National Quantum & Dark Matter Road Trip a raging success

The 2023 National Quantum & Dark Matter Road Trip has once more been deemed a huge success, visiting 18 schools and delivering 12 public events across Australia.

During the road trip, which was part of National Science Week, members of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) and/or the ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics (CDM) visited regional and remote Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Pop-up events, including public talks, pub trivia, demonstrations and a workshop, were also held across the country as part of the road trip.

By the end of the event, road-trippers had reached more than 1,600 people at schools, universities, pubs and community hubs across the country.

Feedback from students, teachers, public-event attendees and road-trippers was overwhelmingly positive.

Road-trippers also enjoyed the opportunity to inspire a new generation of scientists living in regional and remote parts of Australia.

Highlights of the event included a Town Hall with MP Dr Monique Ryan, a science–art workshop in Albury, public lectures in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, pub trivia in Mallacoota, Wangaratta (in partnership with DTAC Wangaratta), Melbourne and Perth, and a demo day in Sydney.

The school visits were well-received by students and teachers, with 81% of students reporting they learnt something new from the session, 65% saying they would recommend the experience to others, and 69% feeling that the session was a good way to learn about physics.

The response to public events was also positive, with participants describing the pub trivia and public talks as “amazing”, “engaging” and “interesting”.

Road-trip organiser and participant Dr Ben McAllister of Swinburne University of Technology and The University of Western Australia said this year’s road trip was a rewarding experience.

“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 eight scientists in the room to satisfy his curiosity.”

Road-tripper Victoria Bashu, from The Australian National University, said she appreciated the opportunity to meet students and share her experience.

“The trip was full of highlights.  One of them was a student coming up to me and asking what path I took to be a scientist.  A few years back, I was a high-school student and today I, alongside the full team, am inspiring these young minds.  That was very special.”

Dr Kerstin Beer of Macquarie University agreed that the road trip was a great opportunity to inspire women to pursue a career in physics.

“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.”

This year’s road trip was funded by EQUS, CDM, a National Science Week Grant awarded to EQUS and CDM, and DTAC Wangaratta.

Thank you to all the road-trippers, communities and schools who participated in the event for your enthusiasm and passion for sharing the excitement of science.