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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Science can be cool

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A series of show and tell demonstrations have curious kids enthralled at the Yuva Science Fun Day

Yuva science fun day.Indian Link
I must say I was impressed.
My 16-year-old sat next to me, totally engrossed in his Periodic Table Bingo activity, identifying the chemical elements called out and scratching away on his sheet. I thought Br and Ba were the only two elements he could identify (thanks to a certain TV show). His science teacher would have been just as impressed, especially after he told her quite clearly that he is not a “science-type dude” and would not be in her classes for the HSC years.
And that was precisely the whole idea of the event we were at, Science Fun Day for kids, aimed to show kids that science can be cool.
A reluctant attendee who had to be dragged out on a cold wet Sunday morning, it turned out my son did engage with the science activities on offer.
What turned his scowl upside down, was a runaway drone that had everyone in splits until it was brought to heel by its makers’ remote; a girl band that was passionate about robotics; liquid nitrogen that was used to make up a ‘witch’s cauldron’ of sorts; chocolate tasting; strawberry mashing, and some creepy crawly arachnids up close under a microscope. Oh, and an infrared thermometer that measured your body temperature but looked like a laser gun.
The many ‘show-and-tell’ counters did their bit to demystify science.
The little ones loved Pat’s Neural Knitworks, in which they used straws and wool to make up neurons, complete with dendrites, learning about brain cells in the process.
Squishing strawberries with Arpita was just as fun, and pouring them into test tubes and mixing with alcohol resulted not in daiquiris that Mum likes, but extracted the cloudy substance that makes us what we are, i.e., DNA.
Charishma’s chocolate counter was delicious, even more so as the young ones learnt that dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease.
And the students from Blacktown Girls’ High School, the first girls’ school to host a robotics program, impressed everyone with their passion for the subject and their clever machine that they programmed to lift weights off the ground. Watch out for young Tanya and her friends – hurrah for girls in STEM!
And that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, if you are a non-science type low-life.
Meanwhile, Astha’s magical, mysterious counter drew the crowds in as she demonstrated how liquid nitrogen is used to preserve living tissue by rapid freezing. Flower after flower met its icy end as she dramatically immersed each in liquid nitrogen, only to bring them out and invite the kids to crush the petals to smithereens with their fingers.
Sorry Astha, but I much preferred Chirag’s (less theatrical and therefore less popular) presentation where food colouring was used to show that cut flowers take in the water of the vase to live on just a little bit longer.
science fun day fly-away drone.Indian Link
The drone team led by Anirban, very Big Bang Theory, made many demonstrations of their facial tracking machine, and explained to anyone who was interested how drones are now used in photography and filming. Everyone ran for cover when their favourite toy decided to do its own fly-about. It was almost as if they were demonstrating that these machines, however fancy, are really at the mercy of the minds that program them. Press click with remote! So, suck it, makers of Hollywood films like I, Robot.
Which reminds us, Anirban made it a point to mention, Big Bang Theory is not exactly real life either, because he can confirm that chicks dig science-type dudes. (Thanks Anirban, I could actually feel my son warming to the idea of science like never before).
The Show and Tell all done, the scientists-in-making all sat down to listen to scientists-at-work talking about their particular brand of science. The Science Fun Day seminar introduced the kids to the work of researchers and practitioners in mental health, climate change, molecular biology, evolutionary biology and the like.
The Science Fun Day was organised by Yuva Australia headed by Astha Singh, with the support of IABBV Hindi School. What was not clear though was whether the event was held under the auspices of the inaugural Sydney Science Festival organised by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, or was it a community affair? If it was a community affair, where were the community stalwarts such as Veena Sahejwalla, the poster-girl for popularising science in this country?
Nonetheless, any program that ignites young minds towards science and technology must be taken as a welcome initiative, especially in a system where science education needs desperately to be re-energised.

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Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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