Space Camp: Out of this World

Space Camp: Out of this World



Space Campers and their parents at the final awards ceremony


While Canberrans were enjoying the October long weekend, going down to the coast or potentially enjoying the two back to back fairytale grand finals, over forty enthusiastic kids from Canberra and surrounding regions were learning more about the Universe we live in at Canberra’s very first Space Camp.

Space Camp, organised by YMCA and Inspiring Australia, was designed to get kids from grades 6 – 9 engaged with Space-related organisations for an action packed long weekend full of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The long term goal of the inaugural event is to get kids interested in pursuing careers in STEM through the Space industry flourishing in the ACT region.

The program may have already started to fulfil its long term goals engaging students with STEM and the local space industry; Year 8 student Elizabeth Drew, “Loved learning a whole  bunch of new things including robotics and seeing what’s around Canberra space related”. Elizabeth could also see herself in science after school, “doing something space related after doing this camp.”


Space Campers tinkering at Questacon where they designed their own Mars Rover landing modules

Students had an action packed long weekend learning everything from programming basics, to drone flying and even building their own Mars rovers. Year 7 student Mitchell Schmidt said he was excited to come to Space Camp as he was “interested in meeting the astronaut and learning about drones and robotics” as he wants to go into engineering or robotics after school.


Skyping former NASA astronaut, now Boeing employee, Chris Ferguson

The success of the event could also be attributed to the dozen University students, from a variety of academic backgrounds, who also gave up their long weekend to help organisers keep the kids engaged and to assist in the activities across the four day event.

Volunteer Annabelle Nshuti, who is studying a Bachelor of Science at ANU, has loved Space since she was in grade one and wished they had a program like this when she was in school. Annabelle loved, ” the UNSW event where we had to help plan a mission to Mars! I absolutely loved the inter-activeness of camp breaking down difficult concepts.”


The Virtual Reality of the Solar System was a massive hit with students and volunteers alike with one Space Camper exclaiming, “Virtual Reality was my favourite thing  – in virtual reality you got to walk inside the Sun and touch Planets! I even compared Mt Everest and Empire State building on Mars as well as the Mars Grand Canyon compared to ours – it’s 20 times bigger!

Man behind the Virtual Reality set-up Migara Liyanagamage from OzGuild, a local Canberran start-up, said “I’m excited about helping the kids explore the Planets and get them excited about Space – especially using new technology”.

Event organisers attributed much of the success from the engagement with sponsors and institutions around the Canberra area who enthusiastically got on board to show the students exactly how exciting Space can be – especially in Canberra.


Sponsors included the YMCA, Boeing & Geospatial Intelligence and Defence Science and Technology Group as well as organisations that supplied their time and expertise. This includes but was not limited to Mt Stromlo Observatory, Canberra Deep Space Network, UNSW Canberra, Canberra Innovation Network, Questacon , Canberra Rocketry Group, Canberra Portable Planetarium, MSATT teaching telescope  and The Creative Element Team to help get Canberra’s next generation of scientists excited about Space.

Event organiser, Ingrid McCarthy from Inspiring Australia, was very pleased with success of the event, ” We had happy parents, excited sponsors, engaged volunteers but most importantly inspired kids! We will definitely be using the feedback from this camp to build on the success of the event for 2017!”


Invention Convention CBRIN Networking Night

Invention Convention CBRIN Networking Night


Inspiring Australia ACT is continuing to develop our networks to increase connections between STEM and entrepreneurship. Back in January, we partnered with Questacon’s National Invention Convention, to introduce 24 young inventors from around Australia to the concept of networking.

The Invention Convention is an opportunity for 14-18 year olds from around the country to really explore STEM and innovation. They run National and regional workshops where students can work with techsperts from Questacon and innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs to turn ideas into reality.

At the National workshop in January, we helped bring entrepreneurs together with the young inventors for a Networking Night at CBRIN. The students had a session before hand on what networking is, why it is important and how the evening would run. When they arrived at CBRIN, they got a guided tour of our program and coworking spaces.


Then, down to the business at hand! Meeting strangers and telling them about yourself and your project! Most of the kids (14-18 year olds, remember) were very nervous. This can be a difficult thing for adults to engage in, so they did very well in engaging in the exercise. We set up the room so that each student (or sometimes pairs of students) got to meet with real-life, actual entrepreneurs who were running their businesses in Canberra. They got to explain what project they were working on and the entrepreneurs had tokens representing money, other resources (including time, access to space or technology) or referrals that they were able to distribute to the students (they were representative, not real!). The students in return were encouraged to pass on their email details to the entrepreneurs, and some contact was made after the event! A bell rang and everyone moved on to the next entrepreneur.


Food and (soft) drinks were served, and the students learned the difficult real-world issue of juggling food, a glass of drink and talking, without spillage!


The evening was a big success, if the reluctance of both the students and entrepreneurs to leave their conversations was any guide! Many of the students indicated that once they got over their initial nerves, they were really interested in hearing and talking to the entrepreneurs to get hints, tips and maybe even some future leads and investments in their ideas! The entrepreneurs reported that they were very impressed with the innovative ideas that these young people had created!


We will definitely run another networking night at next year’s Invention Convention! Meanwhile, applications are open for both Regional and National workshops in 2016 and 2017, so if you are or know a young person with bright ideas, click HERE!

Young scientists and innovators – NYSF

Young scientists and innovators – NYSF

While seemingly the rest of the world has been on holidays, here in Canberra, we have been a veritable HIVE of activity in the STEM and entrepreneur space!

4 January 2016 (and again on the 18th) saw two hundred eager National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) participants descend on the Nation’s Capital. NYSF is a 12-day residential program in January for students going into Year 12, who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM!). The aim of the program is to show the students the wide variety of study and career options in STEM fields. The NYSF program consists of a mix of scientific, formal, personal development, and social activities. These range from laboratory visits to sports evenings and from a swing dance to working on understanding group dynamics.


This year, for the first time, NYSF included a session on Entrepreneurial Thinking. So often, when we think of STEM careers, we picture academic or commercial research. You know, white lab coats and equations on blackboards!


But as we at the Canberra Innovation Network like to remind people, innovation and entrepreneurship are going to be key drivers in the Australian economy – the way we need to support innovation needs to constantly adapt. So the good people at NYSF decided to let the students in on another career avenue – entrepreneurship! What if you have a fantastic idea that is going to solve a big problem? What do you do with that idea? So in conjunction with us here at Inspiring the ACT, we gathered a range of Canberra-based entrepreneurs to hear about their journeys and what they thought about innovation and problem-solving and running their own business as a career option.

Hosted by PWC‘s Joshua Gilbert, the panel included:


You already know how enthusiastic we are here at Inspiring Australia about innovation – not just entrepreneurship, but encouraging innovative thinking and practices in the workplace. But we weren’t sure how these young high schoolers with PhD’s and research careers in their sights might feel about it.

The answer?

The LOVED it! Not only did they listen intently to the presentations, but they also had many intelligent, thought-provoking questions for our panellists during the Q&A session. And they pretty much mobbed them during the break!


We hope that we have opened their eyes a little to what the opportunities post-qualification (or maybe, even, pre-qualification!) might be – if they have a passion for solving problems and want to make the world a better place, there are opportunities in the innovation and entrepreneurial field that might take them further than they ever imagined! Amongst the pearls of wisdom were the following:

  • “I never thought I’d be able to change the way electricity works from an office in Canberra!” – Lachlan Blackhall, Reposit Power
  • “One of the biggest thrills in my life is that our technology helped make the world a safer place” – Murray Rankin, Rankin Securities
  • “There has never been a better time NOT to know stuff!” – Erica Hediger, Creative Element
  • “Innovation happens when you study lots of things and there is an intersection of knowledge” – Katie Doherty, Solution Solution
  • “Entrepreneurial thinking requires you to take risks and make mistakes” – Rish Ratnam

I don’t know about the students, but those entrepreneurs inspired ME to think more innovatively!! Actually, I do know they inspired the kids too, because many of them reported back, saying that session was a real point of difference and for some, it was even their favourite session out of their whole NYSF experience – I think we might do it again next year 🙂

Inspiring the ACT would like to thank the National Youth Science Forum for the opportunity to work with them in inspiring the next STEM generation and the entrepreneurs connected to CBRIN, for their time.