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!”


The Science of Flowers

The Science of Flowers


It’s Canberra, it’s Spring time and that can mean only one thing – Floriade!!

Floriade is Canberra’s Spring time event where organisers attend to over one million bulbs and annuals to bloom in spectacular fashion in beautiful patterns.

This year Floriade is held between September 17th to October 16th with the theme for 2016 – ‘Reflection’ which will be portrayed in the garden beds and entertainment.

Inspired by the Canberran event and the season, Inspiring Australia has teamed up with mobile app Quizling to bring you a little extra science this Spring.

Quizling is an educational mobile app that teams up with museums and institutions to bring educational and engaging quizzes to life!

In a test of the user’s speed and academic accuracy you can race your friends to find out who knows the most about our flower friends!

Test your knowledge about our flower friends before checking them out at Floriade by clicking here!




Teen Start-Up Camp

Teen Start-Up Camp

In our “new phase” of Inspiring Australia in the ACT, one of the things we want to achieve is to encourage young people to engage with the sciences and also innovation and entrepreneurship as a career pathway.

I had a meeting with the amazing team at Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre, who had found that when working with young adults on entrepreneurial thinking and skills, they often had no experience of creative idea generation, developing business ideas and marketing strategies, and pitching concepts. And so, they developed the idea of piloting a Teen Start Up Camp for teenagers to develop entrepreneurial skills, whilst working on STEM-based problems.


So, Inspiring Australia ACT sponsored the first Teen Start-Up Camp! Teams of teens came together to come up with an idea for a product or a service that provides a solution to global issues and challenges in the areas of:

  • energy
  • communication
  • health

To help spark the creative ideas, the Lighthouse team gathered some inspiring speakers in each of the problem areas to put some context and clarity around what are really “big picture” problems. So the teams got to listen to Lachlan Blackhall, from Reposit Power, Ken Kroeger from Seeing Machines and Francis Owusu from Kulture Break. What I really found inspiring about listening to all these people talk was the amazing brain power and passion that Canberra has! These businesses are truly ground-breaking.

All pumped up and ready to go, the teams then had to work out what problem they were trying to solve, research to make sure it was a problem, and come up with a solution! For this part of the day, the teams were joined by a wide variety of mentors – entrepreneurs, youth workers, err Inspiring Australia program managers(!) who helped them with the brainstorming process and idea refinement.





Now, not all of the teams found this process easy! There were a couple of teams who came to the weekend with a product/service already formed as an idea. Other teams had only just met each other that morning and had to start the brainstorming process from scratch, and I mean completely from the beginning. It was (as always) also interesting to watch interpersonal skills and team dynamics in action! There were definitely some interesting synergies going on there!

All this thinking is hard work, so through lunchtime, the kids were treated to more inspiration – this time a Tech Showcase, coordinated by the Canberra Entrepreneur. The idea was to show how technology can be utilised as a tool to help solve problems. The participants enjoyed displays and hands-on activities from the Creative Element, WindLab, and Made For.Me (again, all Canberra-based entrepreneurs!).


The next day was all about the pitches! Teams had a short “how to pitch” workshop and then they had to put theory into practice. The teams had to explain their idea and how it solved a problem and then explain how it might become a business. After lunch, it was crunch time – presenting to a judging panel of investors, industry experts and entrepreneurs, and err, Inspiring Australia program managers!


After some debate, we awarded first place to Novice Coders, who wanted to create a platform to connect new coders with mentors to help them develop their skills.


Second place went to the girls of Charge, who were developing anti-bullying software on social media platforms, that detected incorrect usage of terms such as “gay” and “spastic” which are in common use amongst teens, but have significant negative impact.


And third place went to Homonavitas, who wanted to be able to convert the energy in the soles of shoes whilst walking to usable energy.


The best part of the whole weekend for me was watching these kids grapple with concepts like problem-solving and product development. Every team managed to present an idea and no matter how polished the final pitch, all the teams learned something about working as part of a team and innovative thinking.

The Lighthouse team is now looking at how to take this program into schools, so a wider audience can be reached and taught entrepreneurial skills from a younger age. To start with though, they are going to run a school holiday program in January 2016. If you know high school aged kids who may be interested, you can contact them at or ring (02) 6163 8300.