DR Nicola Powell, who until recently worked as a plant industry scientist at CSIRO, is scripting a science-based kids’ TV show that promises to steer the topic away from geeks and crazy scientist types, to something “engaging, cool and fun”.
“Science is so important to everything in life,” she says. “I want to inspire children to be scientists. So many people don’t see its relevance, but science plays a part in everything we do.”
Working from the premise that children understand more than we think, Nicola says the show will be very hands-on and visual, with a changing audience of children, and that she will present it herself.
“My aim is to make it personable, and I think I’ll be able to get the message across while very much being myself,” she says.
“I want to talk to the children in a way that gives them credit, and encourages them to see science as I do – creative, exciting and important for everything.”
Nicola, who also runs a copywriting business, says her area of expertise is studying cold tolerance in wheat at a gene level.
“By 2050, food production will have to increase by 50 per cent, so this research is helping humanity,” she says. “How are we going to feed the world? I love discovering new things and concepts that relate to life – it’s something that really drives me.”
Inspired by Ian Chubb, Australia’s chief scientist, who recently launched a position paper called “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach”, Nicola says his concept fits exactly with what she is trying to do.
The position paper describes a need to strengthen education, new knowledge, innovation and influence – which are underpinned by the enabling sciences and mathematics, engineering and the technological sciences.
“For me, this is what it’s all about – educating and inspiring children in new ways, to prepare for the future,” she says.
Aimed at seven to 12-year-olds, Nicola says her show, which she will trial on YouTube, will use concepts the kids are being taught at school, but making them more engaging and fun.