Congratulations to Dave the Mad Scientist for winning the Rowan Ramsey School Community Service Award!  A key figure at the Tuesday night ‘STEM under the Stars’ sessions at the Andamooka Observatory and Woomera Observatory is teacher, science communicator, opal gouger and astronomer Dave Roe-Simons. Known as ‘Dave the Mad Scientist’, Dave teaches science and mathematics at Roxby Downs Area School by day and assists with ‘STEM under the Stars’ by adding his knowledge of astronomy, local deep-time geology and geography, and local micro life, not seen by the naked eye. DTMS (as he is referred to), is an enthusiastic member of the team, who has set up radio telescopes at the Andamooka Observatory (and his home in Andamooka).

Dave is driving ‘STEM under the Stars’  project and the practical experience aspect of science at observatory so that further terrestrial and space studies may be enjoyed by both tourists and local students alike.

The ‘STEM Under the Stars’ Project is a community-based and citizen science initiative which provides opportunity for both residents and tourists to participate in experiences drawing upon the local environments’ uniqueness. Currently opportunities include star gazing, opal lore and fossicking, local history, and geological features and experiences focussing upon the Eromanga Sea and Carboniferous fossil beds. A topical bookshop is also associated with the Andamooka Observatory.

‘STEM Under the Stars’ Project:
In January 2021,  initial grant funding of $4,860 has been obtained from Inspiring South Australia enabling the initiation of a community targeted outreach programme, based around the concept of establishing a mobile science module which may be transported to locations of scientific interest, and/or to populated areas lacking such a facility. In addition to the astronomical aspect, the intent is to also enable terrestrial research in areas such as micrometazoan and geological topics. Participants will be introduced to local micro biota such as extremophile lifeforms including water dependent species such as rotifers, cladocerans, copepods and tardigrada, and where possible connect local landforms such as the stromatolite fossil beds with existing biota found in the salt lakes environments. Inland fish are also an area of investigation which may be possible. The intent is to make the module self-sufficient as an example of energy sustainability as a model to those who visit and utilise the resource, through renewable power generation. This project gives enables the ability to host events even if the conditions and weather is poor for Astronomy or unpredictable weather conditions.

Moving forward:

  • A 20ft container has been purchased for $2,200 from the Roxby Downs Area School which is to be lined and outfitted as the mobile laboratory
  • Materials for lining and fitting have been sourced – stainless steel sinks, benches, cupboard
  • Transport from Roxby Downs to Andamooka by Mine Tech Engineering
  • Arranged skilled trades personnel prepared to assist with the outfitting
  • Dave the Mad Scientist, the Woomera Observatory crew and the Andamooka Observatory team have been searching for Extremophiles: Taligrade, Archaea, microbial communities, fossilised extremophile / fossil microbe / pre-historic formations / cyanobacteria and stromatolites. Extremophile research has implications for origin of life studies and the search for life on other planetary and celestial bodies
  • A Pop-up Science Event inside a customised shipping container that will also be used for research in the field.
  • A portable science centre / eco-classroom that offers a hands-on working science laboratory experience
  • Powered by  a Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator and the Goal Zero Nomad 100 portable solar panel
  • Plug-and-play, versatile and sustainable workspace
  • Easily moveable from one site to another and can be shipped by truck
  • Deploy for extended periods of time in the Far North Region
  • Currently located at the Roxby Downs Area School being prepared by Mine Tech Engineering for move to Andamooka site
  • Container storage site was prepared by ‘My Little Desert Supply Company’ ($300) for further outfitting by Mine Tech Engineering

2022 STEM under the Stars: A public outreach astronomy event:

  • Historic Cottages Opal Creek Boulevard Friday 6.00 pm TBC
  • Snacks & Beverages: Dine-A-Mite Cafe & Dodgy Brothers Liquor Store– Business as Usual
  • Science / Space Art exhibition
  • UV light exhibition – scorpions, looking for opal
  • Talk to local scientists and geologists
  • Paleontology at the Andamooka Opal Showroom Underground Opal & Mineral Museum
  • Drone and robotics display
  • Rocketry display
  • First Aid
  • Radio telescopes