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2014 Science festival ‘a blast’

Media release – Sunday 13 July 2014

2014 Science festival ‘a blast’

New Zealand International Science Festival, Dunedin, 5-13 July 2014

With attractions as diverse as a ‘why sharks matter’ competition, ‘the science of whisky’ and smashing a world record for firing potatoes at high speed with a spud bazooka, the ninth New Zealand International Science Festival has more than delivered on its promise to ‘leave boring behind’.

The festival featured innovative community events that helped celebrate science and cement the reputation of Dunedin as a city of learning and discovery. Visiting international and national guests, leading experts and students from the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Otago Museum and many other partner organisations led discussions, presentations and interactive workshops across the city, with four guests going on to give satellite events at Auckland Museum.

Over 120 events were staged during the festival, with 90% of them being offered free. A large number of workshops designed to appeal to all age groups were held during the nine days of the festival. Popular events included Australian science-show performer Dr Graham Walker, supported by Cooke Howlison Toyota, and Dunedin’s sister city Edinburgh-based stunt scientist Tom Pringle – otherwise known as Dr Bunhead – supported by Mitre 10 MEGA, presenting his DIY family event and propulsion themed Blast Off show, to capacity crowds.

Beginning on Saturday 5 July, 2014 the festival culminated on Sunday 13 July on the Dunedin waterfront with a marine science day – dubbed ‘fish and ships’ – led by the University of Otago. It included workshops, talks by experts including Malcolm Francis from NIWA and marine explorer Ryan Johnson, displays and hands-on activities for all ages.

Festival director Chris Green said that the 2014 festival was more diverse than ever before, with an impressive line-up of international science stars from around the globe creating a huge demand for both free and ticketed events.

“This year’s festival saw international scientists working with local scientists to deliver interactive presentations – from evening talks for students, families and adults, to hands-on events for kids, teenagers and young professionals – to hopefully inspire the next generation of young scientists.

We’ve reached a wide range of audiences with an increased focus on teenagers, working with sponsors to create location based events, and take science to the community, with demos in the Wall Street Mall, and kids’ workshops in libraries and other locations around the city,” said Chris.

Festival highlights included an evening on sustainability with Professor Terry Collins, billed as the world’s first ‘green’ chemistry lecturer, supported by the University of Otago and University of Auckland, Division of Sciences; presentations by UK science communicator and brain trauma victim James Piercy, supported by Otago Museum; and workshops and presentations by Kiwi expat Ryan Johnson, marine explorer, white shark scientist and National Geographic documentary filmmaker.

Other popular sessions were a series of ‘two-minute talks by young women in science’ and a ‘women in science’ breakfast sponsored by the British High Commission. Alongside the ‘science of whisky’ and ‘great fermentations’ events for adults, the festival hosted popular workshops for kids, teens and families including a ‘science of sport’ night, ‘dining in the dark’, ‘fight like a physicist’, ‘anatomy of a crime scene investigations’, and a ‘learn about the heart’ session. The festival was framed by a stand-out University of Otago Science Expo on the first weekend. A display of technology and design presented by Otago Polytechnic and a Bio Blitz event which provided a snap shot of life in Dunedin’s Botanic Garden and attempted to record as many living species as possible, took place over the final weekend.

Winners of the ‘Sharklab’14 ‘why sharks matter’ competition were Jessica Naidu (Years 1-6), Kyla Smith (Years 7-8) both from Liberton Christian School, Dunedin; Alexander McAdam and Hamish King (Years 9-13) and Kathy Richards (out of school) also both from Dunedin, winning GoPro equipment from Photo Warehouse. The judging panel consisted of white shark expert and festival guest Ryan Johnson; Damian Newell, More FM; Adelle O’Neill from the University of Otago Marine Science Department and Riley Hathaway (13 years) a TV presenter from Young Oceans Explorers.

“The hours of hard work and support from the festival team, external event organisers, our amazing volunteers, key funding partners and local and national sponsors all contributed to the success of the festival,” festival president Michele Coleman said.

The 2014 New Zealand International Science Festival is sponsored by two major funding partners, the University of Otago and the Dunedin City Council.



New Zealand’s only international science festival has developed, managed and run nine festivals in Dunedin every two years since 1998. In addition to presenting a wide range of events, each festival has attracted international guests, national and local experts and a wide range of sponsors and funders. Today, around 40 volunteers help run the various events, and thousands of visitors from all over New Zealand and abroad participate in festival activities.

The NZ International Science Festival is a not-for-profit organisation which aims:

• To promote and celebrate science, technology and the natural environment to a wide general audience, and show that science is exciting, fun, and accessible

• To encourage young people to consider science, technology and environmental studies as positive career options

• To show the relevance of current developments in science and technology to people’s daily lives

• To promote the quality and achievements of New Zealand scientific research



T: @NZSciFest

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