2021 Festival 8-18 July

Science Expo
All-ages |Kids |Tweens |Teens |Adults

Come and explore the range of research taking place at the University of Otago, where we constantly go beyond. Lots of exciting activities for kids and adults of all ages.

Join us for the University of Otago’s Science Expo, where 20 of our Science and Health Sciences departments and research groups will come together under the theme “reconnecting”.

Those taking part include Anatomy, Dentistry, Botany, Ecology, Marine Science, Zoology, Information Science, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, the Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit, Brain Health, Science Communication, Physics, Geology, Geography, He Kaupapa Hononga: Otago’s Climate Change Research Network, Human Nutrition, Psychology, and Computer Science, along with Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

The expo is open to everyone and showcases the amazing research and discoveries being made at the University of Otago. Featuring interactive and hands-on experiences, the expo is especially suitable for families with primary- and intermediate-aged children. This engaging and interactive event is one of the not-to-be-missed highlights of this year’s Science Festival. 

Café on-site with food and beverage options available. 


Orbus is offering free return bus travel for the University Expo at the Otago Business School and the Big Science Show at the University of Otago’s Teacher’s College Auditorium.

This offer is available for any passengers who say to the driver that they are attending the Science Festival. This is to any bus stop in the tertiary precinct on Albany Street, Clyde Street, Union Street East and Harbour Terrace when travelling on routes 14, 15, 37, 38 and 63 on Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th July.

Thanks Orbus!


Come to our interactive display and discover how fascinating and unique you are! You will get to see the dissection of an animal heart or brain, have the opportunity to paint your “insides” onto a t-shirt (which you can take home with you), and learn how your bones, muscles and organs all fit together.

Biochemistry and Genetics

Biochemistry and Genetics are types of biology that explore the origins and mechanics of life. They discover causes of disease and their cures, and also solve problems facing our agriculture and natural heritage. Explore some of the hands-on techniques that are used by scientists to investigate the molecular details of life.


Plant biology is crucial to the health of the planet. Through photosynthesis, plants have changed the Earth’s atmosphere, transforming the planet and enabling life as we know it to evolve. Plants now have numerous roles in mitigating the effects of climate change. Understanding the biology of plants is crucial in addressing many of the challenges involved with climate change and many different approaches are being used. Come and learn more about the research projects undertaken by staff and students in the Department of Botany.

Brain Health Research Centre

The Brain Health Research Centre is a group of almost 50 research groups from around the University of Otago focused on understanding how the brain works and what goes wrong in diseases of the brain. Come and meet some of our best researchers and visit our giant inflatable brain.

Computer Science

AR spectator See the future for sports spectators. Experience prototypes that in the future will provide visualisations and statistics to you in your seat at live events. Interactive sculpture Work with others to create a colourful virtual sculpture. Four computers work together on one piece. This shows a highly intuitive interface: you need almost no instruction to make complex 3D shapes in a virtual space. Are you in tune? Come and play your own musical instrument, or borrow one of ours. Our software will help you play better. Mind controlled drone Launch our drone with the power of your mind. Science fiction becomes fact: you can control a machine just by thinking.


Have a first-hand experience of what it is like to be a dentist and understand some of the key challenges and concepts. Investigate the impact of sugar on our oral health and discover how 3D printing and scanning are changing dentistry.

Food Science

Investigate the latest food trends including plant-based, wellness and sustainability. Explore why these concepts are becoming important issues for many consumers.


Explore how future climate change may affect where you live. Come along to our interactive mapping display to predict where the current climate in your home town will shift to over the next 30 years. What will happen to the climate in Aotearoa’s mountains? In 2050, will the same areas as today still have suitable climates for our agricultural products? Share your experiences about your place: how do we feel about the climate where we live? Hear about some examples of the complex interactions between humans and the natural and physical environment.


The Earth below us contains a record of how climates and environments have changed over the past 4.6 billion years. Find out how knowing our past helps us step into the future.

He Kaupapa Hononga: Otago’s Climate Change Research Network

Come along to hear from researchers from across the University about the many ways scientists are probing climate change. Learn how to make a carbon footprint, and come to see what is happening in our oceans, how scientists do research in Antarctica, and some of the new technologies being used to de-carbonise our world.

Human Nutrition

What we eat affects the health, wellbeing and performance of individuals, communities and populations. Find out how our diet affects health and performance, and whether we need to spend our money on special sports drinks or can we make our own?

Information Science

We will showcase a number of interactive demonstrations on virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, telepresence, and ubiquitous and visual computing. Ātea presence Be virtually present at a marae and experience Māori storytelling in 3D! Computational glasses See the world through the eyes of a colourblind person or, if you are colourblind, see colours compensated. This is also a great opportunity to test whether you are colourblind! Virtual Albany St studio Dunedin was one of the places in the world where musicians could record in a BBC “Abbey Road”-style studio at Albany Street. Unfortunately the building had to go, but we captured it in 3D and you can experience the studio with virtual reality googles! Digital tissue slicer Explore pixel-level segmentation of digitised human body slices and label  the bones, muscles and even tiny blood vessles.

Marine Science

Discover the connectivity between land and sea through interactive activities and “hands-on” encounters with local marine species and the Aquavan. From the mountains to the sea, learn how environmental impacts on land can affect river catchments and, ultimately, our ocean. Build a river catchment model to share your learning with others.

Mathematics & Statistics

Warp your point of view by travelling near the speed of light. See how gravitational waves bend spacetime. Fall into a fractal. Wrap your head around some curly probabilities. Try your hand at some tricky puzzles in our chill-out zone

Microbiology and Immunology

Have you ever wondered how something as small as a virus can have such a profound effect on human, animal and bacterial life? We will showcase the complex and beautiful world of virus structures. Represented in stunning 3D shapes and colours, discover what the smallest organisms on earth look like.

Neurological Foundation

It’s a day out at the movies with the Neurological Foundation in partnership with the Brain Health Research Centre! Come join us on the second floor in room 2.28 to enjoy some fresh, yummy popcorn and learn all about our amazing brains, we will be showing a range of different movies from our lecture library.

Ngāi Tāhu Māori Health Research Unit

Join us on a hands-on investigative mission into the world of bug-busting medicines. Discover mould juice and exploding bacteria, learn how to care for antibiotics so that they can care for us, and test your petri dish powers by staying one step ahead of the SuperBugs! Protect yourself and your whānau in a game of COVID Kerplunk, and imagine what’s next in nature’s medicine chest.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Come and join the Orokonui Ecosanctuary Dream Team Supreme to celebrate the last 15 years of conservation, education and research with hands-on activities and take home resources focusing on our precious native species.


Hands-on activities show how physics helps us explain things from planet formation to modern communications technology, and from the sun and climate to sustainable energy.


In times of uncertainty, what is it that drives human behaviour? What can we do to change people’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour? The Department of Psychology is here to give you some insights into the science of brain and behaviour, and how it applies to current real-world situations.


Come along and learn how medicines are created, the different ways we can administer medicines to people and what’s in store for the future!

The Centre for Science Communication - Animation Station

Have you ever wanted to learn how to animate your own stories? Maybe you want to learn how to bring your own art to life? Come and join the Centre for Science Communication staff and students as they help you start your own digital animation journey. At our mobile animation station, we will show you how to make simple 2D digital animations as well as funky, fun, artistic stop-motion animations.


What kinds of animals live in and around Dunedin? What animals lived here in the past, and what animals might live here in the future? Come and see what animals are around us, and how and why scientists in the Department of Zoology are studying them.

Citizen Science Zone

Come learn how you can contribute data to local scientific projects! Representatives from a number of area citizen science projects will be on hand to share their science with you and tell you how you can get involved. Projects include Soil Your Undies, Catlins' Bats on the Map, Kei Hea Ngā Kākā?, Marine Metre Squared, Shark Spy, and Red-billed Gulls - love them or lose them. Our thanks to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for their support of this part of the Science Expo!

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