Teenagers gather at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle for the annual Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSET)

The brains and bravery to face our scientific challenges OUTSIDE THE SQUARE: Promising students at the CSIRO for this year’s Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science. Pictures: Simone De Peak
苏州美甲

BONDS: Charlotte Cooke, Kaide Uhlmann and Teaonii Aitken. Ms Cooke has connected with her Aboriginal heritage for the first time at the camp.

FAST LANE: Indigenous students at the camp designed and then raced their own solar-powered cars on Monday, at the National Solar Energy Centre in Mayfield West.

FAST LANE: Indigenous students at the camp designed and then raced their own solar-powered cars on Monday, at the National Solar Energy Centre in Mayfield West.

TweetFacebookTo educators, they’re among our brightest prospects fortacklingthe scientific challenges facing the nation in the decadesto come.

They’re all high achievers at schools across the country. As Indigenous ns, they come from a culture that has been using “science and technology and engineering to solve problems for thousands of years”.

But, according to coordinator Scott Philip, it’s also because these teenagers are “emotionally and socially brave”.

“They’ve nominated and supported themselves to get here, which is a big deal,” he said.

“Can you imagine back when you were 16 ifsomeone said: ‘hey, do you want to leave your town and give up your school holidays to come possibly to a different town and meet people you hadn’tmet before and do things that you’re unfamiliar with?’”

Around 30 Year 10students are spending nine daysat the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle as part of theAboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSET).

The program aims to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to pursue pathways in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

For Tasmanian studentCharlotte Cooke, it has also been about connecting with her Aboriginal heritage for the first time. Sheput her “heart and soul”into preparing for a fire pit dance on Tuesday.

“In our dance we have this moment where we’re basically blessing ourselves and the earth and connecting with it,” she said.

“Now we’re doing things like solar energy and water chemistry. We’re involving ourselves with the earth and doing cultural things with the earth and we’re learning to bond them together.”

The students found knowledge passed down through their culture throughDreamtime stories often pre-dated the scientific discoveries of white man.

“We have a story that the moon was a man and his tears were the water and he tries to pull them back at night,” Ms Cookesaid. “Then science proved that the moon does pull the tides.”

Kaide Uhlmann, ofBrisbane, learnt how to play the didgeridoo for the first time at the camp.

”Now I can go back to my tribe and present that to them too and maybe even play the didgeridoo for some of the fire pit dances,” he said.“The camp hasbeen an extraordinary experience. All of us, we’re like a big family.”

The students spent Monday at the National Solar Energy Centre,designing –and then racing – their ownsolar-powered cars.

Teaonii Aitken, from the Torres Strait, agonized over what materials to use.

“It has no instructions so you have to be imaginative,” she said.

The University of Newcastle and CSIRO are partners in the program, which is funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation.

“STEM areas are all about problem solving …all about facing future challenges,” Mr Philip said.

“The more diverse thinking we have in that, the better solutions we’ll have for the future.”

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