Happy Birthday Scitech!
Today was Scitech's 21st birthday. On August 13th, 1988, the first incarnation of the exhibition was launched. Since then, the staff and volunteers have taken the excitement of science and engineering to more than five million West Australians. That's pretty impressive. Much of that has been through the frequently changing exhibition at their location in Perth's West, but a significant amount has been through their outreach programmes, taking fun demos and science shows out to science fairs, schools, and community events all around WA. This also included a number of highly successful star parties earlier this year for the 100 Hour of Astronomy.
Not only do they run a large exhibition and modern planetarium, they also have an impressive workshop which has created numerous exhibitions over the years (it was open, so I went to have a nosy - there was a display on the human body with some rather graphic intestines, and a spacesuit!). Many of these have toured science museums around the world - two are currently touring Europe, two are in New Zealand, and one is over in Melbourne (they also created the "meteorite" that fell on Cottesloe beach back in April). In the main floor of the exhibition there are long-running displays, as well as a large space for temporary exhibitions which are either created in their workshop or on tour from elsewhere. The temporary exhibitions change regularly, so there's always something new to play with, and it's always very interactive. The place gets very noisy during the holidays!
As well as all this, Scitech are involved in numerous other projects as either active participants or coordinators. They host a CSIRO lab, manage the Scientists in Schools programme in WA, and are a big part of the AstronomyWA collaboration (and probably heaps of stuff I don't know about!).
This evening was something of a reunion for past staff members, as well as a celebration of 21 years of public engagement. The staff, both regulars and casuals, are a very enthusiastic bunch of people. As well as a large number of paid staff, they have a small army of volunteers who also take time to act as explainers in the exhibition in their own time. I met a few of them at the birthday bash this evening and they are an enthusiastic lot.
They've achieved a lot, but of course there's always more to do. If Australia gets the SKA, then WA is going to need plenty of bright young things with a strong interest in science and engineering. Scitech can play a big role in that, and I've no doubt that it will.
So, here's hoping that Scitech's next 21 years will be as successful. Happy Birthday!