2021 Festival 8-18 July

May 6th, 2021

More stellar events announced as part of the 2021 New Zealand International Science Festival


Creating young engineers with giant building blocks and an up-close experience with the Curiosity Rover, mathematicians with geometric papercraft, and ecologists with an indoor forest are just some of the fantastic experiences added to the 2021 Science Festival lineup today! 

The Festival is thrilled to be announcing additional events to its largest and most dynamic festival to date. With over 150 events planned, the Festival team are excited for what is to come this year. The full programme will be revealed in early June, leaving over a month for participants to plan their Festival experience, which spans eleven days around the July school holidays. 

The Festival will open with Science in the Spotlight, a fireside chat between Festival patron Helen Anderson, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Dame Juliet Gerrard, and the chair of the Climate Commission Rod Carr. The discussion will focus on the challenges we face, as well as the massive leaps forward science is making toward tackling our future climate crisis.

NZISF is thrilled to present the Maths Craft Festival, a free event as part of the festival, hosted at the Dunedin Town Hall. Co-founded and run by mathematicians Dr Jeanette McLeod and Dr Phil Wilson, the event is dedicated to bringing maths to the masses, through craft. Over the past five years, Maths Craft have run festivals and workshops all over the country, and now, armed with crochet hooks and origami paper, Maths Craft is coming to the New Zealand International Science Festival for the first time.

Imagination Playground is a kids building and engineering experience where participants are encouraged to build whatever structure their mind can muster with giant blue building blocks.  Imagination Playground will form part of the Science Festival Trail, a chain of activities available within 10 minutes walk of the Octagon. Festival director Dan Hendra is thrilled to be able to present Imagination Playground in Dunedin for the first time, which will become a mainstay of future festivals.

The University of Otago’s Dunedin Study exhibitionSlice of Life’, launched at Toitū in 2018 with rave reviews, and which has been on the road ever since, returns home and will join in the 2021 Festival’s line up. The exhibition will be held at the old Smith’s City building in South Dunedin and run from the beginning of June.

Unleash your inner detective with The Science of Crime series, which will put forensic science under the microscope and take attendees deeper into the science of crime scene investigation. Forget what TV crime drama has taught you - this is the real deal. Conceived and presented by a forensic science expert, The Science of Crime offers a number of different experiences suitable for young children through to teenagers and adults.

The Festival, in cooperation with the Meridian Mall and the Dunedin City Council, will be establishing an indoor forest experience for the duration of the festival which accompanies hands-on activities exploring the world around us. The Outside/Inside Forest will contain hundreds of plants, donated for the week by the Ribbonwood Nurseries.

The Golden Centre Mall will play host to the Victoria University of Wellington’s replica of NASA’s Curiosity Rover, which is an operational model of the robot which touched down on the Martian surface in August 2012 and continues to broadcast data back to earth to this day. The replica rover will be available for viewing on the second weekend of the Festival.

The full programme will be available in The Star newspaper as an insert on Thursday 3rd June 2021 and at scifest.org.nz.

The festival is made possible thanks to our long term major partners, the Dunedin City Council, the University of Otago, and the Otago Community Trust, all who share our vision of making science accessible for everyone. 


March 17th, 2021

Brace yourself, serious science is set to explode as part of International Science Festival


What does the moon, running with dinosaurs, and explosive science have in common? It’s all happening as part of this year's New Zealand International Science Festival! The Festival is thrilled to be launching their largest and most dynamic festival to date. Usually a biennial event, participants are in for a rare treat as the festival is set to run for a second consecutive year throughout the city of Dunedin this July school holidays (8th - 18th)  after a year of disruptions due to COVID-19, and having to reduce the 2020 festival to a nano size edition. 

With over 150 events planned in the pipeline, the Festival team are excited for what is to come this year. The full programme will be revealed two weeks earlier than in previous years, leaving a full five weeks for participants to plan their Festival experience, which spans a longer season of eleven days this year. 

In lieu of international guests, the Festival Director, Dan Hendra, says he is electrified that they are able to present an artwork by British artist Luke Jerram who is renowned worldwide for his sculptures, large installations, and live artwork. “To bring a global artwork of this calibre to Dunedin as part of the festival is just brilliant, as it’s such an out of this world spectacle to see”, says Mr Hendra. Presented in the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s Hanover Hall, Our Moon: Then, Now and Beyond is a way to experience Earth’s moon like never before. A four metre diameter sphere featuring a high resolution image of the moon’s surface and illuminated from within will be suspended from the ceiling of the 100 year old church. This artwork is presented by the Nelson Provincial Museum (Tasman Bays Heritage Trust) and in partnership with the Rātā Foundation, Cawthron Institute and the Embassy of the USA.

Back by popular demand the Festival have levelled up their virtual reality experiences, this time by building a Pop-Up Virtual Reality and Gaming Centre dedicated to some of the latest virtual reality experiences from around the globe. Walk on the moon, kayak the Grand Canyon or run amongst dinosaurs! This is an immersive experience like no other with the latest headsets on offer to play, engage and discover new worlds. To accompany the virtual reality experiences the Festival have partnered with CODE and the local gaming industry to showcase the incredible work being done right here in Dunedin.    

Popular science communicator Amadeo returns with another big science adventure at the Teachers College Auditorium. The Big Science Show was a standout at the 2020 Festival, and the team are excited for what they have in store for this year. Thanks to support from a DCC Arts grant, the festival has been able to further combine theatre and science to dramatically boost it’s capability, working with Dunedin playwright and comedian Abby Howells to write the show, and local theatre director and founder of Arcade Theatre Company Alex Wilson to direct. With all the serious fun of previous shows plus many new wow-factor experiments, expect to go through an explosive journey with Amadeo all in the name of science. 

The Festival is launching with some changes this year. For the first time since its inception, the Festival has undergone a major rebrand. The new brand identity was produced by Dunedin design and marketing agency Walsh & Beck, and the accompanying website was designed by Astronaut Digital with funding support from our long term partners, the Otago Community Trust.

The full programme will be available in The Star newspaper as an insert on Thursday 3rd June 2021 and at scifest.org.nz, with a second programme announcement on the 6th of May 2021.


March 15th, 2021

Festival rebrand revealed


You may have noticed that things are looking very slick around here lately. For this first time in over 20 years, the festival has undergone a major rebrand, which has brought us into the 21st century. The new logo is thanks to our friends at Walsh and Beck, just down the road.

We also have our amazing hero image for the 2021 Science Festival, which has been created for us by Gwilym Devey, who is a Wellington based illustrator continuing the adventures of the Science Festival robot. You can check out more of his work here.

And the slick website on which you are currently surfing was put together by our friends over at Astronaut Digital with funding support from our wonderful long term partners, the Otago Community Trust. Whether you're on a laptop, phone, tablet, or whatever other device you may be viewing this on, you certainly hope you are finding your way around with ease.