From the CEO – the year in review

As selections for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program are finalised in communities all over the country, I can report that the NYSF is tracking well as we head into our 35th year of program delivery, making a difference in the lives of so many young Australians who love science.

In my sixth year as the CEO of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), I am very proud to to report that the NYSF’s suite of outreach programs was again delivered successfully in the past financial year. The feedback we received from last year indicated a broad sense of satisfaction with the programs we are offering to our wide range of participants – year 12 students, teachers, alumni, and just outside of the 2016-2017 reporting period – year seven and eight students. As always, we will continue to use this feedback to support our continuous improvement paradigm for upcoming programs. 

Reflecting the strategic direction of the organisation over the past financial year we have welcomed five new staff members to the corporate team – effectively doubling our resources. These new members have complemented the expertise of our existing team and boosted our capability within communications, marketing, program development, and delivery. With these new colleagues, we now have a team of 10 FTE.

The receipt of significant funding from the Australian Government through the National Science and Innovation Agenda has assisted in the continued development of NYSF’s Year 12 Programs and the National Science Teachers Summer School, which will also be delivered in both Canberra at The Australian National University (ANU) and Brisbane at The University of Queensland (UQ) in January 2018. The Year 12 Program will be offered to up to 600 participants, with 70 student staff leaders across the three sessions supporting their experience, and the expanded science teacher program now allows for 80 places in both locations.

We have also introduced an Equity Scholarship to assist students from low socio-economic backgrounds and other equity groups to attend the program, complementing the ongoing financial support available from many Rotary clubs. We expect this initiative to be fully subscribed for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program.

As noted above, we recently successfully delivered our first STEM Explorer Program, in conjunction with the South Australian Department of Education and Early Childhood. This program is targeted at year seven and eight students to increase their curiosity and STEM literacy and was extremely well received by the younger students who participated in the inaugural program.

Our fundraising and corporate support achievements remain solid and have exceeded expectation and budget. My sense is that this is due to our mature communications strategy, our paradigm of continuous improvement, and the delivery of quality and relevant programs. An additional factor is the contemporary governance approaches championed by our experienced Board. 

I take this opportunity to thank our Board members for their ongoing support, professionalism and strategic vision as we move the organisation through this significant growth phase.

I am pleased to advise that Andrew Metcalfe, AO, Rowley Tompsett, Loren Atkins, Dr Renee Kidson and Professor Sally-Ann Poulsen – the latter three are alumnae of the NYSF (as the National Science Summer School) – have all been re-appointed to the Board. We are also delighted and very excited that Dr Geoff Garrett, AO and the Hon Kate Lundy have been elected to the NYSF Board and will both be Deputy Chairs. Andrew Metcalfe, AO was re-elected as Chair for another two years.

Dr Garrett has a distinguished leadership and professional career in science both in Australia and internationally and most recently was the Chief Scientist in Queensland; prior to that Dr Garrett was the CEO of CSIRO.

Ms Lundy is the ACT Local Industry Advocate and formerly Senator for the ACT (1996-2016) in the Australian Parliament; she served in Ministerial appointments during this time, and is now actively engaged in promoting the opportunities for national and international business in the ACT. As a Senator, Ms Lundy was an enthusiastic supporter of the NYSF, often welcoming our participants to Canberra at Parliament House Opening Ceremonies.

The breadth of experience that these appointments adds to our board cannot be overstated, and I look forward to working with all of our board members to continue the organisation’s strategic development in the coming years, under the steady guidance of our Chair, Andrew Metcalfe, AO.

The broad aims of the NYSF are to reach more young people to encourage and build their engagement in STEM, to support and acknowledge science teachers in their own growth and development, to re-engage our alumni who are our best ambassadors – their achievements both personally and professionally inspire me every day.

I also acknowledge all of the Rotarians across the country for their support of the NYSF Year 12 programs, and specifically the significant contributions from our NYSF Rotary District Chairs.

I also acknowledge all of the Rotarians across the country for their support of the NYSF Year 12 programs, and specifically the significant contributions from our NYSF Rotary District Chairs.

And finally, I thank our corporate team members who work at the coalface of STEM outreach activities, finding and fashioning all of the pieces of the jigsaw, and working together to deliver quality programs for our participants.

I look forward to January 2018 and beyond as the NYSF continues to grow and meet the needs of the Australian community.

Dr Damien Pearce

Chief Executive Officer

August 2017

STEM Explorer Wrap Up

The first National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) STEM Explorer Program ran from 17-21 July in Adelaide, South Australia. The Program was the first residential STEM camp in Australia for this age group of year 7-8 students and was delivered as a partnership by the NYSF and South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD).  The aim of the Program – to enthuse the participants about the study of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Want to read more about the NYSF STEM Explorer Program?

If you’d like to know the institutions and organisations involved and the views of some of the key STEM advocates involved in the program you can read about that in “NYSF STEM Explorer roams across the Adelaide landscape”.

You can read about the activities undertaken by the participants in more detail in “Highlights of NYSF STEM Explorer 2017”.

Perhaps you’d like to know more about the NYSF’s “By Youth for Youth” program model and the NYSF alumni who volunteered their time and passion to support the young participants, while also gaining a valuable leadership development opportunity. You can read about that in “Meet the Youth Advisors of NYSF STEM Explorer”.

Meet the Youth Advisors of NYSF STEM Explorer

“Australia needs more students passionate about STEM and wanting to work in these fields. I want to play a role in making students aware of the pathways they can take in STEM but also show them how interesting it can be.” Damian

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) has used a by youth for youth model in our NYSF Year 12 Program for the majority of its 35 years in operation. This is just one aspect that makes the program so unique! This same tried and tested model has also been implemented for the new STEM Explorer program running in Adelaide this week. What we have found through this model is that the young participants on program find the youth leaders highly relatable and inspiring as they are close enough in age and stage that they can more easily picture themselves in their shoes. Being a Youth Advisor also offers a great opportunity to develop leadership skills.  The Youth Advisors volunteering at STEM Explorer are all NYSF alumni, and the majority are currently pursuing their own future in STEM through university or graduate jobs.

There were ten fantastic Youth Advisor volunteers lending a hand at STEM Explorer. I spoke to some of them on site and here are some of the pearls they had to pass on to our young STEM enthusiasts.

Teejay is currently studying to become a maths and science teacher at the University of Newcastle and loves sharing her passion for science and learning.

Reflecting on her own time as a participant with NYSF, Teejay said “The NYSF introduced me to creative scientific thinking and made science interesting and relatable. I loved that the NYSF taught us science through experiences. Everyone at NYSF radiated a passion for science and learning which inspired me to become a science and maths teacher so I could show more students that passion.”

Katie is nearing the end of a Bachelor of Information Technology & Science at the University of Queensland. Katie feels very passionate about the value of STEM and supporting young students to pursue this. “I applied for the Youth Advisor role with STEM Explorer because supporting students through the early days of an education in these fields is an endeavour I will always be passionate about.”

Damian is currently completing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Sydney. He applied for the role as a Youth Advisor because – “Australia needs more students passionate about STEM and wanting to work in these fields in the future, I want to play a role in making students aware of the pathways they can take in STEM but also show them how interesting it can be.”

We asked the Youth Advisors – If you could give one piece of advice to the Year 7 & 8 students attending STEM Explorer, about pursuing a future in STEM, what would it be?

Here is what they had to say:

“Do it! There are an infinite variety of jobs in STEM and the beauty is, if you don’t like any of them you can make your own job. STEM is limitless and always changing, you will never be bored or lose passion within STEM.” – Tegan

Parallel to the NYSF’s own key mission, Damian says “Keep your options open and try as many things as possible, particularly at such a young age.  You never know what opportunities you will come by and which of those opportunities you will enjoy.”

What the NYSF has found through so many years of running STEM programs is the power in bringing together so many young students who are all enthusiastic about the same thing – STEM! The energy at the STEM Explorer Program in Adelaide was testament to that.

A big thank you to all our NYSF STEM Explorer Youth Advisors!

Highlights of NYSF STEM Explorer 2017

“I thought it was very interactive, interesting and fun to learn about how things can be structured.”

NYSF STEM Explorers were kept busy throughout the five-day program in Adelaide.

Arriving on Monday afternoon, participants spent the first afternoon getting to know each other, their Youth Advisors and the NYSF team.

On Tuesday, the day kicked off with a critical and scientific thinking workshop hosted by Ellen from NYSF designed to encourage analytical thinking and questioning, so important in this era of fake news. That afternoon was the first off-site lab visits, where the participants were split into five groups, visiting five different sites.

One group was thrilled to explore Lochiel Park, a housing development using latest science innovations to strive for sustainable, low emission living. In Lochiel Park the houses have a minimum 7.5 star energy efficiency rating and use on average 64% less energy than an average house. The Park has won a number of design awards since first being built over a decade ago and is supported by a a strong community engagement program.

Another visit toured the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre, a purpose-built marine and freshwater research facility. Students learned about why it is important to manage fishing stock into the future, and the Centre’s role in supporting the sustainable management of those fisheries resources. They also looked at the wider aquatic environment and how it underpins sustainable growth of aquaculture industries in South Australia, which can lead to future employment for the community.  The tour showed how oysters are grown, and how algae is farmed and harvested to feed crustaceans. Students dissected fish, looking closely at the otilith – a small bone in a fish’s ear that determines its age.

Mount Barker High School student, Cameron said the visit was well prepared and very informative.

“There is a lot under the topic of marine biology – a lot of work that isn’t talked about,” he said. “We learnt a lot of things like the management of fisheries, different methods of catching fish and other sea life.”

At the visit to the South Australian Museum on Wednesday the Chief Scientist of South Australia, Dr Leanna Read, spoke to the students about her role and own career. There were also talks from two PhD candidates – a palaeontologist and a microbiologist – both of whom engaged the students with their stories from their fields. More site visits, including to  South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) where the students toured the innovative building and learned that the design was modelled on a pine cone (and not a cheese grater as many often comment). With 16,000 windows and more than 600 scientists, there is certainly a lot going on at SAHMRI!

The University of Adelaide’s Why Waite program hosted students for some fascinating hands-on science. In the soil experiment, they learned about the different absorption properties of sand, soil and clay and how this would impact plants growing in those different soils. After that, the students got their hands dirty learning how to extract DNA from strawberries.

The University of South Australia hosted five visits from students.  In one visit, “Waging Peace”, they learned about the ongoing impacts of land mines used in war-torn countries. And during a tower building exercise, they put on their engineering hats. Working in teams, they set about designing and drafting plans to build a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows so it could support a small can of tuna.

Monique from Parafield Gardens High School took away a lot from the Tower Building workshop:

“I thought it was very interactive, interesting and fun to learn about how things can be structured.  I learnt that through trial and error and team work you can make something better.”

The Government of South Australia’s Natural Resources Management Board (NRM) Water Testing Activity saw all of  the STEM Explorers take to the water at the Mylor Adventure Camp – the program’s host site.  During the water testing in the local creek they looked for aquatic macro-invertebrates, and found numerous specimens from yabbies to scuds, mosquito larvae and water mites.  They also surveyed the bird life to gain a general overview of the biodiversity at Mylor.

Amy Blaylock, NRM Education Officer said the testing helped to make the students aware that there is so much life around them, even though they can’t see it.

“Even though they’re (macro-invertebrates) small they’re still part of the eco-system.  They give us a long-term picture of what’s happening with the eco-system.  It’s fascinating because you get so many stories of adaptation and niches they occupy.”

NYSF STEM Explorer roams across the Adelaide landscape

The first National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) STEM Explorer Program was delivered successfully in July, and what a week it was! Running from 17-21 July in Adelaide, the Program was the first residential STEM camp in Australia for year 7-8 students. Feedback from the students, site visit providers and all involved has been overwhelmingly positive allowing a strong base to build for next year’s program.

The NYSF STEM Explorer Program was delivered as a partnership by the NYSF and South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD).  Championed by the NYSF’s Science Patron, Professor Tanya Monro from the University of South Australia, and supported by the Hon Susan Close MP, Minister for Education and Child Development and also for Higher Education, the STEM Explorer Program was designed to stimulate students’ interest in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The STEM Explorer Program is an ideal opportunity for our students to explore STEM on a deeper level and network with other students and experts who share similar interests and levels of passion in these subjects. There’s an identified need for more STEM graduates in the state, and NYSF have worked hard to tailor their specialist pilot program to profile a host of opportunities,” said Ms Close.

Picture: The Hon Susan Close MP speaking to the participants about the value of STEM.

Professor Tanya Monro believes STEM skills are critical to keep Australia moving as an innovative country. “STEM literacy is simply a core capability that Australian employers need. As an education provider, NYSF is proud to offer a new program which aims to attract new students to STEM and equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.”

Picture: Professor Tanya Monro, NYSF Science Patron, getting to know the students in the Monro interest group.

A huge thank you to all of our supporters, who generously offered their time and resources to host the students and share with them their own science endeavours, research and passion for STEM:

  • The University of South Australia
  • The University of Adelaide – including the Why Waite program
  • Flinders University
  • the South Australian Museum
  • SciWorld
  • the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
  • the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
  • the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre (SAASC) and the
  • NRM Education – a program of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.
  • Finally, a big thanks to Mylor Adventure Camp for being excellent and supportive hosts!

Most importantly we owe thanks to our funding partners SA DECD and the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).

Read about the NYSF STEM Explorer Program highlights here.

Volunteer Opportunities for Alumni with NYSF STEM Explorer – July 2017

2017 is set to be a big year for the NYSF with the launch of a new pilot program, NYSF STEM Explorer. The program is a collaborative initiative between the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) and the NYSF, with additional seed funding provided by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

The Adelaide based program, running from 17-21 July 2017, is targeting science engagement for school students in years 7 and 8, with spaces for 120 students from across South Australia. In line with the vision of NYSF, the program aims to inspire young people to value science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and its importance in our communities. Planning is well underway for this exciting new program with visits to leading research facilities and industry sites.

Are you an NYSF Alumni looking for a professional development opportunity? Would you be interested to take on a role to help to facilitate the program? Have you missed the NYSF and want an opportunity to re-engage?

Calling all NYSF Alumni

Following a similar model to that of the NYSF Year 12 Program, STEM Explorer will be staffed by NYSF alumni volunteers, and applications are now open. We are looking for one STEM Explorer Coordinator to act as a “Chief of Staff” (must be over 21) as well as several Youth Advisors (must be over 18) to supervise events and student participation in the program. You can read more about the positions and their selection criteria through the links below.

Apply here to be a Youth Advisor for the 2017 STEM Explorer program

https://www.nysf.edu.au/volunteer/stem-explorer-volunteering-opportunity/

Apply here to be the STEM Explorer Coordinator for the 2017 STEM Explorer Program

https://www.nysf.edu.au/volunteer/stem-explorer-volunteering-opportunity-2/

Applications close midnight Sunday 21 May 2017.