Mighty Small Mighty Bright


Lasers, rainbows and magnetic nanoparticles…   it’s just some of the extraordinary science at your fingertips in the Mighty Small Mighty Bright exhibition now on at MOTAT.   

MOTAT has partnered with New Zealand’s leading scientific research institutes the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd Walls Centre, as well as Otago Museum to develop a touring science exhibition that will demystify the fascinating world of photonics, advanced materials and nanotechnology.

“MOTAT is known as a place of ideas and exploration and so it has been a perfect fit and a professional pleasure to work with all the partners to develop Mighty Small Mighty Bright” says MOTAT exhibitions manager Rebecca Britt.

“MOTAT brought its community outreach and exhibition design skills to the partnership because we believe the achievements of our science community should be shared, celebrated and demystified.

We want the next generation of young science superstars, who visit us at MOTAT every day, to see that they too can change the world with their discoveries, from right here in New Zealand.”

Mighty Small Mighty Bright is open to the public at MOTAT’s M1 Great North Rd location and will remain on show through until September before embarking on a tour to other destinations around Aotearoa.

The exhibition has been designed with families in mind and will be particularly attractive to children aged 8 and above.

“The Dodd-Walls Centre is committed to making science more accessible for all Kiwis and by partnering with the museum sector we make this happen much more effectively than the traditional model of talks or lectures” explains Professor David Hutchinson, Director of the Dodd-Walls Centre.

“Mighty Small Mighty Bright brings science to your community, your families, and makes it fun and hands-on.  We hope all visitors will leave having learnt a little and having been inspired a lot. Science is for everyone. Enjoy it!”

MacDiarmid Institute Co-Directors Associate Professor Nicola Gaston and Professor Justin Hodgkiss said that partnering with MOTAT had enabled the MacDiarmid Institute to showcase just how vital materials science was to the world around us, from flexible solar panels and superconductors, to anti-bacterial silver particles.

“Mighty Small Mighty Bright shows how science translates from the lab to the marketplace, with real-life examples of hi-tech materials science underpinning industry in New Zealand.

We’re always keen to find new ways to inspire young people to keep on with science and be part of the hi-tech economy.”

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For further information, including scheduling interviews with representatives from the Dodd Walls Centre, the MacDiarmid Institute and the representatives behind the commercial applications on display, please contact MOTAT’s Communications Advisor - Rebecca Hendl-Smith. 

Rebecca Hendl-Smith – MOTAT Communications Advisor

027 4 666 921                    |              rebecca.hendl-smith@motat.org.nz

EXHIBITION OVERVIEW:  Mighty Small Might Bright is presented as 12 interactive pods or stations, divided into two distinct sections. 

SECTION 1. ‘Back to basics’

Revealing the basic science behind Photonics, Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, each interactive pod contains hands-on experiments that enable visitors to explore these different scientific principles.


TO THE VISIBLE, AND BEYOND! – See how different light sources are made up of different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum by reflecting them through a spectrometer to see varying ‘rainbow-like’ effects.

CATCH SOME RAYS – Visitors can play with prisms, lenses, mirrors, and filters to see how light can be bent and redirected.

LITTLE WONDER – An introduction to nanotechnology. Visitors slide magnets up and down three jars, each containing magnetic material of different sizes to demonstrate the effect this has on the particles’ behaviour.

THE RIGHT STUFF – An introduction to Advanced Materials and designing material for a super specific purpose to do the best job possible. On display are examples of a flexible solar panel, superconductor, and a giant tooth with anti-bacterial silver particles.

MAKING IT (NOT) STICK? – Explore how scientists make hydrophobic surfaces. Watch a fountain demonstrating this principle as well as activate videos to see hydrophobic surfaces close-up on a screen.

CLOAKING DEVICE – Visitors are invited to look through a row of lenses that are arranged to redirect light so that objects placed at the opposite end appear to disappear.

A HAUNTING GLOW – A fun introduction to optical tweezing, visitors can press a button to make a bulb appearexcept that the bulb is only a reflection of one installed inside the interactive pod.

CAN YOU BELIEVE YOUR EYES? – Visitors step into a ‘room’ wholly lit by a light source made of a single wavelength of light, thereby testing how our eyes interpret light and colour. Printed images on the wall appear very strange until visitors flash a regular torch onto them to reflect ‘normal’ daylight colours.


SECTION 2. ‘Out there tech’

This section showcases how New Zealand led developments in the areas of Photonics, Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials can now be found influencing our day to day lives and industry.


SHAKING UP THE APPLE INDUSTRY – By firing a laser at apples, scientists create mini earth quakes on an apple’s surface that help farmers understand how ripe they are, so they can get their product to market at the best price possible.

SMART SCIENCE … BETTER MILK – Kiwi company Orbis Diagnostics are helping farmers to perform valuable tests on their cows’ milk in the field. Visitors will be able to spin a big disc to show how the principles of microfluidics behind the technology work.

CLEARING THE AIR – In many parts of the world, clean air is not always guaranteed. Thankfully Kiwi company Aeroqual have found a way to produce handheld air quality monitors that can easily test for a wide range of chemical gases. Visitors can test the system by blowing into one of their air quality testing units to see how much carbon dioxide is in their breath.

GLOWING RESULTS – Biochemists are using the science of phosphorescence in many applications. Explore how this can work by shining a light onto the specially painted wall to see the phosphorescent results.