Launch for NYSF 2017

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) launched its 2017 January programs earlier this month at the Australian National University (ANU).

Andrew Metcalfe, AO, Chair of the NYSF Board said the January program would be better than ever due to the ongoing support of our funding partners and organisations that facilitated the program.  Mr Metcalfe made special mention of the recent funding announcement by Minister Greg Hunt of funding for the NYSF’s activities through the National Innovation Science Agenda (NISA).

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

Mr Metcalfe also welcomed our newest Funding Partner, IP Australia, who’s Deputy Director General, Ms Deb Anton, also addressed the group underlining the value of supporting the NYSF as a program that attracts Australia’s next generation of leading innovators. “This aligns with IP Australia’s position,“ she said, “as we are at the forefront of innovation in Australia.”

“Supporting new talent will result in a strong, positive impact in securing Australia’s future as a global leader in science and technology.”

Attendees at the launch included representatives from NYSF funding partners, ANU academics and researchers who assist with the delivery of the NYSF program in the form of the lab visits and guest lectures; other facility lab visit and site tour providers; alumni of the NYSF Program, many of whom are students or graduates of the ANU; NYSF Board and Council members; and the NYSF corporate team.


Dr. Chris Hatherly, Anne MacKay, Daniel Lawson, Emily Rose Rees, Ellen Lynch


Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Dr. Alison Shield


Alumni Sam Backwell, Laura Wey,                Mitchell de Vries


Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton


Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton


Mitchell de Vries, Natalie Williams,                Merryn Fraser


Rowley Tompsett, Madeline Cooper,             Melanie Tacey


Ken Maxwell, Dr. Damien Pearce, Jo Hart


Tony Trumble, Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Adrian Hearne, Brody Hannan

All images:  Emma Robertson

GRDC launches secondary school resources


The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which has been a proud supporter of the National Youth Science Forum over several years, has recently released a range of curriculum-linked resources which explore the latest science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nutrition, research and innovation in the Australian grains industry.

The resources present the professional nature of grain production and reference the types of technology that grain growers use on-farm. They also embed relevant Australian grains science and technology into a range of food and fibre teaching units, enabling teachers to teach mainstream subjects (such as science, geography, agriculture, home economics and nutrition) using grains as the teaching context. Each set of enquiry based resources includes activities, practicals, investigations and discussions.

The resources have been developed with input from reference teachers, researchers and growers and have been trialled at schools throughout Australia – with feedback hugely positive.

The resources include:

Agricultural Studies

  • The cost of frost – investigating weather (Year 9-10)
  • Smart grains – technology on farms (Year 9-10)


  • The importance of soil for growing great grain (Year 9-10)

Home Economics and Nutrition

  • Good grains for good gut health – the benefits of fibre (Year 9-10)
  • Grains, gluten and carbohydrates – focusing on grains as part of a healthy diet (Year 9-10)


  • Science behind dough quality (Year 10-11)
  • Science of stems, stomata and sustainability (Year 11)
  • Science of crossing and crops – plant breeding (Year 10-11)
  • Science of living soils – focus on nematodes (Year 10)

The full suite of resources are available to download from the GRDC website

Or contact Sarah McDonnell for further information


Growing great minds and great grains

Did you know that wheat, maize and rice make up 60 per cent of the world’s population energy intake? With the world population on the rise and the ever-increasing demand for Australian grain, scientists and farmers are working to breed better varieties and develop new and improved farming technologies and techniques. It’s all about producing high quality and high yielding grain crops – sustainably.

“We never considered that programming and coding were part of growing food, and that technology was such big part of farming.”

At the National Youth Science Forum 2016 program, students had the opportunity to participate in the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) session, which explored the science behind growing great grain. This session was all about hands-on science.

NYSF students exploring the science behind growing great grain.

NYSF students exploring the science behind growing great grain

Students started by getting the dirt on soil, looking for nematodes and assessing soil health, testing soil permeability and emulating ‘in the field tests’. Students then delved into the genetics of plant breeding, conducting crosses to develop superior wheat plants and getting creative designing their own futuristic species.

Our hands-on programming session gathered a lot of interest, with students able to use smartphones to pick up temperature readings from frost sensors they built, while others honed in on drone technology with an insight into unmanned aircraft use for monitoring crop health. Our focus was showcasing the ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering and maths) in the Australian grains industry.

The GRDC session finished with hands-on grainy food science, where students extracted gluten from dough and conducted a sensory analysis of bread products. Students explored the role of proteins and chemistry in food production.

NYSF students getting hands on with grainy food science

NYSF students getting hands on with grainy food science

The packed session was highly enjoyable, with many students learning to appreciate a side of primary industries that they had not considered before, discussing the scientific challenges of growing grains in Australia and enjoying the journey, from seed to store.

Our favourite quote was, “We never considered that programming and coding were part of growing food, and that technology was such big part of farming.”

Story and images by Sarah McDonnell from AgCommunicators

GRDC’s new Seed to Store initiative a hit with science students

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) presented a new suite of science-based activities at the 2015 NYSF January Sessions.

GRDC Capacity Building Program Manager Kathleen Allan says the new activities explored the biology and chemistry of cereal grains, engaging school students with the story of grain production from being sown as seed in the ground to ending up as products in stores.

“The GRDC is taking on a much more proactive role on behalf of the grain growers who support the organisation in educating students about the vast range of rewarding and challenging career opportunities on offer in our industry,” Ms Allan said.

There is an incredible range of science-based careers on offer in the grains industry

“There is an incredible range of science-based careers on offer in the grains industry – from engineering, molecular biology, agronomy, food science, grain chemistry and more – and there are plenty of jobs available.”

At the NYSF, students worked on a series of activities with GRDC science educator Belinda Cay, from AgCommunicators in Adelaide.

Extracting DNA from wheatgerm IMG_1407_2

Grinding grain to make dough

“Belinda helped students review soil health, extract DNA from wheat, assess dough quality and chemistry of weather-damaged and healthy grains and looked at the stomata and cell structures of drought tolerant and susceptible crop varieties,” Ms Allan said.

“It is always exciting to see the students work through the activities, achieve some great results and have a good time.”

Jana Dixon, a year twelve student from Clare in South Australia rated the GRDC Seed to Store session a five out of five.

“The Seed to Store activity was relevant to the field I want to work in, and it was fun, we had a great time doing the experiments and learning about the careers on offer,” she said.

Ms Allan says the GRDC’s participation in science education programs, such as the National Youth Science Forum, is integral to the future of the grains industry to ensure there are enough skilled job-seekers available to meet employment demand.

The grains industry is crying out for graduates in a range of science-based fields

“The grains industry is crying out for graduates in a range of science-based fields. In fact, the opportunities are so immense that while Australian universities produce 700 agricultural graduates per year, annual job market openings exceed 4000 positions – less than one-quarter of the jobs are being filled.

“With this in mind, we are very keen to engage more students in our industry’s opportunities and look forward to running more Seed to Store workshops with students in 2016.”

Teachers interested in receiving Seed to Store education resources can contact Belinda Cay, 0423 295 576 and

A grainy day

Understanding how different strains of grains contribute to the quality and durability of wheat was the focus of one of the hands-on sessions during the Session A program on day 9.

Facilitated through the NYSF’s partnership with the Grains Research & Development Corporation, students conducted a series of experiments that looked at cell structure of plants and the impact of weather on their growth, plant breeding techniques, and soil quality and composition.


Conducting a leaf peel experiment to find out how cells work

Extracting DNA from wheatgerm

Extracting DNA from wheatgerm

Investigating the nematodes in soil

Investigating the nematodes in soil

Guess the grains

Guess the grain

Then they made some dough!  Not the green stuff though … Students were tasked to investigate the effects of weather damage on dough quality and behaviour through testing the grain for starch quality.

There was also a guessing competition – trying to work out which grain was which!.  Even NYSF Director, Damien Pearce, got into the game.



Story by Julie Maynard