Making Science Fun: A Fascinating Career Path

by Inga Yandell

Science has shrugged off it’s serpentine grasp of academic rigour and embraced a simpler language—speaking to a new generation with interactive, DIY science experiments. Now we have Popular Science, an official category covering a genre that includes all fields of scientific investigation: neuroscience, bioscience, astrophysics, robotics…with more emerging variants trending at lightening pace. Today, the formerly impenetrable lofts of science are reimagined as Youtube videos, sci-fi talkshows, interactive museums and theme parks. This opens avenues to create new career paths into science, welcoming more diverse methods of exploration which can shape how we learn and engage with science.

Self-made science guy, Jacob Strickling, shares his unconventional career path and the experiments which make science fun!

I love Science… Always have!

Exploring how things work, marvelling at the creation around me. Intrigued and blown away by the bombardier beetle and the firefly. I just had to be a science teacher and so pursued this career path and satisfied my cravings for how things work by taking the engineering pathway.

I love building things, especially equipment that helps explain scientific principles. Fun stuff as well, rides and games with a science twist. Four years ago, I started filming and uploading myself doing science and building my projects. Make Science Fun was born, so named to remind me and others, that science should be enjoyable and engaging.

A big break happened one year into the life of the YouTube channel. I was off to Japan with some students for a science competition and we had to produce a video about where we live. Whale watching is a regular past time of mine, and so to help film them from my boat and bring them a little closer, I made a device to ‘talk’ to the whales. Surprisingly we soon had whales swimming all around us and the video was pretty exciting. A video distribution company made contact with me and since then I’ve sold hundreds of videos world wide. One of the video’s went seriously viral on FaceBook (we’re talking 50 million views). A TV producer saw the video and made contact, so I ended up doing fun science experiments on the morning news.

A book publisher saw me on TV and so, I wrote my first book ‘Make Science Fun’. It’s filled with childhood memories of the science projects and adventures I got up-to as a kid. One of the nature memories I’ve captured in the book is hunting antlions. When I was young I would catch ants and drop them into the sandy pit-trap of a hungry antlion, watching the hunter catch its prey was always exciting to a 6yr old.

It’s been a privilege being able to help parents have the confidence to do science with their children at home. ‘Make Science Fun’ the book has gone so well it’s even been translated into a Chinese edition.To cater for the next age group up I’ve written a second book ‘Make Science Fun Experiments’. Released early December 2017, its aim is to help young people, ages 8 -15, to do real science experiments at home, following the scientific method.

My favourite project… A DIY Sewage System!

15 years ago my family was fortunate enough to move onto a beautiful property on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Like my neighbouring properties, our sewage was ‘treated’ by a pretty basic septic system. This was fine during sunny weather, but when it rained, the smelly, soapy overflow ran pretty much straight into the local creek which was a vital habitat for frogs, eels, small fish and plenty of other critters. I felt terrible polluting the beautiful environment like I was. At the time, I couldn’t afford the $15,000 for a new aerated waste water treated system which would have guaranteed complete sewage treatment.

Through some research, innovation and (might I say) a stroke of genius, I came up with a design for a home-made sewage system which would only cost $1,200 and perform the same function. The system is based on 7 Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC’s)—these are 1 metre cubed plastic tanks, inside a metal cage. They are used to import detergents into the country and become a waste product themselves and so can be purchased for incredibly low prices ($100 each).

With the IBC’s, a series of pipes, air diffusers and a blower it only took me a day to build, and the system has been working wonderfully for the past 15 years. In fact, I’ve done some YouTube videos on it, and I’m proud to say that the system has been built many times over in many different countries by like minded people who want to minimise their impact on the local environment.

Make Science Fun Experiments, New Holland Publishers RRP $19.99 available from all good bookstores or online

Jacob Strickling YouTuber and school Science Co-ordinator, has a passion for making science education fun, relevant and accessible via his You Tube channel Make Science Fun. With regular appearances on the Today Show, he uses science to entertain and inspire people of all ages but specifically children from ages 5–15.

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
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