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Girls in the frame for science

Flinders University is keeping science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM) on the agenda by celebrating the 2020 Flinders University Cochlear Aurora Photo Contest in which local female high school students have creatively captured the topic “science is everywhere”.

In a special ceremony at Flinders University (on Thursday 11 February 2021), coinciding with the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Flinders physics lecturer Associate Professor Maria Parappilly welcomed the contest’s winning students from Year 7 to Year 12 to the University’s main campus.

People’s Choice Awards for photos that made the most people talk about science went to Jade Whiting from Mitcham Girls High School, for Eye see the sea in the Years 7-10 category, and to Jessica Sampson from Wudinna Area School for Urban Rainbow in the Years 11-12 category.

The judges also awarded another prize for a photo that received 255 excellent scientific comments – to Year 8 student Alexandra Seal from Loreto College for Come Full Circle.

First place in the individual honours for Years 7-10 students went to Claudia Coggan from Glenunga International High School for her photo Cloven-Hooved Climate Change.

First place in the individual honours for Years 7-10 students was awarded to YiAn Fang from Seymour College for her photo The magic of a crystal ball.

The competition is an initiative of Flinders University’s STEM: Women Branching Out group and aims to inspire more girls to delve into the wonder of science and ultimately consider their futures working among its many disciplines.

Associate Professor Maria Parappilly founded the initiative to get girls thinking about science, engaging them in everyday science through photography with the chance to win recognition and cash.

Now in its fifth year, the contest included year seven students for the first time, which meant that a total prize pool of $4350 was awarded across junior and senior categories; Years seven through to 10, and Years 11 and 12.

“This year (2021) marked a record-breaking number of entries from regional South Australia, including high-quality submissions with public, private and Independent schools represented across wide economic demographics,” says Associate Professor Parappilly.

The success of the competition has led Cochlear Ltd to confirm that it will remain naming rights sponsor of the contest for the next three years, amounting to a $15,000 sponsorship.

“It is great to see the success and growth of this competition, and the positive coverage it has received in the media,” says Mr Roger Leigh, Senior Manager of Implants Mechanical Cochlear.

Entries this year (2021) were received from students as far afield as Wudinna, Mount Gambier, Kadina, the Riverland, Naracoorte and Balaklava.

“It’s great that this competition is not limited to students with easier access to resources but is engaging girls broadly, which is what we are looking for,” she says. “We are really pleased with the quality of the entries this year (2021), there were some very creative entries in both the junior and senior categories.”

The competition also gathers data on entrant’s favourite subjects at school together with careers of interest, and Associate Professor Parappilly is pleased to see a shift in how girls in this year’s (2021) competition were connecting future careers to subjects they liked, preferring subjects like maths or physics, matched with career interests like engineering, computer science or astrophysics.

“This was not so evident in previous years and shows young people are making that connection between what they’re studying and the exciting pathways these disciplines can lead to.”

Professor Karen Burke da Silva, Dean of Education in Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering and a judge in the competition, says: “There were also many entries this year (2021) with a conservation or biological theme, perhaps reflecting a greater focus following last summer’s intense bushfire season.”

Years 7-10 Category

  • First Prize – Claudia Coggan, Glenunga International High School
  • Second Prize – Sahana Meenachi Sundaram, Glenunga International High School
  • Third Prize – Stephanie Jones, St Dominic’s Priory College
  • Runner up – April Wright, East Marden Primary School
  • Best STEMM (including medicine) – Summer Buhlmann, Wilderness School
  • Best Physics photo – Isabella Lecong, St Dominic’s Priory College
  • BEST STEAM (including arts) photo – Alexandra Seal, Loreto College
  • Regional winner – Maggie Mckinnon, Grant High School, Mt Gambier
  • Winning School: Years 7-10 – Glenunga International High School
  • People’s Choice Award – Jade Whiting, Mitcham Girls High School

Years 11-12 Category

  • First Prize, and Best Physics Photo – YiAn Fang, Seymour College
  • Second Prize – Cindy Bennetts, Mount Compass Area School
  • Third Prize, and Best Regional Entry – Jessica Sampson, Wudinna Area School
  • Runner up – Grace Willmore, St Dominic’s Priory College
  • Medicine & Optometry Prize – Tahlia Malins, Thomas More College
  • Best Natural Photo – Lillian Woodroffe, Australian Science and Mathematics School
  • Winning School:Years 11-12 – Seymour College
  • People’s Choice Award – Jessica Sampson, Wudinna Area School.

Source: Flinders University

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