Invisible Science Reveals STEM Pathways for Teens

Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen, an innovative new experience co-developed by teens, for teens opens at Scienceworks on May 12.

JBoard member testing fluid dynamics exhibit for Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen.

Anticipation is building for the unveiling of a new specially-designed permanent gallery at Scienceworks, created in collaboration with teenagers and 27 scientists and engineers from Victoria’s top universities and research institutions. Beyond Perception opens to the public on Saturday 12 May.

Filled with large-scale immersive experiences, Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen aims to inspire and intrigue teens to engage with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by taking them to its most fascinating and imperceptible corners.

Beyond Perception carefully reveals the invisible fields and forces that surround us, such as gravitational waves, invisible light, sound and aerodynamics, and demonstrates current research which is continuing to uncover amazing hidden worlds around us.

As Lynley Marshall, CEO, Museums Victoria further explains, the exhibition is part of a $6 million gallery redevelopment, supported by the Victorian Government, aimed at igniting a lifelong engagement in STEM from babies to young adults.

"In Australian secondary schools, participation in math and science is steadily declining, while it is predicted that education in these subjects will be crucial for more than 400,000 new jobs for Victorians by 2025. We hope that this exhibition, alongside other programming such as Planetarium Nights, acts as a counterpoint and encourages young adults to come to Scienceworks and be inspired by the possibilities of science and technology."

Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries says the exhibition doesn't just showcase ground-breaking science, it demonstrates how Museums Victoria is transforming the museum experience for all ages.

"By working with teens to develop this exciting exhibition, Scienceworks has created an immersive experience that brings STEM concepts to life in a way that speaks directly to young Victorians. This all about sparking curiosity in science, inspiring a lifelong interest and helping develop our next generation of STEM leaders." 

As David Perkins, Experience Developer at Scienceworks explains, Beyond Perception is a richly scientific and awe-inspiring experience, firmly grounded in STEM learning principles.  

"We want to convey that science isn’t finished and that new discoveries which expand our understanding of the universe are being made all the time, and right here in Melbourne and internationally. We want young adult visitors to walk away with a renewed sense of awe at the world they live in, the technology they use and feel inspired to become part of it."

But when there are things like homework, after-school sport and Snapchat consuming your attention, and the mention of science and math conjures thoughts of arduous school lessons, how do you persuade teenagers that STEM subjects are #worthyofyourtime?

Tasked with engaging this elusive audience, Scienceworks went straight to the source and assembled their own group of teenage consultants, JBoard. JBoard is a group of 12 – 15 year-olds from Melbourne, who over a course of 21 monthly meetings have been consulted throughout the exhibition’s development.

"To ensure that we were creating an experience appealing and tailored to young adults, everyone from the exhibition producers, to marketing and technical staff met with members of JBoard. Together they’ve shared ideas, reviewed design proposals, tested prototype exhibits and critiqued video content, their feedback has informed almost every area of the exhibition," explains David.

Feedback that teens were turned off by being surrounded by younger children has seen Scienceworks create a separate, dedicated space for them on the first floor. Beyond Perception will be a space that encourages them to hang out and be social, with dark lighting, snappy interpretation and an area to charge their phones.

JBoard member, Tanya Kovacevic said after being part of the project for two years she is excited to see the exhibition, with all of JBoard’s feedback, completed.

"I'm hoping that Beyond Perception will make other teenagers, who aren't so keen in pursuing a career in science, realise that it's not just working in a lab or occasionally lighting something on fire; it can also be about designing exhibitions and teaching others. I’m so happy that we’re finally able to show everyone what we’ve been doing at JBoard, and I hope everyone will enjoy the exhibition as much as we did making it."

In addition to JBoard, the team collaborated with over 27 scientists and engineers from Victoria's top universities and research institutions including RMIT, Monash University, Deakin University, the Australian Synchrotron and our own Museums Victoria research teams. 

As a result, all the immersive experiences are underpinned by real world content that reflects the latest scientific and technological developments.Dr Eric Thrane and Dr Paul Lasky, scientists from Monash Centre for Astrophysics who were involved in first detection of gravitational waves have been key collaborators of Cosmic Events. This section explores the science of gravitational waves and features stretchy cosmic screens which visitors can press into to create a black hole.

Collaboration with Dr Christy Hipsley and Axel Newton from Museums Victoria (Scienceworks' parent organisation) has seen the incorporation of research using advanced 3D scanning technology to digitally dissect the extinct Tasmania tiger and reconstruct its development.

Significantly at least 50% of the exhibition collaborators are female. In Australia, women make up only 28% of the STEM-qualified population, this exhibition aims to counteract that with strong involvement from female scientists and engineers, alongside gender-neutral colour schemes, language and design.

Beyond Perception follows hot in the footsteps of Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together, a STEM-centered exhibition for zero to five-year-olds which opened to wide acclaim in December 2017 and has seen Scienceworks experience their highest ever visitation numbers.

Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen opens at Scienceworks on Saturday 12 May and is free with admission.

Interviews are available with:

  • Lynley Marshall, CEO, Museums Victoria
  • David Perkins, Experience Developer, Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen
  • Tanya Kovacevic, JBoard Member

Media enquiries:

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