IYSF encourages Indigenous students in WA

The third Indigenous Youth Science Forum was held in Perth in October, supported by Rio Tinto, IBM and the Defence, Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

Aiming to engage indigenous students in years 10 and 11 to continue their studies in science, technology, engineering and maths, the IYSF brings together young people from regional and remote areas of Western Australia – including Karratha, Derby, Port Hedland and Geraldton – for a week-long camp.

Rio Tinto’s Superintendent, Communities, Shannara Sewell said, “We are proud of the Indigenous education and training programs that we deliver, and strive to support initiatives such as the IYSF, that broaden opportunities for young people living in regional communities allowing them to reach their full potential.”

Run along similar lines to the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), the IYSF provides participants with hands-on experiences, visiting laboratories and science and engineering related corporate sites, and talking with scientists about their work.  Consulting with the WA Department of Education’s Follow the Dream coordinators, young people are identified who have an interest in science at school, and who may have the potential to follow a study and career path in the science areas.

IYSF Chem Centre 2013 C Indigenous students at IYSF 2013 UWA Sports Exercise program C

This year’s program covered the broad strokes of science content looking at physics, chemistry, energy, technology, and water. The students visited

  • The University of Western Australia – International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and the Department of Sport Science, Exercise and Health,
  • Bankwest Office of the Future
  • IBM
  • DSTO at Stirling Naval Base
  • NCEDA (Desalination Centre of Excellence), located at Murdoch University
  • Curtin University – Physics lab and Renewable Energy Fuel Cells
  • ChemCentre

Presentations were made after dinner by representatives from Rio Tinto, IBM, Elementaurs, and Shane Nannup, who talked to the students about the night sky, and provided a reading of the Milky Way seen through Indigenous eyes.

Murray Bruce, Director of Natural Resources at IBM Australia & New Zealand, says supporting the IYSF was a good opportunity for IBM to engage with indigenous communities in WA.   “Through interacting informally with a wide range of IBMers to discuss career ambitions and thoughts on success and lessons learned in their careers, we were able to bring the students’ studies of science alive and demonstrate where these studies can take them in the future. The students were particularly interested to hear first hand from one of our key clients about the role that IBM is playing on one of the region’s largest and  most complex liquefied natural gas projects.”

Feedback from the students who attended the IYSF was very positive and enthusiastic, with the majority indicating that they would recommend the program to other students in a similar position to themselves.

Science is actually going to be difficult to study, but worth it in the end 

Sarah from Mount Barker Community College said she learned, “a lot of different things, such as how naval bases can help in (the) everyday… how IBM has changed and developed the way we interact with and navigate through our world.  I also learned that camp is always worth it!  Science is actually going to be difficult to study, but worth it in the end.”

Indigenous students at Chem Centre 2013 C IYSF Flying Fox 2013 C

IBM at IYSF 2013

The visit to the Desalination Centre for Excellence elicited a number of feedback responses from the students, relating to how it improved their understanding of the process of turning saltwater into drinking water.

And the outdoor activities designed to establish communication and break down barriers were a big hit.  Joseph from Derby said, “I learned how to tie a harness and do some epic tricks on the flying fox.”

At ChemCentre, the students listened to real-life stories of how chemistry is being used every day. They toured a working laboratory, investigated microscopic physical evidence from ‘crime scenes’, explored an Emergency Response van and related equipment.

It was clear from the students’ responses that they enjoyed the hands-on activities, presentations and tours. Through their visit to ChemCentre, the students demonstrated high levels of chemistry knowledge, understanding and inquiry skills.

“ChemCentre is committed to inspiring the community with real-world, relevant science and to enhancing chemistry education in WA”, says Yvette Leong, from ChemCentre. “The IYSF was a great opportunity to do this for a group of bright and budding science students who were, in essence, ambassadors for their communities across WA.”

Indigenous students IYSF 2013  C

 NYSF recently announced that IYSF participant, Kyah Henderson from Geraldton Senior College (above with student mentor, Isaac Alexander) has been offered a place at the second January Session in Canberra; Kyah will be supported by NYSF partner CSL Ltd to attend the NYSF.

NYSF Annual Report 2013

NYSF’s Annual Report 2013 is now available to view online.

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).

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.

NYSF takes a Brain Break for National Science Week

In August, NYSF held a Brain Break morning tea as part of National Science Week. More than 800 workplaces took part across Australia, joining in and celebrating their love of and need for science – whether in their workplaces or at home.

Tegan McNamara and Ashly Vu Anneke runs the Brain Break Quiz

Geoff Burchfield welcomed the guests to the NYSF Brain Break – mainly alumni from ANU’s campus who braved the Monday morning chill – to test their general science knowledge using the quiz provided by the Brain Break organisers (and ably road-tested and delivered by NYSF staffers James and Anneke).

So, just how many elements begin with the letter C?