Science made simple and fun

The Singapore Science Festival strives to ignite a passion for four key subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths. Highlights include a buskers carnival and a lecture on how to survive in space. Nicole Weers gives you the lowdown.

The Science Buskers Festival, which combines science with performances, will feature groups from primary schools to tertiary institutions.
The Science Buskers Festival, which combines science with performances, will feature groups from primary schools to tertiary institutions. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SCIENCE FESTIVAL

Singapore's biggest celebration of science is a treat for all ages and celebrates the latest cutting-edge research, scientific innovations and new technologies, says Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, chief executive of the Science Centre Singapore and co-chair of the Singapore Science Festival 2016 organising committee.

"This year's festival will bring to life the important role science plays in our daily lives, capture the imagination of our young, and create unforgettable experiences that encourage an interest in science through creativity, exploration and fun," he said.

"Fostering an interest in science by making it relevant to everyday life will help develop the next generation of Singapore's Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) leaders, and achieve our goal of becoming a Smart Nation."

The festival aims to present scientific concepts and innovations in a simple way so that everyone can understand them.

Besides targeting the general public, it also wants to get young children thinking.

So some programmes have been planned specially with young children in mind, and will feature innovations, experiments and scientific concepts in a humorous manner that is appealing and exciting.


  • The nation's largest annual science event - the Singapore Science Festival - is now in its 15th year. This year's event will take place from today to Aug 5 and is expected to attract around 165,000 visitors. The visitors will be able to participate in a wide range of exciting events, hands-on activities and performances. These include:


    Today to Sunday

    Science Buskers Festival

    Tomorrow and Sunday

    Visual SG

    July 22 to July 31

    Star Lecture: How To Survive In Space

    Aug 2 to 4

    • For more information, go to

Elaborating on how this year's event stands out from those of previous years, Professor Alfred Huan, co-chair of the festival's organising committee, pointed to two main differences: new performers and the new location for many events at one-north in Buona Vista.

"One-north is a 'Science City' and a hub for research and development, and there are many companies located in one-north," said Prof Huan, who is the executive director of the A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) Graduate Academy and A*Star's Institute of High Performance Computing.

The events will not be short on entertainment.

New to the festival this year, for instance, is The Flight Brothers, a wacky duo famous for bringing scientific concepts to life through theatrical performances filled with humour and tailored for different cultural audiences.

People will be able to participate in more than 30 activities at the festival, which is expected to have a turnout of 165,000 visitors.

Creative 'street entertainment'

Art and science can coexist in harmony and participants will experience this first-hand at the Science Buskers Festival, which combines science with "street entertainment" and performances. It will feature 34 groups from primary schools to tertiary institutions. The groups will have to perform a science experiment or present an innovation in a "show-and-tell" manner in front of the audience.

The competition will be judged based on judges' scores and audience votes, and features experiments and creations such as crystallised Christmas trees, gravity-defying tricks, self-made planes and the making of "magic" potions.

The buskers will perform tomorrow and on Sunday at VivoCity on level one, from 11am to 6pm.

Senthilkumar Illakkiya, Nehru Sachin and Lim Yi Chen, 10-year- olds from Chua Chu Kang Primary School, worked together to create "Gravity Free Water". The pupils cover the mouth of a cup with a piece of cardboard. When they flip the cup over, the water does not flow out of it. They are from the same Primary 4 class and share a common interest in science. Besides learning more about the subject through the competition, they have learnt how to work together as a team. "I want to be a scientist when I grow up," said Senthilkumar Illakkiya. The other two pupils are in their school's robotics co-curricular activity and aspire to be robotics engineers.

Another team, called Monsters J.R, comprises Rachel Ng Yun Xuan and Janieve Goh Zhi Xuan, both 11-year-olds from CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace. They have been working together to create several inventions, such as figuring out a way to make bubbles bounce.

Admission to the Science Buskers Festival is free.

Funny and for the young

The duo known as The Flight Brothers will be performing for the very first time in Singapore at the festival.

Comprising Mr Paul Taylor, 53, and Mr Nate Westover, 38, the two are known for merging scientific concepts with live demonstrations and humour. They are from the United States-based The Franklin Institute, a museum in Philadelphia specialising in science and technology.

Here, they will be presenting scientific concepts, such as the four forces of flight as well as fluid dynamics, air pressure, and action and reaction, in a humorous manner that caters to the young.

The Flight Brothers have performed in various festivals in the US and have been to Beijing several times but it is their maiden performance here.

Asked why they decided to accept the offer to perform at the festival, Mr Taylor told The Straits Times: "I am interested in knowing how the script is going to play out in different countries.

"And let's be honest, I want to see Singapore too because it is so beautiful."

Mr Westover added: "Science is something that needs to be seen and felt."

They will be performing at X-periment!, a three-day carnival featuring other highlights such as an integrated mapping tool which can model shadows, wind, noise and other elements to provide urban planners with more information on their developments.

X-periment! will run from today to Sunday at VivoCity on level one, from 11am to 10pm. Admission is free.

The Flight Brothers show times are 2.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm today, and 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow and on Sunday.

How to survive in space

Ever wondered what it's like to live in space? How do you go to the toilet when there's no gravity? Dr Kevin Fong will answer these and other questions on how to survive in space, as part of a Star Lecture at the Singapore Science Festival. The talk, How To Survive In Space, highlights the physiological challenges of a human space mission and shows how medicine, science and engineering are all interconnected.

Artificial gravity, space sickness, water recycling and the danger of radiation are just some of the topics that will be explained by Dr Fong, with the help of Britain's first astronaut on the International Space Station, Mr Tim Peake.

Dr Fong, 45, who is also British, has worked with senior figures and research groups at the European Space Agency, where he organised and chaired meetings with the key goal of increasing Britain's involvement in human space flight. He has worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Human Adaptive and Countermeasures Office, and was part of its artificial gravity pilot study team.

He holds degrees in astrophysics and medicine from University College London, a degree in astronautics and space engineering from Britain's Cranfield University, and has completed space medical training rotations at places like the Johnson Space Centre, Houston and Kennedy space centres and Cape Canaveral in the United States.

Dr Fong will give his Star Lecture at 3.30pm to 5.30pm on three days - Aug 2 to Aug 4. More than 1,500 students in total, aged 13 to 18, will attend the lecture.

Pre-registration is required and limited tickets are available for the public at $10 each. It is free for the registered school groups attending the event.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Science made simple and fun'. Print Edition | Subscribe