Kayla Arkinstall successfully applied to attend the National Youth Science Forum in Perth in January 2014. Below is a copy of her report on her amazing experience;
On the 6th of January, 2014, my father dropped me off at the Melbourne Airport, sending me off to the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), in Perth for Session B. It was when he left that I realised that I knew absolutely no one, that everyone there were complete strangers, though it didn’t take long for that to change.
I found out about the NYSF through my chemistry teacher, who could not speak more highly of it, and due to this and my love of science, I decided to apply. I had my local interview in Echuca with two fantastic Rotarians who a week later sent me a letter telling me I had made it past the first stage and that I only had one more hurdle to jump in order to go to the NYSF. The district interviews were held at the International House in Parkville, Melbourne with my interview at 2pm on 10/08/13. Again, I was fortunate that the past NYSF student who was interviewing me had common interests and this made the whole interview process much more relaxed. It was about two weeks later that I found out that I had been successful and was heading to Perth and I could not wait.
I was very fortunate as my Rotary Club was kind enough to sponsor me half of the fee ($1250.50) needed to attend the NSYF and my school also provided me with some financial assistance. On the 6/01/14 I arrived at the Melbourne Airport at around 1pm for a 3 hour flight departing at 3pm for Perth, with around 40 other Melbourne NYSFers. We arrived at around 3pm in Perth (Perth time) and spent 12 of the most inspiring days there, staying at the University Hall at the University of Western Australia. The experience ended on the 18/01/14 when we left for the Perth airport to catch a plane leaving at 7:25am and arriving safely back in Melbourne 4 hours later.
When the 40 other NYSFers from Melbourne landed in Perth we were greeted warmly by the Staffies and a pattern of endless chanting started, which continued for the remainder of the 12 days that I was there. I had been put in the Darwin group (Animal, Plant and Molecular Biology) and the people in my group were from all over Australia and they were absolutely fantastic to be around, there was never a boring moment to say the least. Our lab visits consisted of mostly biology based lectures and activities with a few chemistry and physics lab visits thrown in, which were very insightful and as such has given me a better understanding of the different applications of physics, chemistry and biology in the real world.
Some of the particular lab visits that were favourites of mine involved the Ice core visit at Curtin University, which showed us how the air bubbles trapped within the Antarctic ice can be used to better understand human history and our impact on the environment. Another visit was to the University of Western Australia where we experienced “Matchmaking in the Brain (Neuroscience),” here we received a very in depth lecture on memory, sleep and an outline on how our brain works. We were also provided with the opportunity to undertake a number of activities. The Forensics lab visit at the University of Western Australia was also a highlight, and this gave us valuable insight into the process of how science is applied to solve various crimes and how insects can be utilised at these various crime scenes.
Throughout the entire time at the NYSF, I was exposed to a tremendous amount of personal development activities, which has brought out a side in me I had no idea existed and I can’t wait to put this newly learnt knowledge to good use for the remainder of my secondary education and hopefully the rest of my life. The activities that taught these skills all varied from 3 minute prepared talks, 3 minute impromptu’s, mock interviews for post graduate jobs to probably the most unexpected yet most rewarding, diffusing our very own bomb! This exercise taught us how crucial it is to understand the fundamentals of teamwork and leadership and how they are both interrelated, everyone walked away from that exercise with an invaluable lesson that day.
Needless to say there was a huge social side to the NYSF. From day 1 you go from knowing no one to meeting 144 people with common interests and making friendships with people from all over Australia. I know personally that the friendships I have made at the Forum will truly last a lifetime, which is a rare thing. One of the many ways the NYSF facilitates these friendships is through the social outings and activities that are always happening at the NYSF, for instance there was the Science relay which happened on the first night, and was a fantastic ice-breaker, the bush dance, which was absolutely amazing, and who could forget the evening activities which ranged from laser tag and movies to karate and yoga.
One of the best parts of the NYSF would have to have been both the Rotary and Science dinners. The Rotary dinner was held at Trinity Hall, which was a wonderful venue, the guest speaker whose degree and job specialises in food technology kindly enlightened us about all of the things that we were eating that night, which made for some interesting dinner conversations. Overall it was just fascinating to listen to all the stories of how each Rotary member became a part of Rotary and to listen to all the projects that they were undertaking, it was a wonderful night. The Science Dinner was simply a fantastic experience. To be able to listen to seasoned pros and up and coming scientists was amazing and has really shown me the different paths that you can take to get where you want to go, not to mention the guest speaker who spoke about Shark Mitigation Systems.
The NYSF experience overall was un-parallel to anything I’ve ever done and I feel extremely honoured to have been blessed with this opportunity. The forum has helped to showcase the numerous possibilities of not only the different universities and their courses, but the careers you can achieve through these courses. It’s shown me that whilst Year 12 is important, it’s not make or break and that there are numerous and various pathways into the course that I’m interested in, that sometimes the road less travelled by is the best path to choose.
My thanks go to the Rotary Club of Echuca/Moama for their time, organisation and sponsorship which allowed me to attend the NYSF. The Rotary District of 9800 and its District Chair, Gabrielle Morgan, who without their organisation and time I would not have been able to go. My school principle, Mr Chris Eeles and the school Council both for their sponsorship and their support and my chemistry teacher, Mr Steven Warren for letting me know about the program and for the time, support and encouragement given to me throughout the entire process. I’d also like to thank the NYSF Director, Damien Pearce and the NYSF staff and organisers who are crucial to the success of the program, and last but not least I’d like to thank my parents for getting me to and from interviews and the airport and for always supporting me in my pursuits.
The National Youth Science Forum is an outstanding opportunity and I could not recommend it more highly for anyone who is considering experiencing it in the future, it is truly life changing.