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Sometimes it really is rocket science

Flying a rocket ship into space is would-be scientist Boris’s dream — so he and scientist Nanogirl will build a rocket live on the War Memorial Theatre stage next week . . . and try to launch it.

The real-life nanoscientist and her sidekick visited Gisborne last year to present a family-friendly, live science show based on engineering magic. In Dr Michelle Dickinson’s Nanogirl Engineering Magic show, the duo showed kids how to build a marshmallow cannon from a vacuum cleaner.

This time Nanogirl and Boris will take the magic of science to another level.

“Out of this World is an explosive show,” says Dr Dickinson.

“We’ll build a rocketship onstage and test lots of rocket fuels. We also have a crash-test Boris dummy.”

Non crash-test Boris is Gareth Baston, a qualified pyrotechnics specialist and the team’s “health and safety guy”.

“He was a behind-the-scenes person originally but I once dragged him onstage as a mute assistant. He had this slapstick manner kids loved so we made him a permanent part of the show. Gareth lives in the UK, so we fly him out each year because the kids love him so much.”

Dr Dickinson resigned from her position as an academic at Auckland University to share her passion for science with kids of all backgrounds.

“This is too important to many kids in New Zealand who don’t have a relationship with science. I want to engage them. I was rubbish at science and maths at school,” she says.

“I found it boring and couldn’t see how it applied to my life.

A job during her late teens in the shoe department of a sports retailer led to her trajectory into nanotechnology, the science of working with atomic, molecular and supramolecular matter.

When a store co-worker’s computer broke down, the sport shop’s young assistant fixed it. The computer’s owner was astounded.

“He said ‘you should do something with that skill.’ I got into a polytech and studied hands-on engineering and loved it.

“I want to help kids like me who grew up with few resources. I want kids like me to realise they can do anything.”

Gisborne ticket sales will help fund free teacher training in science.

Nanogirl will bring back the “pay-it-forward” initiative the team introduced last year. This means customers have an opportunity to buy a ticket that will then be given to someone who would otherwise not be able to attend.

The team will also visit Tolaga Bay where the show will be presented in te reo Maori with science based on Maori legends.

• Out of this World, War Memorial Theatre, December 4, at 5pm and 7pm. Tickets available from Stephen Jones Photography or Ticketdirect.

FUN SCIENCE: Scientist Michelle Dickinson (second left), otherwise known as Nanogirl, and pyrotechnics specialist Gareth Baston, as assistant Boris (right), return with their explosive new show Out of this World next week. Picture supplied