Meet the astronomers of the future. Or perhaps the astrophysicists, cosmologists or aerospace engineers.
These four Year 11 students at St Columba’s High School in Springwood are certain to pursue a career in science. And to help them narrow down their options, they have been selected to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) early next year.
The forum gives them the chance to meet face-to-face with a variety of scientists across many disciplines and to see the kind of work they do.
The forum’s director, Damien Pearce, said it gives students “hands-on experience in diverse areas such as quantum physics, climate change, marine science, surgery, engineering and much more”.
Depending on which city they are in, Canberra or Perth, students will visit such august institutions as the CSIRO’s Division of Ecosystem Sciences, the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Net-work and the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant.
The students — Connor Lillis, Daniel Parker, Jacob Sturges and Hayden Wade — all said having the chance to speak to professional scientists and see them on the job would be invaluable in helping them choose a career path.
“That’s the big thing I’m hoping to get out of it,” Connor said, “to find a direction and let me particularly see what it’s like in the real world.”
Jacob said he was looking forward to meeting “people who will give me a lot of information and knowledge. As good as the school is, it will give me a really good idea of what it would be like.”
The four have all been fascinated by science from an early age. Connor, from Blackheath, was hooked at the age of four when he heard an audio tape of Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time.
Daniel, from Emu Heights, remembered being fascinated by the moon when he was six.
Jacob, from Springwood, was hooked after a visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York as a four-year-old.
And Hazelbrook-based Hayden’s father was a science teacher, so Hayden was constantly exposed to science and scientific books at home.
St Columba’s students have been selected to attend the forum in the past, but never four in the one year, said the head of science, Mrs Peta Sparkes.
Connor, Daniel, Jacob and Hayden showed talent across all their subjects – but were particularly fascinated with astronomy because of Space To Grow, a program run in partnership with Macquarie University which lets the students access data from the Faulkes Telescope at Coonabarabran and develop skills to interpret the data.
More than 1300 students app-lied to attend the forum; about 450 will attend the January cour-ses.
The four Mountains students are all being supported by Rotary.
Connor’s application letter to Rotary finished this way: “If selected I will contribute all the energy, opinions, knowledge, enthusiasm and love for this amazing universe that I can muster. Not only will I do this, I intend to be one of the professors talking at the 2025 NYSF so I can make others, like me, share in such an enjoyable experience.”