Year 10 Narrabri High School student, Eliza Dampney, has been picked for a unique learning experience in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector.

The 16-year-old, the daughter of Tony and Kylie Dampney, is one of only 120 girls selected from years nine and 10 across the country to participate in Curious Minds STEM camp.

“It all started earlier this year, when I took part in a science competition at school,” Eliza told The Courier.

“I got involved because I love analysing data and numbers – exploring to find out why something works the way it does is a real passion of mine.

“During the most recent school holidays, Curious Minds reached out to my teacher Mrs Charalambous as a result of my results in that science competition, encouraging me to apply for their STEM program.”

After doing her own research into Australian Science Innovations and their Curious Minds program, Eliza leapt at the opportunity.

“It looked like a great chance to further my scientific abilities, so I put in an application and was lucky enough to be selected,” she explained.

“So now I’ll be attending a virtual summer camp in December, which goes for four days.

“Usually, Curious Minds runs in-person, but has been moved online due to COVID.

“Each day of the December camp will run from about 9am to 9pm, with both lectures and practical lessons.

“They also send physical resources, so we can take part in hands-on learning via the virtual classes.”

At the end of the four-day summer camp, each of the students will be assigned a mentor, which Eliza is really looking forward to.

“They pair us each up with a woman who works in STEM, with expertise in the area we’re personally interested in,” she said.

“We work with them, one-on-one, for a six-month mentorship program.

“Then, in July next year, we gather for another three-day winter camp where all the girls share the work they’ve done with their mentor in that time.”

While Eliza is excited to further her education, one of the major appeals of the Curious Minds program is the opportunity to interact with other girls and women who share her love of STEM.

“I’ll get to meet and connect with people who share my interests in data science and STEM more broadly,” she said.

“And to have the chance to be mentored by a woman working in the industry is just amazing.

“This is a wonderful opportunity and it truly means everything to me.”

Eliza says she’s especially grateful to be offered entry to the program, given how rare such specialised experiences can be in regional and remote areas.

“Curious Minds isn’t aimed at just rural students, it looks at the whole country, but there’s consideration for regional students since we don’t always have access to these unique opportunities,” she said.

“So I’m very excited to have been selected for the camp.”

Eliza is no stranger to excelling in her studies, making her a worthy candidate for Curious Minds.

At just 16-years-old, not even in her senior years of high school yet, she’s already looking to the future.

“I know I want to go to university, so I’ve started considering different institutions and degrees,” Eliza said.

“I’m excited to see what I can learn from the other girls in this program, and my mentor, and how the experience will shape my future education choices.”

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