Activities & Process

Creative Collisions: Collaboration with The Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing

Amelia Iverson & Pauliina Mattila, DFM Workshop Team

04 August 2020

Design is a universal approach to problem solving across disciplines. What if we applied this to the field of astronomy? Stars were aligned, when Design Factory Melbourne and The Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing joined forces by exploring creative solutions for reducing the carbon footprint of astrophysicists. 

There is growing recognition nationally and internationally around the need for astronomers to lower their carbon footprint. This challenge presented an opportunity for Swinburne University’s Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing (CAS) to take action and show leadership in the Greening Astronomy.


CAS had identified a number of areas in which the Astronomy industry is contributing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. The amount of traveling required for observing, attending conferences, and maintaining active collaborations, both domestically and internationally, causes CAS to be the most travelled research team in Swinburne. Another major energy consumer is the use of the OzSTAR supercomputer, between the temperature management of the equipment and the operating systems, this has a major impact on the amount of energy used at Swinburne. 


To tackle this problem, CAS wanted to explore creative responses to these challenges and collaborated with DFM to strive for sustainability in this field. Pauliina Mattila from our DFM team ran a creativity workshop with Professor Christopher Fluke and participants from the CAS to help build creative confidence across disciplines in problem solving. Astronomy PhD students worked with ideation tools from the design thinking process to figure out how they might reduce the environmental impact of their work in astronomy. Different ideation tools stretch participants’ thinking as they force exploration of ideas that at a first glance may look too wild, but hold a promise for an innovative, yet implementable solution. One of the workshop participants articulates this well:

“I have to train myself to think more wider and without sorting and therefore excluding ideas immediately”