Chemical purification, animal research facilities, insect hunts, and neuroanatomy were just some of the opportunities high school students discovered at the ConocoPhillips Science Experience at the University of New England this week.
The three-day camp at UNE encouraged students from around NSW to immerse themselves in campus life and tertiary science. Supported by experts in the field, they pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering and maths.
In this year's program, held on January 14 to 16, 23 students from as far south as Sydney and Condobolin, north to Brisbane and from Coonabarabran in the west, got to work with scientists in industry and academia.
Students explored possibilities for careers in science they may never have considered, from lab based-diagnostic testing to field-based insect sampling, and from pure science exploration to industry-based applications.
While diving into the world of science, students also experienced university life, staying in Mary White Residential College for the camp.
Students had the full on-campus experience, dining at The 'Stro and Booloominbah, rock climbing at SportUNE, and exploring some of Armidale's local natural beauty in the eucalypt woodlands at Dumaresq Dam.
There was a fiercely contested trivia night, table tennis and soccer tournaments, and UNE's Poultry Hub challenged them to a high-stakes app game (Eggit!).
Programs like the ConocoPhillips Science Experience open up the wider world of science research and collaborations beyond a typical science classroom, UNE Discovery program leader Dr Kirsti Abbott believes.
"Students can't be what they can't see," she said.
In challenging times such as this, as drought and bushfires grip huge swathes of the country, it's vital that members of our regional communities come together to share ideas, passions and experiences, and nurture curiosity, investigation, and problem solving.
Students commented on how enjoyable, interesting and fulfilling the camp was, and what close friendships they made.
Students' local Rotary Clubs sponsored their places in the program. Next year, they will sponsor up to 30 places for the 2021 UNE ConocoPhillips Science Experience. For students going into Years 9, 10 and 11, it's a great end to the school holidays. Keep your eye out for announcements of registrations for next year.
The ConocoPhillips Science Experience is a national program that gives students interested in science an opportunity to engage in a range of scientific activities across a variety of disciplines.
More than 35 universities and tertiary institutions across the country take part each year, and more than 68,000 students have participated.