing his work on the commercialisation of the microbioreactor technology he has developed in his PhD thesis. This technology is important for regenerative medicine such as next-generation therapies using stem cells.

Brendan Griffen – an aspiring astrophysicist who graduated from UQ with degrees in physics and mathematics. Brendan has moved to Boston to fulfil a post-doctoral research position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Collaborating with Harvard and Berkley, his research will contribute to establishing our galaxy’s origins.

Dr Tamara Davis – an award-winning astrophysicist with over 45 publications and in the top 1% of the most highly cited astrophysicists worldwide. She has spent time designing a telescope with NASA and is an expert in supernova cosmology. She is currently mapping the movement of supernovae to understand dark energy.

Dr David Parkinson – a cosmologist and astrophysics lecturer at UQ. He is a member of the WiggleZ team (alongside Tamara Davis) whose work focuses and determining the nature of dark energy. He is also testing theories of creation as well as investigating alternatives to Einstein’s long-standing theory of gravity.

The Learnings

  • Close to 400 people attend the series of six events, proving that people aren’t scared of science
  • Of the attendees surveyed about the event, 70% said this was the first event at The Edge they had come along to, showing that this program worked to attract new audiences
  • Getting outdoors on summer nights is definitely a winning move

The Legacy

The support shown for Mad Scientist Tea Parties got us all excited, so we used this event as a format for our next two talk series, Converplaytions during the gaming period, and Clever Convention, which commenced in late 2013.

The Tea Parties also introduced us to many talented folk, including Svenja who went on to become our Fringes Catalyst and Matt Hynd (of SLURP fame) who went on to become our Hack Resident.