Encouraging STEM students to broaden their minds

Over the holidays, I was fortunate enough to be able to join the National Youth Science Forum Year 12 Program or NYSF for short. NYSF is an Australia-wide STEM program that encourages Year 12 students to broaden their minds in their future careers in STEM.

This year, the program ran over three weeks, with the first and last weeks held over zoom and the second week being in person at various hubs around the country. I chose the NYSF central hub, Canberra.

Before I was able to participate in the NYSF, I had to complete and pass the application process through various interviews with NYSF staff and Rotary officials, as the NYSF was co-founded with Rotary in 1984. I am also very grateful to the local Bathurst Rotary Club Youth Representative, Ian McKean, who sponsored my trip and stay in Canberra.

During the online sessions, I was able to meet so many world-renowned STEM experts, such as Dr Karl Kruzelnicki, Adam Spencer, Professor Veena Sahajwalla and Dr Melanie Baggs, the CEO of the NYSF!

Online we had meetings with people from the CERN Hydron Collider in Switzerland, biologists in Antarctica, engineers from Tesla discussing their sustainable battery technology, a walkthrough meeting with astronomers and physicists at the Parkes Radio Telescope, an at-home experiment to calculate the amount of energy produced by the sun with Tomas Piccinni, a careers day with speakers from the Cosmo media company, a university day with speakers from universities across Australia, a meeting with Dr Ben Arthur, a meteorologist who works on collecting meteorological data in the Indian Ocean, as well as multiple STEM challenges that we worked in groups to complete!

At the Canberra Hub in the second week, I was thrilled to be able to meet so many people in person in a large variety of sessions. These were the sessions that I booked:

  • ANU Effective Altruism club, where we discussed world issues and ideas on how people can overcome those problems
  • Department 13, the Drone Defence company that works closely with the Australian Air Force and Defence as well as other international organisations part of the United Nations, where they develop technology to deter and control illegal or suspicious drones flying in prohibited areas, such as the harbour bridge during the fireworks, and cloaked army bases in Africa
  • Questacon, where I dove into cyber security and worked in teams to code programs to cause DDOS attacks on the other team, nulling their controls
  • The ANU solar racing club, where students have developed a solar-powered car that races in the international competition from Darwin to Adelaide on public roads
  • Quantum Brilliance, the company that is striving to modify its quantum computers into an affordable and sizable processor for personal computers
  • ANU Chemistry, where we made slime in a ridiculously complicated process in the chemistry labs, as well as made ice cream using liquid nitrogen
  • The ANU formula sports club, where we saw a prototype formula SAE car
  • The Australian Defence Force Drone Racing team, where we met on an oval at ANU and were involved in seeing and using racing drones that can reach speeds of 180km/h in a few seconds
  • The Wildbark Visitor Centre at Mulligans Flat, where we saw endangered animals in an enclosed and invasive species-free environment, such as the critically endangered eastern bettong, eastern quoll and shingle back lizard.

Now that the program has sadly ended, myself and the 400 plus other participants are now part of the growing NYSF alumni program, where we now have the opportunities to explore even further into branches of STEM that intrigue us. A program that I am most anticipating is the London International Youth Science Forum, where NYSF Australia alumni have reserved seats if they so choose to apply before they are 21.

The NYSF has been a brilliant program where I have been able to network with so many people and learn so much about STEM. I highly recommend it to any year 11 student that is interested in any part of STEM, even if you may not do science, technology, maths, or engineering, it is entirely possible to still apply. Just remember to be eager to learn more and have a curious mind!

Luke Woodhead, Year 12

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