Event review: Ultimo Science Festival

 Thank you to Isabelle Kingsley for the event review.

The curtain has fallen on the eighth annual Ultimo Science Festival.  Between 12 and 22 September, Harris Street Ultimo was transformed into a nucleus of science. There was something for everyone — talks that challenged our perceptions of the world, hands-on activities to puzzle over, startling exhibitions, inspiring science shows and even the chance to share ideas with real research scientists.

The Festival kicked off with a bang on Thursday 12 September with 387 people packing into the grand UTS Great Hall to hear Shari Forbes from UTS Centre for Forensic Science talk about death, decomposition and detector dogs.

Other lectures at UTS included Dr Elizabeth Denney-Wilson and Associate Professor Robyn Gallagher who discussed why it’s so hard to avoid putting on weight at the UTSpeaks Fighting Fat lecture, and it was standing-room-only at the Great White Sharks talk by Barry Bruce and Professor William Gladstone.  Overall, UTS lectures attracted more than 1100 people during the Festival.

Friday 13th challenged our perceptions with science, maths, magic, marine science and myth-busting, while unwinding with drinks and live music.  Featured were talks about Adam Spencer’s TED adventure and love of prime numbers, Emma Johnston’s passion for Sydney Harbour and Ruben Meerman’s look into the science of crowds and cocktails.  Lying on a bed of nails and encounters with Joanna the goanna, a children’s python and a sweet grey-headed flying fox were some of the highlights.

Art and data come together to create past, present and future forms of life at the Living Data: Art from climate science exhibition at The Muse gallery at Ultimo TAFE.  Brilliantly curated by Lisa Roberts, the exhibition challenged our senses with artworks that combine scientific and sensory knowledge of climate change.  Three discussion forums brought together thinkers, artists and scientists to lead lively discussions on topics including our relationships with things we eat, how we know things and our understanding through art and science.

Speed Meet a Geek was a huge success with over 100 people of all ages coming in to sit down and meet research scientists.  The Powerhouse Museum café was buzzing with chatter — children as young as 5 were engaged in asking questions and discussing science.

On Monday 16th ABC Radio National’s ‘Health Report’ was broadcast live from the Ultimo Science Festival. Dr Norman Swan lead a discussion with 3 experts covering diet, exercise and the psychology of maintaining health. A full-house of audience came along.

260 high school students took part in the Festival’s school day.  Students met research scientists and found out about their science careers, made biodegradable plastic, floating houses and demonstrated how the internet works using bing-pong balls.

A new event for USF was the popular Young Master Scientists competition. The Live Finals hosted by Ruben Meerman, the Surfing Scientist, featured 5 student teams from schools around Sydney area performing a ‘seven minutes of science’ in front of a cheering audience and 3 judges to compete for the title of Sydney best young science communicators.  ‘Interrobang’ from Mercy Catholic College in Chatswood took home the crown.

The always popular Art and Science Soiree brought together artist and scientists in a networking event.  Guests took part in speed meet sessions, saw some amazing performances and had tiny 3D versions of their heads printed.  Some incredibly interesting and creative ideas and projects came out of the evening.

By popular demand, Simon Pampena, the Angry Mathematician from ABC’s Catalyst, teamed up with Nerd Nite Sydney’s Dr Justine Rogers and UNSW’s Dr Rob Brooks to bring out the funny side of science at a hilarious night of nerdy comedy.  Not surprisingly, this event sold out.

The final weekend of the Festival was all about the kids.  Slime, steam, electricity and things that glow were all on show throughout the Powerhouse Museum.  Visitors also got to get an exclusive peek at the Museum’s collection with curator tours, and families packed into the theatre to hear Chris Lintott (BBC One, The Sky at Night) speak about how hundreds of thousands of people collaborate to help scientists study galaxies, discover planets and even map the Milky Way at the How to discover a planet from your sofa talk.

Lashings of scientific fun were had by all who attended.  Thank you to Inspiring Australia and the City of Sydney for making it all possible.