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|Established||1986 (opened in 1988)|
|Location||Parkes, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia (Map)|
|Visitors||500 000 in Centre|
|Director||Professor Graham Durant|
Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre, is located on the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, Australia. It is a large centre with more than 200 interactive exhibits relating to science and technology. It has many science programs that are devoted to inspiring the children of Australia to love science.
Questacon is an interactive science centre that began as a project of the Australian National University (ANU), in spare space at the Ainslie Public School in Canberra . It opened with 15 exhibits and was staffed entirely by volunteers by ANU physics lecturer Professor Mike Gore AM, whose great love of teaching both students and the general public inspired him to develop Australia’s first interactive science centre, based on the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The name ‘Questacon’ combines two words— ‘quest’ meaning ‘to discover’ and ‘con’ meaning ‘to study’. Professor Gore went on to become the founding Director of Questacon.
Questacon's current building was Japan's present to Australia for the 1988 Bicentenary and it was opened on 23 November 1988. Japanese government and business contributed ¥1 billion, half of the capital cost of A$19.64 million. Questacon was formerly housed at the old Ainslie Primary School.
As of 3 December 2007, Questacon is a part of the Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR). The director is Professor Graham Durant. Questacon's vision is "a better future for all Australians through engagement with science and innovation".
On Thursday 18 September 2008 a review of Questacon was released. The review was commissioned by Minister Kim Carr and chaired by John Simpson of National Australia Bank. Among other recommendations, the review calls for Questacon to be established as a statutory authority.
The galleries are staffed by paid staff, as well as team of about 60 volunteers. The volunteers occasionally will make use of Discovery Trolleys, featuring smaller, hands-on exhibits related to the gallery.
The Centre also features a number of performance spaces, used for presentations for general public and student audiences by Questacon's in-house theatre troupe, the "Excited Particles". The Excited Particles also perform puppet shows for young children.
Nkrypt is a sculpture installation outside the Questacon building that consists of eight laser-etched stainless steel poles that each carry an encoded message. The outdoor exhibit was installed as a part of the Centenary of Canberra and a prize was offered to the first person to solve the puzzle. This was solved in December of 2013.
Questacon is open from 9am to 5pm.
The Q Shop offers a range of educational science toys, books and teacher resources. Questacon's cafe is situated in the foyer of the building. An entry fee is not required to visit either the cafe or the Q Shop. There are toilets throughout the building, including a children's toilet in the Mini Q exhibition. There are two dedicated baby change rooms - one near the café in the foyer and another in Mini Q.
The Questacon Technology Learning Centre is located at the Royal Australian Mint's former administration building in Deakin and houses more than 80 staff. All of the outreach programs and the exhibition developers, including researchers, designers and electronics, metal and wood shop staff are based there. There are also an exhibition area and spaces for booked technology workshops and holiday programs.
In addition to the exhibitions in Canberra, Questacon runs the Shell Questacon Science Circus and Q2U. Past outreach programs run by Questacon include the Tenix Questacon Maths Squad, Questacon Smart Moves, Questacon Science Play, Questacon Science Squad and a range of activities in remote Indigenous communities.
Questacon's common advertising slogan is "The smarter way to have fun."
The Shell Questacon Science Circus is an outreach program of Questacon and is the most extensive science outreach program of its kind in the world. Each year, the Science Circus engages with more than 100,000 people, travels 25,000 kilometers, runs professional development courses for 600 teachers and visits about 30 remote aboriginal communities as well as hospitals, nursing homes and special schools.
The Questacon Science Circus is a partnership between Questacon, the Shell Oil Company Australia and the Australian National University. The Science Circus won the Prime Minister's Award for Community Business Partnerships in 2006. Fifteen or sixteen science graduates staff the Science Circus as it travels, bringing lively presentations of science to towns and schools. The Science Circus also supports the teaching of science and technology by running practical and fun professional development workshops for teachers. While working for the Science Circus, each presenter also completes a Masters of Science Communication Outreach through the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University. Coursework includes studies in print media, programme evaluation and exhibition design.
Every year the Science Circus presenters graduate from the course and a new team are selected. The first team graduated in 1988 and there are now over 300 Science Circus graduates. Graduates have contributed to programmes on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio, the Diffusion Science Radio Show, Cosmos Magazine, and the Mr Science Show podcast.
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