Science sparks the interest of Agfest Patrons

Do-it-yourself slime kits are a hit in the University of Tasmania exhibit

Filled with a number of engaging and interactive exhibits, The University of Tasmania tent appeals to the child in everyone - tables are scattered with microscopes, virtual reality headsets and optical illusions.

Students and representatives of various degrees available at UTas, as well as other external educational organisations, are using hands-on activities to show everyone at Agfest the importance of science to agriculture.

WhySci, a government-funded initiative that aims to increase community engagement with science, is exciting younger audiences with do-it-yourself slime kits and pH indicator experiments.

Spokesperson Reyne Pullen highlighted the success of interactive exhibits for sparking interest. 

“Our big focus is hands-on science, so we minimize talking," he said. "We are engaging and inspiring not only younger audiences, but also teenagers and university students -  anyone really -  who thinks that science may not be applicable to them. 

“At Agfest, you get lots of kids through who have family backgrounds in agriculture, so it’s great for us if we can spark their interest in science by showing them how agriculture and science are related.”

UTas student Harriet Walker was onhand with microscopes and insect displays.

“Worldwide there is a shortage of agricultural scientists, and it’s getting more and more important with growing population, climate change and biosecurity," she said. "There’s not a very good understanding about what agricultural science is and I think it all too often gets put into a box as farming.”

 “I like to show people that there are many different careers in agricultural science and so much that you can do. We’ve had lots of school kids coming through and they’re really interested in the insects!”

 The team from Bitlink, an organisation that aims to teach children and teachers how to use and create new and emerging technology, has a range of interactive activities, including a solar system in virtual reality,a piano made of fruit and 3D printers.

Bitlink managing director James Riggall said encouraging children to be creative, and teaching them how to create the technology they so often consume can be fun.

"There’s heaps of applications of technology in agriculture – but really, we just have an interactive stall that people are having fun with.”

“There’s a lot of kids playing video games," he said. "We looked around and saw a lot of consumption but who’s teaching them to build this stuff and be creative?”

“What’s really exciting about Agfest is that we see 8000 mums and dads and kids and they get exposed to something they might not see before. And hopefully it will set some kids on a path, who knows?”

 The University of Tasmania tent is exhibit number 404 on Fourth Avenue.