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

From the CEO

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2017 January Sessions are now behind us and the 400 Australian and international students who participated have returned home to commence their final year in high school, full of new knowledge, inspiration and friendships to carry them forward during this pivotal time in their lives.

Both Session A and C were extremely successful and a testament to the extensive dedication and support we received from so many people who support our programs.  In particular, I would like to thank our Chiefs of Staff, Meg Lowry (Session A) and Martin de Rooy (Session C), and our teams of student staff leaders, whose efforts were instrumental to the success of program this year.

I would also like to recognise contributions by the NYSF Corporate staff, our volunteer Rotary parents, aunts and uncles, members of Rotary Clubs across Australia, Burgmann College, The Australian National University (ANU), our communications and teacher program interns, our many distinguished guest speakers and particularly our lab visit hosts, who provided access to leading research and industrial facilities. I encourage you to read back through the NYSF Outlook site to learn about some of the highlights from session.

Finally, the NYSF program could not exist without the financial and logistical support of our Partners and Sponsors. I thank them for their contributions during January and their continued support of the organisation and its programs.

Running in conjunction with the year 12 program in January was the NYSF National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) – aimed at supporting teachers and their commitment to STEM education in their local communities. A group of 40 teachers from around Australia participated in this long-running professional development program. Teachers were exposed to cutting edge science via lab visits, workshops, and lectures as well as engaging and networking with their peers.

Exciting times are ahead for the NYSF as we continue to develop and grow the organisation. In January, our Chair, Andrew Metcalfe AO, announced the addition of a third January session (Session B) for NYSF 2018 hosted at The University of Queensland (UQ), providing an extra 200 places – 600 students in total at the ANU and UQ.  This is made possible through funding from the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). The extra places will give more students across Australia the opportunity to explore their study and career options in the STEM fields. This is evidence of the value of our year 12 program and its positive effect on students studying STEM subjects.

Although January is over, the NYSF engine room is still running hot with much planned for the remainder of 2017 and beyond. Applications for NSYF International Programs have opened with overwhelming interest.  March is looking busy – applications for NYSF 2018 will open on 1 March and will be accepted until 31 May. The Rotary District Chairs Conference will be held in Canberra, and our alumni will be out and about promoting STEM study and the NYSF at the World Science Festival in Brisbane. Our Next Step Programs for NYSF 2017 students will run throughout April to July in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, with alumni events co-hosted by IP Australia. The Student Staff Leadership Program kicks off in July and another first for the NYSF is our exciting pilot program, STEM Explorer, which will run for the in Adelaide in July 2017.  The STEM Explorer Program is a collaborative initiative between the South Australian Department of Education (DED) and the NYSF, targeting science engagement for school students in years 7 and 8. We also acknowledge the seed funding we received to develop this program from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

In other news, we also announced in January that Professor Tanya Monro, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia, has taken on the role of NYSF Science Patron.  Professor Monro, a NYSF alumna (1990), was Chair of the NSSS Board from 2014-2016.  We are delighted that Professor Monro will continue her involvement with the organisation. We have also welcomed Professor Sally-Ann Poulsen and Loren Atkins to the NSSS Board. Professor Poulsen is also a NYSF alumna (1986) and will bring with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in industry and academica.  Loren Atkins (NYSF alumna 2005), the new NYSF alumni representative, holds a Bachelor of Law (Hons), and a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Science, and currently works for the World Bank as an Associate Counsel.

By now, our NYSF 2016 alumni will have made decisions about the next stage of their education.  Whatever field of study or institution you have decided upon I would like to wish you all the best for your future studies and hope that in some small way the NYSF has helped steer you on your path.

Dr Damien Pearce

CEO

NYSF 2017 Session C welcomed to Parliament House

NYSF 2017 Session C NYSF Participants found themselves in the heart of the nation on Wednesday at Parliament House as they attended the official opening of NYSF 2017 Session C. Dressed to the nines, the group were warmly greeted by an impressive array of speakers.

Dr Andrew Metcalfe AO, chair of the NSSS Board, opened the event. With a personal connection to the program through his son, who is an NYSF alumnus and currently completing a science PhD, Mr Metcalfe conveyed to the participants the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in science that they had been given. Next, Mr Steve Hill, the District 9710 Rotary Governor, addressed the group. He highlighted the importance of Rotary to support youth programs, and encouraged the students to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities and experiences that are to come.

The group also heard from Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM, the current Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Having a business and economic background, the way she spoke so highly of science emphasised to the participants the importance of science in a political setting. After all, as she made a point of saying, ‘you can’t look at innovation without science’.

Ms Beauchamp shared many of her own views on the science community, equating scientists with rock stars, and the need to celebrate science. She proudly outline the many scientific achievements of Australia, and also the need for more entrepreneurial endeavours from scientists. Being in an age where technology and science are reaching exciting new levels, she stressed the importance of finding ways to let science translate into commercial and economic benefits for the whole nation. She concluded with inspiring words, ‘hope to see some of you in business, academia, and government’,  – which is fitting as all are possibilities with the varied pathways science can lead to.

Finally, Dr Anna Cowan addressed the group, outlining the great community that the NYSF creates, with many colleagues and students being NYSF alumni. Being the Deputy Director of Education at ANU’s college for Medicine, Biology and Environment, as well as the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, her inspirational words were especially significant to the group of future scientists.

Once the speeches concluded, the group was treated to an exclusive tour of Parliament House, including the opportunity enact the process of passing a bill in the House of Representatives through a mock proceeding. The growing confidence of the group was evident in this activity, and with lab visits looming on the horizon, things are only just getting started for the Session C participants.

 

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

Photos by Veronica O’Mara, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

From the Chair

Chair of NYSF Board, Andrew Metcalfe AO (image Julie Maynard/NYSF)I am very pleased to be taking on the role of Chair of the NYSF, after 12 months as Deputy Chair. I want to acknowledge the work that Professor Tanya Monro has achieved in her two years as the Chair, particularly on the constitutional review of the organisation, and the focus on to strategic planning. Our sincere thanks to Tanya for her commitment, which is particularly of value as an alumna of the National Science Summer School (NSSS)/NYSF, and as a leading Australian scientist and educator – we are hoping that we can continue to entice her to share her insights with future cohorts of NYSF students.

Our sincere thanks to Tanya … we are hoping that we can continue to entice her to share her insights

Recently, during National Science Week, a report from the Grattan Institute identified that, “… only half of bachelor degree science graduates seeking full-time work had found it four months after completing their degrees.”  It also noted that only half of the recent science graduates who found full-time jobs reported that their qualification is required or important for their job. Three-quarters of engineering graduates however reported being in full-time work – presumably in engineering fields.

For some in the NYSF’s stakeholders, and the wider community, these findings will be somewhat disappointing and concerning – a university degree is an expensive investment, often driven by passion for a specific area. This is particularly the case in the science and technology areas, and definitely how most NYSF participants approach their tertiary study choices. To find at the end of that investment in time, effort, energy and money that your degree is not leading to a job of direct relevance will make many second guess their decision upfront.

At the NYSF, we are confident that our program’s approach actually assists in preventing this kind of disappointment.  We aim to assist our participants in exploring options, explaining the cross-collaboration that occurs in industry, and allowing a better understanding than a school-based, siloed, subject focus. We support informed decision-making for future study and careers. We also encourage the development of critical thinking skills, and illustrate how an entrepreneurial approach – which is not everyone’s bent, of course – can turn a “science career” into more than being in a lab, wearing a white coat. There are many different kinds of scientist – attending the NYSF can help to guide our participants through their decision-making, both immediately after school and into the future.

At the time of writing, all of our participants for the NYSF 2017 year 12 program have been selected by our friends and colleagues in Rotary Districts across Australia.  We look forward to welcoming the participants in January and seeing their understanding develop as a result of their involvement and investment in the NYSF opportunity.  They will have exposure to a wide variety of interesting lectures, science visits and outreach activities, supported by many in the Canberra region, but particularly at our host university, the Australian National University.

I also look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on the Board and the corporate team to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the NYSF, its programs and the impact on the young people who participate.

Andrew Metcalfe, AO