School students gain insights into science principles and practice

Published 10 January 2012

soundwavesHigh-school students from around the State are enjoying a three-day experience of science experiments, demonstrations and talks at the University of New England this week.

The students, mainly from the New England, North-West, Mid North Coast and North Coast regions but also from as far afield as Moss Vale, are programming robots, making well-known chemical compounds, exploring the world of microbes, extracting DNA, and experimenting with musical sounds (as pictured here).

They are taking part in The Science Experience – a national progam, conducted at more than 30 universities around the nation, designed to provide students with an opportunity to engage in a wide range of science-based activities under the guidance of scientists who love their work. The Science Experience at UNE is running from Tuesday the 10th to Thursday the 12th of January.

All of the students have a keen interest in science, and are preparing to enter Year 10 or Year 11 in 2012. They have travelled to UNE from Armidale, Bellbrook, Crescent Head, Grafton, Johns River, Lower Creek, Moss Vale, Port Macquarie, Sandy Beach, South Grafton, Tamworth, Toormina, Uralla, Waterview Heights and Woolgoolga.

In addition to gaining fresh insights into the principles and practice of science, they are meeting like-minded students from schools in other areas and experiencing student life on a university campus (with some of them staying at UNE’s Mary White College over the three days). The program provides them with information about further studies in science, technology and engineering, and highlights the wide range of careers that allow students to pursue their interests and abilities in the sciences.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get involved in science in the school holidays,” said Mollie Galvin from Uralla, who goes into Year 11 at New England Girls’ School, Armidale, this year. After only the first couple of hours of the program, Molly said, she had learnt about methane production in cattle and been involved in the programming of a robot. Her ambitions are already firmly focused on a scientific career, with forensic anthropology one of her preferred options.

The Science Experience is supported by the Science Schools Foundation, Rotary clubs around Australia, the Australian Science Teachers Association, and Young Scientists of Australia, as well as by the universities themselves. It is organised at UNE by Richard Willis, with Dr Tom van der Touw as academic director. “We’re very keen to keep young minds interested in science,” Dr van der Touw said, “and to show students that the sciences offer fascinating and rewarding career paths.”