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Mighty Small Mighty Bright Exhibition Tours Aotearoa

Lasers, rainbows, and magnetic nanoparticles! It’s just some of the extraordinary science that is at your fingertips in the Mighty Small Mighty Bright exhibition popping up in locations in the North and South Island.
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MOTAT partnered with New Zealand’s leading scientific research institutes: the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd Walls Centre, as well as Otago Museum to develop a touring science exhibition that demystifies the fascinating world of photonics, advanced materials, and nanotechnology. It’s now open at Papakura Museum in South Auckland for the school holidays and until 4 June 2022 before making its way south to Otago Museum on 2 July.

The exhibition is designed with families in mind and will be particularly attractive to children aged 8 and above.

“Papakura Museum is proud to be hosting this innovative exhibition that is a true inspiration for tamariki. It displays an important message to future generations, that they can change the world with their ideas too,” says Papakura Museum Curator, Alan Knowles.

The purpose of the travelling exhibition is to bring sci-tech to more kiwi kids across Aotearoa.

“The Dodd-Walls Centre is committed to making science more accessible for all Kiwis and by partnering with the museum sector we make this happen much more effectively than the traditional model of talks or lectures,” explains Professor David Hutchinson, Director of the Dodd-Walls Centre.

For MacDiarmid Institute Co-Directors Associate Professor Nicola Gaston and Professor Justin Hodgkiss being part of this national initiative means having a chance to showcase just how vital materials science is to the world around us, from flexible solar panels and superconductors to anti-bacterial silver particles.

“There are real-life examples of hi-tech materials science underpinning industry in New Zealand. We want this to help keep young people throughout the country inspired to keep on with science and become part of the hi-tech economy.”

“Mighty Small Mighty Bright brings science to your community, your families, and makes it fun and hands-on,” says MOTAT Exhibitions Manager Simon Gould.

“We hope all visitors will leave having learnt a little and having been inspired a lot. Science is for everyone. Enjoy it!”


EXHIBITION OVERVIEW: Mighty Small Might Bright is presented as 12 interactive pods or stations, divided into two distinct sections.

SECTION 1. ‘Back to basics’

Revealing the basic science behind Photonics, Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, each interactive pod contains hands-on experiments that enable visitors to explore these different scientific principles.

TO THE VISIBLE, AND BEYOND! – See how different light sources are made up of different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum by reflecting them through a spectrometer to see varying ‘rainbow-like’ effects. CATCH SOME RAYS – Visitors can play with prisms, lenses, mirrors, and filters to see how light can be bent and redirected.

LITTLE WONDER – An introduction to nanotechnology. Visitors slide magnets up and down three jars, each containing magnetic material of different sizes to demonstrate the effect this has on the particles’ behaviour.

THE RIGHT STUFF – An introduction to Advanced Materials and designing material for a super specific purpose to do the best job possible. On display are examples of a flexible solar panel, superconductor, and a giant tooth with anti-bacterial silver particles.

MAKING IT (NOT) STICK? – Explore how scientists make hydrophobic surfaces. Watch a fountain demonstrating this principle as well as activate videos to see hydrophobic surfaces close-up on a screen.

CLOAKING DEVICE – Visitors are invited to look through a row of lenses that are arranged to redirect light so that objects placed at the opposite end appear to disappear.

A HAUNTING GLOW – A fun introduction to optical tweezing, visitors can press a button to make a bulb appear – except that the bulb is only a reflection of one installed inside the interactive pod.

CAN YOU BELIEVE YOUR EYES? – Visitors step into a ‘room’ wholly lit by a light source made of a single wavelength of light, thereby testing how our eyes interpret light and colour. Printed images on the wall appear very strange until visitors flash a regular torch onto them to reflect ‘normal’ daylight colours.

SECTION 2. ‘Out there tech’

This section showcases how New Zealand led developments in the areas of Photonics, Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials can now be found influencing our day to day lives and industry.

SHAKING UP THE APPLE INDUSTRY – By firing a laser at apples, scientists create mini earthquakes on an apple’s surface that help farmers understand how ripe they are, so they can get their product to market at the best price possible.

SMART SCIENCE … BETTER MILK – Kiwi company Orbis Diagnostics are helping farmers to perform valuable tests on their cows’ milk in the field. Visitors will be able to spin a big disc to show how the principles of microfluidics behind the technology work.

CLEARING THE AIR – In many parts of the world, clean air is not always guaranteed. Thankfully Kiwi company Aeroqual have found a way to produce handheld air quality monitors that can easily test for a wide range of chemical gases. Visitors can test the system by blowing into one of their air quality testing units to see how much carbon dioxide is in their breath.

GLOWING RESULTS – Biochemists are using the science of phosphorescence in many applications. Explore how this can work by shining a light onto the specially painted wall to see the phosphorescent res