Science really is Far Out!

On November 30th and October 1st, 2023, UNE Discovery was delighted to bring back Far Out Science! After a hiatus from 2020 until this year, it was wonderful to see the event return and bring so many school students back to visit the UNE Armidale campus for 2 days of science filled fun.

Far Out Science is an event designed to give students from years 5-10 a taste of the real science that is done at UNE, letting students hear from scientists directly about the research that they do, and hopefully inspiring the next generation of scientists. Students we invited to attend from across the region, with many local students attending but also with some coming as far away as Coonabarabran, Bogabilla, or Coffs Harbour. The event was held across two days, with a day each for primary and secondary students. In total we hosted 392 primary school students from 20 different schools on the 30th, and 348 secondary students from 19 schools on the 1st.

Each school group had the opportunity to experience four different activities throughout their day with us. Among the most popular of these was the Chemistry Magic show, where UNE chemists and technicians presented an awe inspiring suite of chemistry demonstrations, from liquid nitrogen to explosions. Students also got an opportunity to get hands on with some experimental chemistry, or a forensic science investigation. Physics came into play as well with some students optimising bottle rockets, while others got experimental with lasers and magnets. Maths is never far behind where science is involved, and Far Out Science was no different. The visiting students had a chance to investigate how to build the biggest paddock with the smallest fence, or create beautiful artworks using symmetry and repeating patterns.

 Nutrition and food science played a big role in this years activities, with some students enjoying meat science and learning the secret to a perfect burger. Others churned butter, and made pancakes with the buttermilk. The nutrition of chocolate was discussed in depth (with taste tests of course), and an exploration of bush foods found on campus proved a great way to get out of the lab.

Another significant theme this year included the environment and the animals that live in it. Some lucky students got to have a go at animal tracking, some got up close and personal with (dead and preserved) snakes, and some had a chance to save Nemo while investigating water pollution. Animals are not the only thing in the environment of course, and some students got the chance to investigate how plants breathe and produce the oxygen that we need to survive.

Speaking of our survival, some of the activities our participants got to enjoy included looking inside ourselves by engaging in some nursing demonstrations to learn how their bodies worked, or going even deeper to explore the strange organ inside our heads – the human brain.

This event was a truly mammoth effort for all involved, with over 30 UNE academics, researchers, and technicians contributing to running activity sessions, as well as over 20 volunteer guides helping our visitors find their way around campus. A special thanks go to Sarah Burrows and Lee-Anne McKinnon for coordinating the event, scheduling, and the small army of people needed to make it all happen. We would also like to extend an extra special thank you to UNE Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Moran and to Deputy Head of School of Science and Technology Dr. Erica Smith for welcoming our visiting students to campus and sharing some of their experience and wisdom.

Overall, Far Out Science 2023 was a great success and another great opportunity for future scientists to see the amazing variety of topics that UNE has to offer. We are already looking forward to doing it all again in 2024.