The 2023 National Quantum & Dark Matter Road Trip saw 16 members of EQUS and/or the ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics (CDM) drive around regional and remote Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland over National Science Week, 7–26 August. To complement the driving aspect of the road trip, various pop-up events in capital cities were held, involving an additional 12+ EQUS and/or CDM members. In total, the team visited 18 schools and delivered 12 public events, engaging members of the public at schools, pubs and other committee hubs in all things quantum and dark matter.
Top (left to right): Road-trippers in Korumburra and Tully; Ben and students at Albury High School. Bottom (left to right): QLD team and students at Winton State School and at Emerald State High School.
This year’s road trip was another huge success. The feedback from students, teachers, attendees at our public events and road-trippers was overwhelmingly positive. In total, the team engaged around 1,600 people, including around 900 school students.
We also received considerable media coverage, including 6 unique print and/or online media stories, and 6 radio spots. As well as being great promotion for the road trip and EQUS, it provided EQUS members with the opportunity to practice their science communication. In particular:
Ben McAllister—road-trip organiser and participant, EQUS Associate Investigator at UWA and Swinburne University, and co-chair of EQUS’ Public Engagement Committee—said this year’s road trip was again exhausting but very fun and rewarding. “I continue to be pleasantly amazed by the questions students have. By far my favourite question of the trip was, ‘Where does wind come from?’ It was clearly something the student had been thinking about for a while but needed the opportunity of having 8 scientists in the room to satisfy his curiosity. Other stand-out moments include hosting a STEM Town Hall with Dr Monique Ryan MP, proselytising about quantum physics and dark matter to road-work attendants, and turning 30 on the road trip and having the participants of the Wangaratta Club pub trivia sing me happy birthday.”
The Wangaratta Club pub trivia and the three school sessions the following day were organised with DTAC (Digital Technology Advisory Committee) Wangaratta (https://dtac.zone/), who also received a National Science Week grant.
Top (left to right): Ben at Albury High School explaining why punching someone still causes damage (and can get you a detention) despite the atoms never actually touching each other; Tim illustrating discreteness in waves at Galen Catholic College. Bottom (left to right): Steven presenting at Eden Marine High School; Abhishek presenting at Terang College; Kerstin presenting at Winton State School.
Dr Kerstin Beer—road-tripper and Deborah Jin Fellow at MQ—said the road-trip was a great opportunity for her to do something close to her heart—inspire women to get into in physics or think about a career in quantum. “I had some good conversations with girls of different ages about their career dreams. This was really fulfilling. I also loved the fundamental questions about quantum mechanics: I am a theoretical physicist and it was super interesting for me to see how my experimental colleagues answer similar questions and use other ways or settings to explain the same concepts.”
Sonali Parashar—road-tripper, and UWA Master’s student and Student Node Representative—provided the following testimonial:
“At Dimbulah State School, I encountered a group of enthusiastic children with a genuine and practical interest in learning. One of the students approached me and requested a demonstration of the rotation galaxy curve. Their curiosity and engineering mindset truly made it a ‘born engineer’ moment for me. I was impressed by their level of engagement and the questions they asked about the electronics involved and the construction of the entire circuit (by which the whole setup was rotated). These kids, ranging from grades 6 to 7, displayed a unique eagerness to learn, and the experience of sharing various demonstrations and discussing different topics with them was both rewarding and enlightening.
“At Redlynch State College, I encountered a group of highly enthusiastic students who posed engaging and thought-provoking questions. The teachers at the college were exceptionally skilled and highly motivated effective in fostering a conducive learning environment. This is just a brief summary of one day in the whole trip. The whole trip was very well planned, and all the schools have kids motivated and enthusiastic to pursue passion for science and learning.
“I want to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the organisers of this incredibly well-planned trip. Every part of the journey has provided us with a special way of looking at things, making it a great platform to share what we know.”
Dr Jesse Slim—road-tripper and UQ Research Fellow—said a fun fact that made an impression on him was that the longest stretch between petrol stations (and indeed any other sign of civilization) was 265 km.
Left to right: Stefan explaining the superconducting quantum chips; Simon demoing the gravity well; Maverick explaining the mystery boxes; Jesse helping kids with the spectrometer demo.
The EQUS members who joined the trip were: Ben McAllister, Kristen Harley, Tim Hirsch, Abhishek Roy, Steven Samuels, Kerstin Beer, Sonali Parashar, Maverick Millican, Jesse Slim, Simon Vedl and Stefan Zeppetzauer. In addition, EQUS members, Jeremy Bourhill, Will Campbell, Mike Tobar, John Bartholomew, Tim Newman, Ben Field and others participated in the pop-up events in capital cities. And a special shout-out to UQ’s Ben Roberts for stepping in to deliver the public lecture at UQ at the last minute, despite not being a member of EQUS or CDM.
This year’s trip was funded by the EQUS Public Engagement Portfolio, CDM, a National Science Week Grant awarded to EQUS and CDM, and DTAC Wangaratta. It follows last year’s hugely successful National Quantum & Dark Matter Road Trip, which received a shout out from Cathy Foley at the 2022 AIP meeting. Next year we’re hoping to ramp back up to a full-scale National Quantum & Dark Matter Road Trip. To find out more, visit https://www.qdmroadtrip.org/.
Some road-trip stats:
Top to bottom: Pub trivia at the Wangaratta Club;