Unlocking Curious Minds Contestable fund success

28 May 2015

Associate Professor Cather Simpson from the Department of Physics and School of Chemical Sciences has been awarded $134,464 as part of the government’s Unlocking Curious Minds Contestable fund, announced by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce this afternoon.

Cather’s project entitled Illuminating New Zealand, celebrates 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies in New Zealand. Cather and her colleagues will bring New Zealand’s museums and its top photonics researchers together to increase New Zealanders understanding of how phototonics – the science and technology of light – is revolutionizing our future.  “The 21st century is shaping up to be the age of the science and technology of light, much in the same way that electronics transformed our lives in the 20th century," says Cather.

Two major gala events are planned to be held in museums across New Zealand at Matariki and the Vernal Equinox – important cultural celebrations of light.  These will feature demonstrations by New Zealand’s leading researchers, hands-on science experiments for children and their families, and engaging talks by top science teachers and communicators.

'Light Matters' kits with photonics experiments will be distributed for curious minds to investigate the science and technology of light in their homes and schools. These will be linked to an interactive website where the children can enter photos and their data, give feedback, discuss their Light Matters experiments together and find instructions for refilling their kits to keep exploring!

 “For Kiwi’s to lead in the photonics future, we must actively engage, impassion and train the children who are now in our primary and intermediate schools,” says Cather, co-Chair of the New Zealand National Committee for the UNESCO International Year of Light.  “We must also inform and inspire their parents and teachers about the importance of photonics innovations and the value of science and technology as a possible career path for all.”

The project is supported by the University of Auckland, the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies and museums across New Zealand, particularly the Otago Museum in Dunedin.