It has been exactly 10 years since I fulfilled a childhood dream of visiting Antarctica.
As an Antarctic Studies student at the University of Canterbury, I was given the opportunity to spend two weeks at New Zealand’s Scott Base on Ross Island. This internationally competitive postgraduate course provided first-hand experience of living and working in the extreme polar environment.
It was a life-changing event that ignited my passion to inspire the public, particularly young people, to live more sustainably and harmoniously. Rather than pursue a Research Higher Degree, I returned home to Australia with the idea of using unusual exploration initiatives to inspire STEM learning.
Funding for my first initiative, the BioSUB Project, was provided through a $50,000 sponsorship prize I won in the Australian Geographic ‘Live your dream’ Wildest Adventure Competition. My idea was to spend two weeks living in an underwater capsule at the bottom of a lake in a one-of-a-kind science adventure. Making headlines around the world, the BioSUB was a great success and a real labor of love for which I received the coveted Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.
The BioSUB was designed as a partly regenerative system and evolved into a virtual underwater classroom. Some of the oxygen I needed to survive underwater was generated by a photosynthetic bioreactor designed and built by students from a high school Advanced Biology class. I also built a pedal powered generator that produced enough electricity to power my laptop. I used cameras, the Internet and a telecom system to communicate with people from all over the world from the depths of the lake. Thousands of people worldwide followed my progress over the Internet.
My projects are a way of raising awareness of critical environmental issues around the globe in a fun, provocative and scientific way. My next project, Life Amphibious, was an adventurous human-powered submarine expedition through the Greek islands. In partnership with the Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, I promoted their “Small Garbage” campaign in island schools. The Ecole de Technologie Superieure in Montreal, Canada, supported me by sending an assistant professor, four young engineers and their pioneering Omer 6 submarine to Greece for the expedition.
The submarine featured a biology-inspired design, resembling a penguin, as the means of propulsion. The aim of the Life Amphibious project was threefold: to get young people excited about science and engineering; to inspire environmental awareness; to provide university students with an educational experience that translated their theoretical knowledge into reality.
In 2010, I completed a project with LEGOLAND Deutschland® as Project Manager and “Edutainer”. My role was to launch the LEGOLAND Year of Records by living in an underwater house in the LEGOLAND ATLANTIS by SEA LIFE aquarium. I entered on 30 March and surfaced again two weeks later having achieved a new Guinness World Record for the most electricity generated by pedaling underwater (2,502 watt hours).
It was a globally unique experiment with over 100,000 children and parents visiting me on location in LEGOLAND Deutschland® and via the Web site. The project featured on National Geographic Channel’s Naked Science ‘City Under the Sea’ documentary and with over 100 million viewers globally, the project was awarded a silver medal at the Econ Awards in Germany in the category “PR-Activity”.
Tik and Bubbles Underwater Headquarters
Most recently, I started developing a new educational initiative called Tik and Bubbles with the intention of designing community-based science projects that are creative, collaborative, challenging and fun. Tik, an underwater superhero, will encourage young people to pursue STEM studies and careers, promote and protect Australia’s marine biodiversity and lead an active and healthy lifestyle.
I have just completed a successful peerfunding campaign with StartSomeGood to create the ultimate underwater superhero headquarters to be located off the coast of Australia. I raised over $33,000 and set a new Australian record using their peerfunding platform. Let the challenge begin!
I invite you to follow my new project as it unfolds and encourage you to get in touch with any ideas or questions you may have. If you’d like to get involved in some way please let me know, as I am sure we can find a way.
Marine Edutainer and Aquanaut
New South Wales, Australia