2015 – A Year in Review
2015 – What a Year! Young Scientist commitments started in the January holidays with the production of the Young Scientist Booklet, ready for distribution to all NSW schools in early February. Then the first day of the school year involved frantic decision-making in relation to a small paper plane competition that would run alongside and complement our Models and Inventions Exhibition at the University of Sydney Open Day. Little did we know that the Young Scientist Paper Plane Challenge would literally involve tens of thousands of NSW school students taking part in school events with 800 students qualifying for the state finals, held at the University of Sydney. To run such a competition, required a commitment to design a specific website and respond to the 30+ daily email inquiries.
Simultaneously, Young Scientist Committee members were spending countless voluntary hours constructing our new STANSW Young Scientist website, providing a platform for the uploading of valuable resource material for teachers, parents and students. On top of all this, Committee members developed, from scratch, a state-of-the-art online registration and judging system that’s been a huge success.
2015 has been an exciting transitional year, a year that has laid a solid foundation for the years to come. for the STANSW Young Scientist Awards. In 2015, we had an impressive 42 new schools enter and 29 of the 79 student prize-winners were from these new schools. Also 40% of these new schools were regional schools which was our focus area for 2015 with free regional workshops being organised in different regional centres.
The top twelve initiatives for 2015 were:
- The development of a 2015 Young Scientist Booklet A4 for New Website that was distributed to every NSW school in March. It was also made available on our Young Scientist website.
- NSW representative and Young Scientist Committee member, Philippa Miller, won the Teacher Award at the 2015 BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards. Philippa is the first NSW teacher to win this award and her prize was a trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a chaperone to the BHPBSEA ISEF team.
- The Young Scientist Committee ran a series of workshops in a number of metropolitan and regional locations, specifically targeted at “new” and “regional” teachers to the Young Scientist Awards. titled “Taking your student research projects to the next level”. We are thankful to our Professional Development Officer, Ann Hanna, who delivered workshops at Bathurst, Dubbo, West Wyalong and Wagga Wagga during her Easter holidays. We are also thankful to Matt McKenzie who ran a workshop for us up at Armidale.
- Initiating and running the 2015 Young Scientist Paper Plane Challenge and the Regional High Flyers Competition. This was designed to get our “Young Scientist” name out into NSW schools and it achieved this most successfully. Tens of thousands of students competed in this event at school level and 800 students competed in the finals at the University of Sydney Open Day. Dylan Parker and James Norton, whose World Championship exploits inspired the hit Aussie movie Paper Planes were heavily involved in promoting and inspiring this competition.
- We sent our biggest team of individual finalists to ISEF this year, with 3 students. We are proud to say that we came away with 2 sponsored awards, totalling US$1,000 in prizemoney and subscriptions to 2 scientific journals.
- For the first time ever, we posted daily updates of the progress of our Young Scientist team from ISEF, so that the student’s schools, sponsors and any interested Young Scientist supporter could keep up to date and maintain an informative interest in our team. The ISEF team also greatly welcomed the emails of support from Australia that were read out to them every breakfast.
- Three new Sponsors, AIP, Crayons and AARNet joined the healthy number of Young Scientist sponsors. AIP (Australian Institute of Physics) funded the prizes for the 3 winners of the Paper Plane Challenge and they gave an award for the project that best met the National Science Week theme, “Making Waves – the Science of Light”. Crayons donated hundreds of dollars in educational kits to the winners and winning schools in the Regional High Flyers Competition. AARNet (Australia’s Academic and Research Network) funded two primary and two secondary awards for projects with the best use of electronic communications.
- We automated the online registration system, which also necessitated projects to be sent to us electronically for the first time. As this was implemented halfway through the year, we also accepted hand-delivered and posted entries. This enabled the online judging system to work very smoothly this year and also enabled an extra level of judging where we could electronically send out certain projects to judges for checking and confirming our final placements in a category.
- The Young Scientist Committee produced this new website, which has made communication to teachers, parents and students in NSW far easier. Due to our website, which went into operation in March, we will not be putting together the 24 page information booklet anymore.
- There was a heightened level of correspondence between the Young Scientist Committee and teachers, parents, students, sponsors and interested parties. Our ever-developing database reached 620 supporters by the end of 2015. We also gathered email addresses of all schools in each of the DET, AIS and Catholic sectors so that we can communicate with all NSW schools when needed.
- For the 2015 Presentation Ceremony, which was held at the McKinnon Building at the University of Wollongong, we put together a 36 page booklet that had a short summary of each of the finalists in the order of prize-giving on the night. This was a welcome addition for the night and it also doubles as a great resource for students wishing to get ideas for their projects.
- 75 of our 79 finalists for 2015 gave permission to upload their projects onto our website. These are our most precious resource and will be available to download in early February 2016.