When it comes to hooking young Kiwis on science, there might be no brighter way than making things glow in the dark.

Over the next week, pupils and scientists across the country will be taking part in Illuminating NZ - Te Koanga, a programme shedding light on the booming field of photonics.

All light is made up of photons, particles of light that have no mass.

Schools will be receiving nearly 5000 special science kits including light-based experiments, brain teasers and a small coded beacon that, when activated, will light up a map of the country on the programme's official website.


University of Auckland's Associate Professor Cather Simpson, who is helping to organise the event, said, "This kind of hands-on activity is a great way to engage our scientists of the future; the researchers and astronomers who will be key to New Zealand securing its place as an innovator and leader in light technologies."

She leads the university-based Photon Factory, a cutting-edge research facility that studies how molecules convert light to useful energy. Dr Simpson believed photonics would prove as transformative in this century as electronics was in the last one, eventually running everything invisibly.

"If you carry a smartphone, you've already got a device that was manufactured largely by lasers, uses high-tech photonics in the screen, and connects to an internet that is run through optical cables and components."

The programme was targeted at primary-aged children as research showed that pupils were deciding even by the time they began high school on a career in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM).

We need kids involved in science so that we have more adults who are involved in science - making those innovations that advance our civilisation. We also need a society that is thoroughly science literate. Global climate change is an excellent example - a science-savvy government and populace can respond more effectively than one that denies the science.


Outside schools, activities will be held at museums including Motat, where the event's opening gala will be staged tonight, Te Papa, and Space Place at Wellington's Carter Observatory. The programme, part of the Government-funded Unlocking Curious Minds initiative, also marks the 2015 Unesco International Year of Light.