Hands-on workshops will be a feature at this year's Australian Museum Science Festival, made possible through our partner 3M

Students learn the ins and outs of science experiments
Students learn the ins and outs of science experiments Image: Clare Watson
© Australian Museum

AM volunteer Clare Watson explores the science of big ideas and flying drones with 3M’s Kosta Karagiannopoulos in the lead up to this year’s festival, where 3M will be hosting a series of hands-on workshops for students.

Founded in 1902 in Minnesota, USA, 3M has been an innovative leader from the start. The company introduced their ‘15% rule’, where employees can spend 15% of their paid time working on their own projects, in 1925 – decades before Google was created – believing that creativity comes from freedom to think.

Since those formative years, 3M has become a powerhouse of discovery and invention, with 40,000 patents issued and pending. One astounding fact sums up 3M’s scope: a typical person in one day will come into contact with more than a hundred 3M products without even knowing it. From Post-it notes to reflective materials for road signs, and Scotch tape to compression bandages that mimic a giraffe’s skin, 3M has developed countless products, for everyday use or highly specialised applications –many by chance or playful experimentation. It is this philosophy they teach at the Australian Museum Science Festival (AMSF); don’t be afraid to experiment, and don’t underestimate the power of unexpected results.

The company describes itself as a never-ending chain reaction of people, ideas and technologies. Ideas are bounced around co-workers, tested in laboratories, and, like the Q Lab of the James Bond series, seemingly impossible inventions are brought to life with flare. You can feel the buzz when you enter their Australian innovation centre at North Ryde, and can almost see new inventions forming as excitable staff talk animatedly in the hallways.

Take Kosta Karagiannopoulos for example: he’s an Application Engineering Specialist who has spent 6 years at 3M thinking outside the box. Chatting to Kosta about how science can be applied to life, like 3M aims to do, he reluctantly admits that his best ideas come when sitting on the toilet: “I didn’t want to say that… but since you brought it up!”

Kosta has been drawing blueprints for all kinds of inventions since he was a kid and is knick-named ‘McGyver’ for his imaginative trouble-shooting ideas, which is now part of his day job. His buzz for science is infectious: “Without science, I think we would be stale or living in the dark ages. Science opens up your eyes. Every day you wake up and you might understand something new, or see it from a different perspective.”

Thinking of new perspectives, flying drones immediately came to mind for Kosta to share with budding young inventors at the AMSF this year. Every August the festival brings the latest research and applied sciences to life with interactive workshops for primary and high school students and 3M will be there in force. As part of the festival’s high school program, 3M’s workshop will see students learning how DC motors revolutionised communication with standard radio frequencies devices and participate in a drone challenge.

Kosta is excited for the first time event, which is fast approaching, “We thought it would be fun for the kids – to learn how DC motors work and to see that if you add a blade, you have something that spins, then multiple it by four and you have a drone!”

Daydreaming, he continues, “If I could send a drone anywhere, I would just send it out to the nearest star, just keep going straight and see what we find. You could find a billion different things in every direction!”

As major partners of the AMSF, 3M will also be bringing a couple of their brightest minds to the AMSF, ready to face your big questions and brainstorm ideas with kids – because the beauty is that you don’t need to be a scientist to have an impact on the world, you just need a good idea.