Mak­ing the ex­hibits

The Shed - - Exhibition Maker -

Ron cuts the stan­dard-sized ex­hibit bases from melamine board on the saw­bench, cuts a groove to take the plas­tic edge mould­ing around the base’s edges us­ing the router ta­ble, and cuts the side pieces with a pic­ture framer’s guil­lo­tine. The work­ing parts of the ex­hibit may be in wood or metal, but Ron’s favourite ma­te­rial (aside from its ex­pense) is thick plas­tic sheet. There are many va­ri­eties and colours ob­tain­able to­day that are strong, durable, and easy to ma­chine.

One of Ron’s long-stand­ing cus­tomers is the Sci­ence Road­show, which trav­els New Zealand vis­it­ing schools. Groups of ex­hibits with var­i­ous themes, such as earthquake­s, have been or­dered by the road­show over the years. When New Zealand’s gi­gan­tic dairy co­op­er­a­tive Fon­terra was the road­show’s spon­sor in the early 2000s, dairy sci­ence was high­lighted. One dairy interactiv­e dis­play in­volved iden­ti­fy­ing dif­fer­ent types of milk. An­other fea­tured small model cows be­ing moved through a farm gate — mag­nets were again in­volved — but not all were able to be moved. Eight per cent of the toy an­i­mals fell over when at­tempts were made to move them. In real ru­ral life, eight per cent of cows suf­fer from ‘stag­gers’ na­tion­ally. This con­di­tion is caused by tox­ins pro­duced by a fungi that grows on rye­grass when the weather is favourable. The tox­ins make the beasts un­steady on their hooves and this is es­pe­cially no­tice­able when they are moved. The les­son be­ing taught is that dairy farm­ers have to be alert for prob­lems with their an­i­mals and be ready with so­lu­tions. In the case of rye­grass stag­gers sup­ple­men­tary feed or mov­ing to less in­fected pas­ture helps.

M¯aori tech­nol­ogy and sci­ence were the focus of a re­cent set of ex­hibits. One il­lus­trated the com­plex joints used to join up to three logs to­gether to al­low the build­ing of very large war ca­noes, or waka taua, the largest of which could hold 100 war­riors and be more than 30m long. The joint locked two lengths of tree trunk to­gether pro­duc­ing a wa­ter­proof and im­mensely strong joint. The waka were not only long but, be­cause of the large logs used, also quite beamy. This pro­vided sta­bil­ity and al­lowed them to dis­pense with the out­rig­gers used on ca­noes in the Pa­cific Is­lands. The very largest waka taua could seat five war­riors across on most of the thwarts.

Where there’s a will

Ron has a sci­ence back­ground. He ob­tained a New Zealand Cer­tifi­cate in Sci­ence (NZCS) (now a Bach­e­lor of Ap­plied Sci­ence) in 1969. He also has very-well-honed con­struc­tion skills but, most im­por­tant, he thinks, is his imag­i­na­tive feel for the pre­sen­ta­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal ideas. Ninety per cent of the ex­hibits’ de­signs are Ron’s. The Na­tional Sci­ence-Tech­nol­ogy Road­show Trust’s di­rec­tor Ian Kennedy de­scribes Ron as be­ing “care­ful and in­no­va­tive”. 

Ninety per cent of the ex­hibits’ de­signs are Ron’s

Left: The stone-cut­ting de­vice with large di­a­mond-tipped blade that Ron made as a teenager. The X-ray ma­chine built at the same time has not sur­vived

A road­show ex­hibit of min­er­als and geodes

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