Our second Canberra Women of Science and Art webinar was held on Monday night, August 17, and participants enjoyed a range of thoughtful activities and discussions about science and art, writes webinar host Renee Arringer.

The first speaker, Maddie Diamond, discussed how despite not considering herself “either a scientist or an artist”, her passion for climate action and sustainability is driven by science. She discussed how she has always enjoyed art and creativity, and as Executive Officer at SEE-Change has created Future Film Festival to get young people exploring climate messages through film.

The 2020 ACT Young Australian of the Year spoke about how she hasn’t been to uni, but instead started her career as a volunteer where she realised she was “super into sustainability”. She has since completed a Diploma of Sustainable Practice at TAFE NSW, which has given her practical skills and helped her startup and operate Trash Gather – a youth-led volunteer group that organises regular rubbish clean-ups around the city.

Maddie led an activity to get participants thinking about 1) one thing they really enjoy, are really good at, or something they feel they could learn easily and enjoy; 2) a way they could apply that skill to making change (whether that is individual, within an existing group, or something of their own). Some of the wonderful ideas to come out of the brainstorming session included:

  • I’m just starting to learn watercolour painting – would be awesome to do some botanical art on endangered species 🙂
  • I really want to use art and science together to help the environment and so I want to do something ‘arty’ to help the environment but I don’t know what! Dance?!!

Our second speaker, Mikaela Jade, spoke about her self-taught journey in creating an Augmented Reality app.

“Imagine you could stand at a cultural place, and the original owners could stand there in holographic form,” she said.

The Indigenous entrepreneur also discussed the challenges in creating such incredible technology; it was very expensive. She had to work really hard with the resources she had at the time to get a ‘minimum viable product’ so that she could show people the app rather than trying to explain it. “If mum and dad don’t understand,” she said, “I’m going to have issues communicating it to other people”.

Mikaela has since moved to a new focus: ‘Edu-tech’. Her Indigital Schools program enables Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids to connect with and learn from Elders about cultural knowledge, history, and language while learning digital skills in cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality, animation, and coding.

“The only thing I could really do to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had a future place in this tech was to teach,” said Mikaela. Her team is currently made up of five Indigenous people, and she is proud to be employing custodians of the land in their country.

After speaking about her incredible journey from a park ranger, to environmental biologist, to drone-pilot, to where she is now as CEO and founder of Indigital Schools, Mikaela led an activity that asked participants to think about how technology like Augmented Reality could solve problems in the future. Participants suggested the following (and many more!):

  • It could help to show people how extinct species from the past would have acted in the world around you
  • It could teach people how to perform CPR
  • Interaction with holograms – surgery simulators for doctors in training
  • You could buy a hologram to keep you company and help you do chores
  • Tourism – tour guides for museums and cities.

Both speakers highlighted that despite not following the ‘traditional’ pathways during high school and into their post-high school life, they have followed their passions and are working hard to improve the world around them. The webinar ended with a Q&A session, where the speakers responded to audience questions such as:

As someone inspired by or working in a STEAM-related activity, how did you get validation that this was the right pathway for you? What moments have really mattered?

What challenges, if any, have you faced working your way into this space that is the intersection of art and science and how did you overcome them?

How did you deal (if at all) with sexism and opposition?

How did you start your careers after finishing uni, as it is a really quiet topic and not many people understand how to begin working/a full-time job?

Make sure you check out the recorded webinar on the website to hear the wonderful answers from Maddie and Mikaela.

But you don’t have to watch the webinar to participate in the competition for Canberra Women of Science and Art. It is open until August 23. Entrants can submit an artwork inspired by the stories of our speakers. The format can be anything: drawing, sculpture, video, poems, etc. Categories are: under 8s, 8 to 12s, 13 to 18s, Family groups, and Wildcard/18+/interstate entrants (Note that Canberra refers to the Canberra region including the 10 bordering NSW Shires). Prizes include a copy of Billie from Nicole Godwin, a session with Julia Landford, Questacon passes, Careers with STEM magazines; hats, drink bottles, and books from Defence Science and Technology and National Science Week, and more.

We can’t wait to see all the creative entries!

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