ANU Youth Leading in STEM program

On Wednesday 26 June, an enthusiastic group of Year 9 and 10 students made the long trip to Canberra to take part in the Youth Leading in STEM program. This application based program was open to all Year 9 and 10 students with an interest in STEM. Organisers said that they were overwhelmed with the number and quality of applications this year. CHS had 10 students apply, 8 of which were accepted into the program. Unfortunately, 2 students had equestrian commitments, so it was a packed car of 6 that made the long journey south.

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Youth Leading in STEM (YLS) is an educational outreach initiative that aims to build confidence, skill and ambition in High School students. Run through the Australian National University (ANU), the camp exposes students to a variety of STEM activities and fields. Students experience on-campus living and dining and learn about ANU and hone their leadership and presentation skills. Students are also involved in a mentoring program where they are teamed with a mentor to undertake a STEM based activity in their school or community. This is the third year that ANU have run this program, starting off in 2017 with approximately 16 students. This year there were 32 students participating.

Due to the long distance, we left the day before the program started. Thankfully once it got dark, sheep spotting and the long and protracted game of ‘windmills’ stopped, only to be replaced by long and convoluted discussions about chess moves. Unfortunately the school car did not like Mrs Eshman’s ancient technology and refused to stop playing her iPod after a couple of hours. We finally arrived at the accommodation and Mrs Eshman demonstrated her skill of catering by ordering 7 pizzas. We thought that maybe we over-ordered, but at checkout the next morning there was one piece of garlic bread left!

We then made our way to ANU and eventually met up with the organisers and other participants and started the STEM camp. During the three days we participated in a number of workshops including Biology, where we extracted DNA form strawberries, Biological Anthropology, where we examined skulls of apes and humans and measured cranial capacity and Chemistry, where we used liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. We also visited Mount Stromlo Observatory for a night tour and viewing. One of the interesting things that they had was a huge chamber where they test satellites and other objects that are sent into space to see if they can physically handle the temperatures and vacuum of space.

We also spent time with our mentors brainstorming activities that we could implement in our school. Our team (Lachlan Eshman, Nils Thomas, James Whalan, Alex Robinson, Heaven-Leigh McAway-Davis and Alishea Rankin) came up with the idea of conducting a STEM activity for Year 6 students to assist in their transition to High School.

After the obligatory photo at the ANU sign (to prove we really had been there), we made the long journey back home – arriving just in time for tea on Saturday night!

It was an amazing experience, we met some great people and the experience gave us all a good insight into university life and study. Thank you to Mrs Eshman for organising the excursion and for getting us safely there and back.