Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is one of the most talked about topics in education, highlighting scientific research, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) is a non-profit organisation that runs several programs with the ultimate aim of encouraging young people in their passion for science.

Creating new opportunities to connect young Australians with diverse science and technology pathways, high school students from across the nation delved into the world of science and technology at the 2024 NYSF Year 12 Programs held in Canberra and Brisbane.

From January 12 to 20, Narrabri High School Year 12 students Will Faris, Daniel Smith, Maeve Harris and George Bennett travelled to the University of Queensland to experience hands-on a wide range of different science and technology facilities.

Meeting up with people who work in STEM and hearing about the many different areas and career pathways is just one aspect of a jam-packed schedule.

Whether space and astrophysics, sustainability and climate, or autonomous transport and robotics, the students experience activities across a broad range of disciplines which include artificial intelligence and cyberspace, engineering, chemistry, environmental science, physics, and health and medicine.

The program featured live crosses to world-ranking STEM facilities in Australia with the added bonus of some of the world’s best science and technology facilities. These included JOIDES Resolution in the Mediterranean, and CERN in Switzerland.

Daniel Smith, Maeve Harris and George Bennett working in the field of mechatronics engineering at UQ with a student Ned, from another school.

The research vessel JOIDES Resolution, often referred to as the JR, is one of the scientific drilling ships used by the International Ocean Discovery Program, an international, multi-drilling platform research program.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is an intergovernmental organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

Amongst the line-up of inspiring presenters, NYSF featured keynote speakers Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro, and 2023 Queensland Women in STEM Prize award winner Dr Lena Oestreich. The program offers critical skill building workshops in communicating science and technology and includes a ‘Great Debate’ on the topic of ethics, focussing on trust and the ever-emerging AI platforms.

The NYSF greatly helps young people who may not otherwise have the chance to explore science and technology and in 2024, 45 per cent of participants were from remote and regional areas of Australia.

Attendance of the program is largely assisted with sponsorships, made possible for our four local budding young scientists by donations from Narrabri High School P&C, the NSW Farmers Association (Narrabri branch), Whitehaven Coal, and the Rotary Club of Narrabri.

Rotary clubs nationwide play a pivotal role in ensuring students in local communities across the nation are aware of and offered the opportunity to benefit from NYSF by providing crucial funding support for families and local clubs volunteering hours of their time.

NYSF Careers Day lectures taking place at the University of Queensland (UQ).

NYSF CEO, Dr Melanie Bagg, said the NYSF Year 12 Program is often described by participants as life changing.

“It relieves the pressure as they enter their last year of high school and think about what next, by exposing lots of job options they were previously unaware of.

“The program gives them a chance to meet others interested in similar areas to them, they forge long-term friendships, networks and stay in touch for decades.

“This is particularly valuable for those who don’t have others with similar interests around them, and it highlights people with a wide range of abilities pursuing and succeeding in science and technology careers.

“A diverse array of backgrounds also catalyses more innovative outcomes. By showcasing what working in STEM is really like and actively engaging those who may otherwise be overlooked, NYSF fosters a STEM landscape that reflects the true diversity of Australia,” said Dr Bagg.

Speaking on behalf of the Narrabri students, Daniel spoke enthusiastically about the event.

“It really was an amazing, eye-opening experience. It was so interesting learning about the vast array of STEM fields and careers, and a great way to meet up with like-minded people. We saw and heard about many new aspects within the industry which previously we were not aware of or had little knowledge of.

“I would like to convey a huge thanks from all of us to the sponsors who made this experience possible.”

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