Smartphones, the Internet, fighting robots, the Mars Rover and the power of urine

Media bulletins, National Science Week

Science and technology go together like Twitter and hashtags – great stories from around Australia for National Science Week.

Are smartphones really making us stupid? And why buy an expensive charger when you can power up your Nokia using your own pee?

These are just two of the important questions set to be answered around Australia during National Science Week which runs from August 10 to 18.

In South Australia, teams of robots are set to battle out in a fight to the techno-death.

In Canberra, astronomers, dancers, animators and photographers are set to team up for a spectacular interpretation of the universe.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, the important contribution of women to the development of the internet comes into sharp focus, while, in Perth, the tech challenges to living on Mars are the topic du jour.

More on these highlights below. Find more at, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

Scientists, artists, performers and event organisers are available for interview throughout National Science Week.

NSW: Are smart phones making us dumb? — Mosman

Neuroscientist Professor Mark Williams from Macquarie University explores the idea of how our use of digital devices may be affecting our brains and therefore the reality we ‘see’.

Monday 12 August Event details here.

NSW: Women and the Internet — Sydney

VICE reporter, author and musician, Claire L Evans leads a discussion about the often unacknowledged role of women in the development of the internet.

The popular history of technology is one of men and machines, transformation tales of garages to grand mansions, alpha nerds and ‘brogrammers’. All too often, the female visionaries who have been at the forefront of technology and innovation are overlooked.

In her breakthrough book Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, Evans tells the story of the internet’s unsung female heroes. From Ada Lovelace, who programmed the first computer in Victorian England, to Elizabeth Feinler, who helped create the first domain names, women have been a huge part of every significant milestone in web development.

These women joined the ranks of pioneers who defied social convention to become database poets, information wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass-ceiling-shattering entrepreneurs.

Following a solo talk, Evans will be joined by a panel of experts, including cultural anthropologist and futurist Genevieve Bell, bestselling author Ginger Gorman, UNSW President of Robogals Sandy Aung, and science journalist Natasha Mitchell to discuss how women will continue to shape the technology of our future.

Wednesday 14 August Event details

National: The Great Aussie BioQuest: like Pokémon Go! but with real animals

Submit your wildlife sightings using your smartphone and help scientists study how climate change is influencing where the wild things are.

QuestaGame is a smartphone app where users can log sightings of real wildlife. They can then identify the plant or animal, or wait for an expert to help. All sightings are expert-verified and given a remarkability score.

The data is then shared with the Atlas of Living Australia to help researchers make better decisions about protecting the environment.

Ready to join thousands of players across Australia in a team-based, outdoor game that will help protect our environment? Join the Great Aussie Biodiversity Challenge 2019.

Results appear live on the website, displaying the latest finds, as well as the rankings of each science hub team and the top individual players. Prizes are awarded for highest scores in sightings and identifications, as well as active participation.

QuestaGamers are finding new species, including the spider ornodolmedes benrevelli, named after the QuesterGamer who photographed it—Ben Revell—by the scientist that confirmed the discovery. More new species of moths, spiders and insects are in the process of being scientifically described and confirmed. Gamers have also spotted invasive species that are a threat to biosecurity.

Saturday 10 August until Sunday 18 August Event details

VIC: The Urinotron – Parkville

The Urinotron is a large-scale installation that takes urine and transforms it into power for mobile phones before recycling it back to pure water. It is the creation of inventors Sandra and Gaspard Bébié-Valérian, from France, and Australia’s Professor Peter Scales.

Contribute your urine and then put your feet up as the salts in your liquid gold turn into sustainable pee power.

The Urinotron can be found at the Science Gallery Melbourne, in inner-city Carlton.

1 to 18 August Event details

South Australia: RoboRoos Robot Scrimmage — Banksia Park

Want a chance to see FIRST Tech Challenge Robots in action? FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”, and the Student Robotics Club of SA, known as the RoboRoos, is holding a scrimmage, competing against teams from around the state.

Dubbed Rover Ruckus, the games will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, while simultaneously demonstrating STEM education in action.

Competitors will be working in the pits from 8.30am and qualification matches are scheduled to begin at 11.30am. Best times for spectators to drop in will be between 11.30am and 3pm.

Sunday 11 August Event details

WA: Life on Mars — Perth

Join a panel of NASA scientists and astrophysicists as they discuss all things Mars.

Is there life on Mars? We’ve been asking the question for centuries. Could clues in Western Australia’s Pilbara soon give us answers?

And if humans do travel to Mars, how will people live on the red planet? Is there already simple life there? Will Mars be a base for humanity one day stepping out into the galaxy? Do we have galactic neighbours?

Graham Phillips, research fellow at University of Melbourne and former host of ABC’s Catalyst, will lead a panel of Australian and International scientists to give you the answers.

Panellists include:

  • NASA Mars 2020 rover mission program scientist Dr Mitch Schulte
  • Physicist Professor Paul Davies from Arizona State University
  • Astrobiologist from University of NSW, Professor Martin Van Kranendonk
  • BHP’s Dr Vanessa Lickfold
  • Curtin University’s Fireballs in the Sky coordinator Renae Sayers.

Thursday 15 August Event details

ACT: U4D: The Universe in 4 Dimensions – Canberra

U4D is a trip through space and time using dance and animation, involving artists and astronomers.

ASTRO 3D astronomers, who research the universe from soon after the Big Bang to the present-day, will work with dance artists Liz Lea, Eric Avery, photographer Jen Brown and animator James Josephides.

They are set to create an arts-science performance exploring the key concepts of the astronomers’ research, including the origin of the ionised universe and the Periodic Table.

The aim is to place the human body in space while seeking connections with cultural histories including the Dreamtime and recent discoveries being made by astronomers.

Saturday 17 August Event details

About National Science Week

First held in 1997, National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year saw a staggering 1.2 million people participate in over 2100 events and activities.

In 2019, National Science Week events will be held right throughout Australia—from world’s first global Indigenous hackathon ‘INDIGI HACK’ to ‘Dr Dolphin’ and his bottlenose friends in Adelaide, and from marking the Moon landing in Sydney to the science queens of Kings Park in Perth—and includes science festivals, music and comedy shows, expert panel discussions, interactive hands-on displays, open days and online activities.

The festival is proudly supported by the Australian Government; partners CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association and the ABC; and media sponsors including Cosmos, New Scientist and Science Illustrated.

National Science Week 2019 will run from 10 to 18 August. Media kit at, public event listings at

Media kit at; public event listings at