The Australian National University (ANU) is proud to be a University Partner for the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), hosting students on our campus this January for their flagship 2020 Year 12 Program.
The opening ceremony was held at the Australian Academy of Science's Shine Dome, a unique national landmark. Four guest speakers and an introductory lecture highlighted the incredible opportunities this program offers for students about to enter year 12.
NYSF Chief Executive Officer Dr Melanie Bagg and Chair Andrew Metcalfe AO welcomed the group, and thanked NYSF partners for their ongoing support and commitment to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) literacy.
"I hope that our participants are inspired by the experiences you have, the people you meet, the institutions you visit, and each other - and you go onto have wonderful careers and wonderful experiences," said Mr Metcalfe.
As a founding partner, Rotary District 9710 Governor Peter Ford said the ability of these programs to bring young people from around Australia together to nurture their passion for science. He left the students with an important word of advice: "for most of you this will be a stepping-stone for your successful future... so grasp this opportunity by both hands".
The Australian Academy of Science's Policy Director, Chris Anderson, spoke about the Academy's extensive network of scientists from around the world, and their efforts to improve gender diversity in science. He also pointed out an important aspect of science that is often overlooked:
"Not all scientists come in a lab coat. They are young and old, shy and outgoing, women and men. Some work in a lab, some work outside and some work underwater,” he said.
"But despite their differences, they all have something in common: they solve problems and ask questions. I have a fundamental view that when science is at its best and most persuasive, we can change the world for better”.
Students were treated to a very timely and topical introductory lecture from award-winning ANU climate scientist Dr Marta Yebra. She spoke about her research on using remote sensing data to monitor, quantify and forecast natural hazards, in particular bushfires. Satellite technology is used in the Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre to determine the flammability of Australia's bushland, and assist Australian Fire Services to plan, prepare and respond to bushfires.
"Satellite technology can determine moisture content, fuel load, fuel structure, fire hotspots, active fires, burnt areas, the severity of fires, and how much vegetation was lost in a fire," said Dr Yebra.
Dr Yebra is a Senior Lecturer in Environment and Engineering at the Research School of Aerospace, Mechanical, and Environmental Engineering and the Fenner School of Environment & Society. She is also a Mission Specialist of the ANU Institute for Space, and Associate Editor for journal Remote Sensing of Environment, and she used her wealth of knowledge to answer student’s questions after her lecture.
It was inspiring for students to hear from Dr Yebra, who is very passionate about her work and career in STEM.
Due to the extensive impact of recent Australian bushfires and smoke levels in Canberra, NYSF was forced to end Session A pre-maturely and to cancel Session C outright, impacting over 400 students. Due to ANU campus closures because of the smoke and safety risks, some of the planned College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) workshops did not go ahead in 2020. We are saddened by the cancellation, however safety and wellbeing must always come first.
The College would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to the NYSF community; all the participants and their families, the volunteers, providers and staff who share our passion for science and technology.
Congratulations to the hardworking team at NYSF for creating these opportunities for young people. We look forward to continue partnering with you to inspire Australia’s young scientists.
Find out more about the work of the National Youth Science Forum.
This is an abridged version of an article first published on NYSF.