ASPAC 2015 at The Mind Museum

Since 1998, the ASPAC (Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres) community has celebrated the tradition of holding yearly conferences to facilitate networking, business, and skill development among its member organizations. 

This year, it was The Mind Museum's turn to host the conference, with the theme of an inspirational science camp: a deviation from the traditional conference style, to hold parallel sessions and activities that are interactive, playful, and engaging. 

Cool and Dynamic Pre-Camp and Parallel Sessions

Delegates from science centres and museums all over the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe, and North America flew to Manila to participate in the conference, which began its pre-camp workshops on April 26. 

Alex Jordan from Questacon and Graham Walker from Australian National University facilitated a fun whole-day workshop, which was designed to help science communicators integrate spontaneity, stories, and emotion into their science shows to make them more effective. 

Stuart Kolhagen of Questacon also facilitated an exhibit development clinic, teaching exciting techniques for developing more inspiring exhibits. 

Lastly, the marketing and fundraising teams of The Mind Museum also held a workshop on creative marketing. The speakers include Manny Blas, the managing director of The Mind Museum, who shared how he raised PhP 1 billion from private donations for the building of the museum, Dr. Donald Lim, chief digital officer of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, Jason Cruz, social products director of MRM/McCann Worldgroup, and Maria Ressa, CEO of the Rappler social news network. 

The first series of parallel sessions began in the afternoon of April 27, with the theme of Inspiring Team Members. The sessions were conducted in different venues within the Museum, and the speakers were from different science centers. The speakers tackled the themes of collective inspiration, marketing and fundraising inspirations, as well as exhibit design blitzes and educational inspiration. 

The speakers for the parallel session on collective inspiration were: Mozarimi Mohamed from Petrosains, Jingu Rie from Miraikan, and Xiaohong Chen from Dongguan Science and Technology Museum. 

The speakers for the parallel session on marketing and fundraising inspirations were: former Minister of Antiquities of Egypt Dr. Zahi Hawass, Linda Conlon of the Centre of Life, Lisa Nicandro of The Mind Museum, and Sarah Woods of SciTech. 

Lastly, the speakers for the session on exhibit design blitzes and educational inspiration were: May Pagsinohin of Philippine Science Centrum, Saiful Bahri B. Baharom and M Fozi B. Wazir of Petrosains, Wang Zise and Tang Gang of China Science and Technology Museum, and Art Galapon from The Mind Museum. 

April 28 held more parallel sessions, with the theme of Inspiring Main Audiences, with the speakers discussing the power of words, visuals, live action, and non-traditional forms. 

The speakers (championed by Sarah Woods, also a speaker) for the session on the power of visuals were: Shamini Balan of Petrosains, Andy Giger of Science Center Singapore, Chanika Kongsawat and Cheerawan Sumitdee of National Science Museum of Thailand, Sarah Woods, and Emilyn Escabarte of Science Center Singapore. 

The speakers (championed by Graham Walker) for the session on the power of live action were: Carlie Dario, Mohamad Firdaus Bin Nawawi and Saripah Zarina Binti Wan Abu Baka of Pusat Sains Negara, Chang Yew En of Oil and Gas Discovery Center, Seven of Dongguan Science and Technology Museum, and Nor Azhar Ishak of Petrosains. 

The speakers (championed by Miyuki Tanaka of Miraikan) for the session on the power of non-traditional forms were: William Rozee of The Mind Museum, Peeranut Kanhadilok of National Science Museum of Thailand, Mika Matsuo of National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, Senthil of Science Center Singapore, and Stephanie Wu of National Taiwan Science Education Center. 

I was one of the speakers for the session on the power of words, along with Kiat Teng Goh of Science Center Singapore, Azura Daud of Petrosains, and Akihiro Tani of Miraikan. Maribel Garcia was our champion, and facilitated the discussions as we each tackled how we utilized words and their influence in our respective niches: in blogs, marketing campaigns, publication materials, and educational programs. 

The parallel sessions on the third and last day of the conference covered the theme of Inspiring Non-Traditional Audiences and Sources of Support. 

We not only learned many insights from each other, but we also used it as an opportunity for our respective science centers to collaborate with our blogs. 

Stay tuned for this exciting blog series in the months to come!

You can view the participating science centers' blogs at the following links: 

Science Center Singapore:

The parallel sessions on the third and last day of the conference covered the theme of Inspiring Non-Traditional Audiences and Sources of Support. 

The speakers (championed by Andy Giger) for the session on "our uncommon audience" were: Jantharas Posombat and Pantaree Suwanlapjareon of National Science Museum of Thailand, Miyuki Tanaka, Pecier Decierdo of The Mind Museum, Emma Lee and Astra Yap of Science Center Singapore, and Alan Brien. 

The speakers (championed by Shamini Balan, also a speaker) for the session on inspiring new partners were: Valerie Deal, Jim Broughton of Natural History Museum, Zhao Zhimin of China Science and Technology Museum.

The speakers (championed by Daniel Tan of Science Center Singapore) for the session on "uncommon exhibitions" were: Shawn McCoy of Jack Rouse Associates, Orna Cohen of Dialogue Social Enterprise of GmbH, James Emmann Lim of Science Center Singapore, Marge Arciaga and Darwin Cayetano of The Mind Musuem, and Sattapong Chobkatanyoo and Nisapun Pimmaneechai of National Science Musuem of Thailand. 

Supremely Inspiring Insights: On the Creative Brain and Storytelling in Space

April 27 marked the official beginning of the conference, with the plenary session held in the morning. Welcome remarks were given by Manny Blas and ASPAC President Alan Brien, and The Mind Museum's curator, Maribel Garcia, provided an introduction for that morning's keynote speaker. 

The keynote speech was given by neuroscientist and recipient of the US National Medal of Science, Dr. Nancy Andreasen, who spoke on creativity and the brain. She discussed the use of case studies and neurocognitive tests as an effective means for studying the work habits of creative individuals in the arts and sciences, as well as the connection between creativity and intelligence. For instance, one interesting insight that Dr. Andreasen shared is that highly creative individuals do not necessarily have very high IQ's - their average IQ actually rests at around 120.

After the question and answer session, the delegates proceeded to the Mind Museum lobby with Alan Brien and Manny Blas to launch the Market Place: the space for the trade shows and exhibitions. This was then followed by the group photo session in the Canopy Plaza.  

The keynote speaker for the second day of the conference (April 28) was Joe Rohde, Chief Imagineer of Walt Disney, who gave a fascinating talk on the use of narrative and psychology in designing and structuring places and experiences for their guests, with Disney's Animal Kingdom as one of the major examples. 

Joe explained narrative as an association of ideas, adding that we humans are compulsive storytellers and invested in finding and making patterns, building meaning from these associations. He also integrated aspects of literature such as theme and setting into his designs, and added that by stimulating emotions in his guests, they generate a sense of importance about their experience. 

A Myriad of Activities in Between

To set the "camp" mode for the delegates, Joseph dela Cruz from the theatre group Role Players engaged them in team activities such as "Human Machine" and "Dance Showdown".

Renowned Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass also held a signing session for copies of his book, Discovering Tutankhamun: From Howard Carter to DNA. 

On the last day, the ASPAC Award Presentation Ceremony commenced, with awards for Creative Science Communication and Creative Science Exhibitions. 

Mamoru Mohri of Miraikan also invited the delegates to the upcoming Science Center World Summit 2017, which would be held in their science centre in Japan. 

All Dressed and Geeked Up

The delegates also had opportunities to loosen up and network during the evening, with the first being the President's Welcome Dinner on April 27, where they had to arrive in science-themed outfits. Delegates voted for the best outfits, and the winners walked down the runway and received prizes courtesy of the museum. 

The shadowplay group El Gamma Penumbra (who won the grand finals of Asia's Got Talent just this May 14) also gave a brilliant performance, using their shadows to represent the famous landmarks of different countries that participated, as well as the exhibits within the Mind Museum. A lively performance by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra led by Conductor Olivier Ochanine also added to the festive atmosphere. 

The second day ended with Night at the Mind Museum, a networking activity that was conducted by Silly People's Improv Theater. The delegates, who were split into different teams, had to solve a mystery under time pressure. The rigorous activity had the teams solving logic puzzles, completing physical challenges in order to figure out the killer, as well as literally running through the galleries to find the cure for the Aedi virus. 

The last party of the conference was Biodiversity Night, or the Closing Dinner. Delegates had to come as any life form, and they were certainly very creative about their choices. 

There were also rousing and enchanting performances by The Sisters of Mary Handbell Ringers and The Company, who also serenaded Alan Brien as the delegates celebrated his birthday. By the end of the night, everyone danced and partied like there was no tomorrow. 

A fitting end to an inspiring four days, ASPAC 2015 represented the culmination of a year's worth of preparation on the part of the Mind Museum team. It was truly an honor to host the conference, especially as we had only turned 3 this year. Here's to the next in 2016!


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