Why should the kids have all the fun? Summer school for science teachers

For the fifth year, the National Science Teachers Summer School will be running in Canberra next January, coinciding with the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF).

Applications open:   Wednesday 24 September 2013

Applications close:   Friday 24 October 2013

Aiming to provide teachers of science with a chance to reignite their passion and enthusiasm for science and teaching, the NSTSS takes participants into research labs at the Australian National University (ANU) and other sites around the nation’s capital including the Mount Stromlo Observatory and CSIRO.

“We’re able to offer the teachers unique experiences in science and science education,” says Damien Pearce, NYSF Director.  “They take part in workshops, and have discussions about teaching, learning and assessment in the classroom. We also look at the range of tools available to enhance teaching practices.”

The teachers also interact with students taking part in the January Sessions of the NYSF, and attend the NYSF Science Dinner at Parliament House.

Professor Ian Young, Vice Chancellor of Australian National University at the 2013 NYSF Science Dinner

Professor Ian Young, Vice Chancellor of Australian National University at the 2013 NYSF Science Dinner


NSTSS is made possible through the collaboration of the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), ANU, and NYSF.  “This collaboration is allowing Australian teachers of science with a really valuable professional development experience,” says Vic Dobos, CEO of ASTA.  “The support we receive from the researchers who host the lab visits makes a big different to the understanding and engagement of the participants.”

  • “Dr Kirk seamlessly brought to life the complexities of research, funding and science. There are many ways in which this can be brought to the classroom from planning a unit around a relevant theme and weaving the facts into a bigger story through to using simple everyday objects to represent the models we teach. The opportunity to listen to a great science communicator and be inspired by them was priceless.”  Dr Paula Mills, Prince Alfred College, Kent Town, SA
  • “These world-recognised academic speakers were exceptionally approachable and showed a sincere willingness to help teachers with questions and points of clarification. Many also invited post Summer School contact. This offer to remain in touch was most impressive.”  Paolo Arman, St Aloysius College, Adelaide, SA
  •  “As a primary teacher focusing on science and extension I now feel more confident in advising fellow staff as to how they might teach science and how I can support them to improve student outcomes.”  Neil Bramsen, Mt Ousley Public School, NSW
  • “Attending sessions with the students from the NYSF was an absolute privilege. I learned so much from them. Seeing them and listening to them makes what we all do so worthwhile. I think sometimes we forget this”.   Karen Jared, Mt Gambier High School, SA

NSTSS 2013 Chemistry lab res1 NSTSS 2013 Mt Stromlo res 1

Successful applicants to NSTSS will receive economy airfares to and from Canberra, six nights’ accommodation on campus at ANU, all excursion travel and most meals. A registration fee of $500 + GST is sought, which is fully tax deductible.

Key dates for NSTSS 2014:

Applications open:                                                                 Wednesday 24 September 2013

Applications close:                                                                Friday 24 October 2013

Successful applicants notified by email:                           Friday 1 November 2013

NSTSS 2014 will be held from Sunday 12 January to Saturday 18 January 2014 with participants staying on the campus of the Australian National University, Canberra.

For more information please contact Vic Dobos on ceo@asta.edu.au or phone (02) 6282 9377 during office hours.



From the (new) Director

What a privilege it is to write this first column for NYSF Outlook as the new Director, just as selections for the 2014 January Sessions are completed and we begin our run into the next round of NYSF programs.

I have had the opportunity to work closely with Geoff Burchfield, the Council, our Partners, and our colleagues here in the NYSF Corporate Team offices for the past several years, initially focusing on leadership and educational priorities, and then moving on to addressing change management to reflect the growth in the NYSF and its programs.

I live in Canberra with my wife, Rebecca, and I come to the NYSF Director’s position mainly from a background of vocational and professional education, after spending a number of years working within military and law enforcement maintenance engineering. While the link to this role at NYSF may not seem obvious, it is my candidature to become a Doctor of Education at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) where I am exploring the relationship between self-directed learning, critical thinking and contemporary professional practice, that has led me here. Putting it another way, I am interested in optimal ways to develop the capacity of being able to ‘learn to learn’ within vocations.

Taking up the baton from Geoff Burchfield has caused me to reflect on the significant contribution that he has made to the NYSF over the past nine years

Taking up the baton from Geoff Burchfield has caused me to reflect on the significant contribution that he has made to the NYSF over the past nine years. His passion for and focus on supporting motivated young people so that they want to continue their involvement in science, technology and engineering has not wavered over his time in the Director’s role, and we can all thank him for that. Geoff’s particular and unique insights have shown that he knows instinctively what makes a good program – hunting down the interesting speakers, riding the wave of what’s hot in the science world, and formulating a well-rounded program for each year’s participants. Therefore, I am delighted to report that we are not losing Geoff all together, as he has agreed to stay on as our Program advisor into the foreseeable future.  I thank him too for this ongoing commitment, and look forward to continuing our professional relationship.

In other changes, I want to thank Professor Hans Bachor for his substantial involvement in NYSF.  Professor Bachor resigned from his position as Chair of the Council in June. A warm thanks is extended to Hans along with our best wishes for his future endeavors.

At the AGM last week, Dr Craig Cormick was appointed as the new Chair of the Council. Craig is a science communicator and author who has presented to the NYSF January Sessions over many years, and is certainly well informed about NYSF and its operations.  I look forward to working closely with in the coming months.

As I see it, my biggest challenge as the NYSF Director into the future is to manage the expectations of all of our stakeholders and partners with a focus on ensuring the longevity of the NYSF.  We will all be working hard to maintain those vital relationships with existing partners, as well as identifying new partners whose support will be essential in the years ahead.

Speaking of the future, as I noted above, we are delighted that all Selections for students to attend the 2014 January Sessions in Canberra and Perth have been finalised, and Orientation Sessions have begun across Australia. You can read more about this and other developments in our programs further in this newsletter – there is much to report.

Congratulations to the 432 new members of the NYSF community. We look forward to building our united futures, and to seeing you all in January!

Damien Pearce
September 2013

2014 NYSF selections announced

Selections of students to attend the 2014 January NYSF Sessions held in Canberra or Perth have been finalised.

1300 applications were received this year

1300 applications were received this year, from 21 Rotary Districts across Australia. 735 females and 528 males applied, with ten of these being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. 144 students will attend each session, with ten international students coming to the Canberra Sessions. Two Indigenous students will attend the Perth Session, supported by NYSF Partner, CSL Limited.

NYSF letters offering students a place in the January programs have now been issued by the corporate team in Canberra, and students are taking up their task of entering information into the NYSF database via the website portal.

Orientation sessions for the NYSF program began in Canberra early in September, and are rolling out across the country until mid October. Students are advised to contact their Rotary District Chair if they are unable to make their orientation session. The preferred option is to attend another District’s orientation, however if this is not possible, arrangements can be made for an individual briefing, but only as a last resort.

A key task for students at this stage is to draft a trial job application to be used during the Sessions draft a trial job application to be used during the Sessions in the job interview component of the program. Information on this is held in the student’s online account within the NYSF website.

NYSF January Sessions 2014 Orientations begin

The Orientation Session for the  NYSF January Sessions 2014 of Rotary District 9710 was conducted in Canberra early in September.  It’s always good to get the first session completed!

Orientations are a useful way for NYSF to communicate directly with students and their families, and Rotary representatives, about the NYSF and its programs.

This year, Joy Burch MLA, the ACT Minister for Education and Training, welcomed the students to NYSF, and congratulated them on their achievement of being selected to attend the January Sessions.  The ACT Government supports NYSF’s January Sessions and Next Step programs, through the Economic Development Directorate.

Joy Burch MLA ACT Minister for Education and Training

Joy Burch MLA ACT Minister for Education and Training

NYSF Orientation for January Sessions 2014,  students with ACT Minister for Education, Joy Burch MLA

Some of the students from Rotary District 9710 with ACT Minister for Education and Training, Joy Burch MLA at NYSF Orientations

Rotarian Ian  with Belinda Aquilina, daughter Amy Aquilina and Georgia Love at District 9710 NYSF Orientation in Canberra

Rotarian Ian Ezergailis with Belinda Aquilina, NYSF 2014 students Amy Aquilina from St George’s Basin and Georgia Love from Cambewarra at District 9710 NYSF Orientation in Canberra

Sincere thanks and acknowledgement go to both CSIRO for its ongoing support for NYSF and its activities and specifically for hosting the first 2014 Orientation Session, and also to the ACT Government for its ongoing support.

NYSF 2013 Alumni selected as ANU Tuckwell scholars

Two members of the 2013 NYSF cohort have been selected as inaugural Tuckwell Foundation scholars.

Guy Leckenby, from Coffs Harbour, and Jakub Nabaglo, from Goulburn, were chosen from a shortlist of 72 students who spent a weekend at the Australian National University (ANU) undertaking a series of individual and group interviews. The original call for scholars received 657 applications of which 217 were invited to the next stage of online assessments.

The scholars will receive $20,000 a year for the length of a single or double undergraduate degree as well as ongoing academic and career mentoring. They will live in student accommodation and be encouraged to pursue community service and extracurricular activities.

“Guy and Jakob were outstanding participants in last year’s NYSF January Sessions,” says Damien Pearce, NYSF Director. “Both were selected to take part in our International Program. Jakob attended the South Africa National Youth Science Week in July.”

Guy has been selected as NYSF’s delegate to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in December. A highlight of this program is attending the Nobel Prize Ball.  Guy is planning a research project which will be presented at the Seminar. Its initial focus is “The place of astrophysics in a climate of global quandary”.

The Tuckwell Scholarship Program was established by ANU alumnus Graham Tuckwell and his wife Louise in February 2013. Their $50 million gift to the University was the largest ever donation to an Australian university by an Australian citizen.

Next Step concludes for 2013

The last of the NYSF Next Step programs for 2013 were delivered this month in Newcastle, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.

Next Step offers NYSF students an opportunity to look at a range of options for tertiary study in science, technology and engineering in these main and regional centres.

Visits to industry sites are also included in Next Step, which allows students to consider employment options and how to link in their study with a wide range of career choices. NYSF Partners often host these industry visits, providing additional value to their involvement in the program and engagement with the students.

Twenty-five students visited The University of Newcastle (UoN), where they had hands-on experience programming robots; the CSIRO’s Energy Centre; Orica’s Kooragang Island facility; and the Newcastle Institute of Energy.

University of Newcastle hosted NYSF Students in July 2013, image Dean Osland, Reproduced with permission of The Newcastle Herald, © Copyright 2013

University of Newcastle hosted NYSF Students in July 2013
Image: Dean Osland, reproduced with permission of The Newcastle Herald © Copyright 2013

The Sydney Next Step attracted 114 local and interstate students, and NYSF facilitated visits to the University of Sydney; the University of Technology Sydney; the University of New South Wales; and the University of Western Sydney. NYSF partners Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Cochlear, Orica’s Botany facility hosted visits, and the program rounded off with time at the Powerhouse Museum,  the Sydney Observatory and a cruise on Sydney Harbour.

NYSF students were hosted at University of Technology Sydney during 2013 Next Step Program image courtesy UTS

NYSF students were hosted at University of Technology Sydney during 2013 Next Step Program   (image courtesy UTS)

Maths is fun at UNSW! 2013 Next Step image courtesy UNSW

Maths is fun at UNSW! 2013 Next Step           (image courtesy UNSW)

Sydney 2013 Next Step toured the Botany Orica facility  image courtesy Orica

Sydney 2013 Next Step toured the Botany Orica facility (image courtesy Orica)

Adelaide’s program in July visited the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia. Site visits were made to the Royal Institution of Australia and the Science Media Centre, Rising Sun Pictures, behind the scenes tours at Adelaide Zoo, the South Australian Museum, and Forensic Science South Australia. Nineteen (19) local and interstate students from attended this program.

Fossil inspection at The University of Western Australia - NYSF students at Perth 2013 Next Step

Fossil inspection at The University of Western Australia – NYSF students at Perth 2013 Next Step

NYSF students were hosted by partners Curtin University at Perth Next Step 2013

NYSF students were hosted by partners Curtin University at Perth Next Step 2013

The final Next Step program for 2013 was held in July in Perth and attracted 16 local and interstate students. Visits were made to the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, the Forensic Science at the ChemCentre, BHP Billiton’s nickel refinery, IBM, and partner Water Corporation (WA).

NYSF International Program helps direct career plans

Sydney NYSF student Jonathan Li attended the Research Science Institute (RSI) in Boston as part of the National Youth Science Forum’s International Program in July this year.

Selected from 112 competitive applicants for the International Program drawn from NYSF’s January Sessions in 2013, Jonathan says, “I couldn’t believe my luck when I was offered the chance to go to Boston.”

Jonathan conducted a research project in computational biophysics, researching RecA, a recombinase protein that assists in DNA repair.  His work at Harvard was supervised by Professor Mara Prentiss and Dr Claudia Danilowicz.

Jonathan Li (r) with fellow student, Stephen Ban (l) from Utah in the US

“I was applying force across DNA strands and observing the binding/unbinding rates of RecA from the DNA in different conditions. During this research, I discovered that the homology search for DNA repair sequences occurred faster in adenosine diphosphate due to a structural change provided in ATP hydrolysis. This information helps us to understand how DNA repair and meiosis occurs on a basic level in the human body. From these results, I was able to put together a scientific paper and present it to scientists from nineteen different countries.”

“I didn’t think I would be able to top the NYSF January experience as it allowed me to form incredible bonds with the other students.  Attending RSI in Boston just extended the opportunity for me.

Being involved in both programs confirmed my interest in pursuing physics and biology

“Being involved in both programs confirmed my interest in pursuing physics and biology studies, and I hope my career will continue in these fields. I have also realised the importance of skills in computational science and mathematics in this area, and I will be pursuing these subjects in college.”

Jonathan’s attendance at the Research Science Institute in Boston was supported by NYSF Partner, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Students selected for Indigenous Youth Science Forum

Twenty four (24) young people from remote and regional areas of Western Australia have been selected to attend the Indigenous Youth Science Forum in October this year.

Supported by NYSF partner Rio Tinto, the IYSF is a developmental opportunity for indigenous Year 10 and 11 students from Western Australia to gain exposure to the study and career opportunities within science, engineering and technology. This program is an abridged version of the January NYSF sessions and is held in Perth during the October school holidays.  This year, students are coming from Geraldton, Karratha, Derby and Kalgoorlie.  The program is a collaboration with Western Australia Department of Education Follow the Dream: Partnership for Success program.

2013 IYSF Students

2013 IYSF Students

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and IBM Australia are also supporting the program.

Trek develops NYSF Staff Leaders

The NYSF leadership training program took place over the April ANZAC day period in 2013 at the ANU’s Kioloa campus on the south coast of NSW.

After the January Sessions, participants selected peers from their group who they considered to be suitable for volunteer staff leadership training. The training program is designed to prepare these potential group staff members to conduct interviews and orientations for the incoming NYSF cohort of 2014. It also outlines the role of a group staff member in the January Sessions.

Participants reviewed the philosophy of the NYSF and looked at the program from the perspective of a student staff member.

the large amount of work that goes into running NYSF

They learned about the large amount of work that goes into running NYSF, and also demonstrated the leadership qualities required of a member of the student staff team.

As well as reviewing the role description of a student staff member, much of the training was based on developing / improving skills in public speaking and presenting, methods of communication, time management, team work and independent decision making.

Over and above this though, ANZAC training allowed potential staff to re-connect, catch up with friends and student staff from the sessions in January, and to develop new friendships with those who attended the other Sessions. The activities over the days of training, whether formal, or fun and relaxing, all culminated to develop an incredibly enthusiastic team of student staff – a dynamic group that is determined to make the January Sessions of NYSF the best it can possibly be.

Following on from the April camp, the potential staff (split into four smaller groups) participated in a week-long leadership trek through the D’Aguilar Range in South East Queensland. While this trek did not have the same direct link to the role as student staff as the ANZAC training, the leadership skills that had been developed were tried and tested during the hike, allowing for an invaluable experiences for all involved.


As well as teaching the true meaning of being a leader, this trek allowed those who participated to learn about themselves and to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and to see their full potential so that they can not only the best leaders possible, but also the best people possible.

Thanks to Lauren Walker, from Taree — 2013 NYSF Alumnus — who provided the background information for this story.

News from abroad — Canada

Most of this year’s NYSF delegates to the various international programs with which NYSF is affiliated have been and returned from their trips.

Ben Galea from Bundaberg in Queensland attended the Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) in Alberta, Canada. The CWSF is a competition that attracts entries of science projects from students aged 12 to 18 from across Canada. The final display of 300 projects from 500 students was a comprehensive, if somewhat overwhelming, demonstration of the breadth of science issues engaging young people there.

Canada Wide Science Fair booths 2013

Canada Wide Science Fair booths 2013

The overall winner received $10,000, several scholarship offers and interviews with potential investors. Adam Noble (19) was well advanced in his research on “Silver Nano-Particle Therapy: A New Cure for Cancer”.

Ben checking out Alex's invention

Ben checking out Alex’s invention

Ben cited two other projects that caught his eye. “Sixteen year old Alex attached ultrasonic sensors to a belt and then wired them up to make a joystick tilt towards open doors and spaces, enabling the visually impaired to navigate through a building 54% more efficiently than those who use a customary walking cane. Josie (16) made pellets by grinding up orange skins to supply an E-coli rescinding supplement to cows. The talent, ideas and unending enthusiasm I saw in that week blew me away.”

The role of our Australian group was to showcase current Australian science at our stall and to choose four Canadian students to attend the NYSF in Australia in January 2014.  That was a difficult decision; they were all such motivated and highly interesting individuals.

Ben says that the opportunity to tour the Canadian Rockies and also look for fossils were other highlights of his trip.

The Australian NYSF clan,  in a cold and beautiful Banff, in Alberta, Canada

The Australian NYSF clan, in a cold and beautiful Banff, in Alberta, Canada

“It was a brilliant two weeks, which have left me with more knowledge, more friends, more memories, and more motivation in my scientific endeavours.”