In2Science ConocoPhillips Science Experience at Swinburne

During semester 1, Ebony and I were lucky enough to be able to take part in a program named In2Science which allowed us to be able to catch up with an astrophysicist through video chat every Wednesday. This program gave us the opportunity to be selected to go to the Swinburne Hawthorn campus for three days over the holidays through a program called the ConocoPhillips Science Experience which aimed to push people’s passion for science and make people more interested in what science had to offer. During these three days we were able to make loads of new friends, get lost around Swinburne campus, play heaps of mind games, have an excursion to the synchrotron and sit through some pretty wild demonstrations in the labs.

On day 1 we started off by getting to know everyone in our groups, which consisted of a range of Year 9 and 10 Students from anywhere near Melbourne to out a few hours away like us. After a welcoming seminar, we headed to a lab to participate in an Investigative Chemistry Workshop where we completed many different mini experiments and were able to see a demonstration of a mass spectrometer machine being operated. After the workshop, we did an introduction to coding, where we not only created our own planet but also put it in to put into a virtual solar system. Next up was Einstein physics which was hosted by OzGrav. This included VR of 3 different astronomical simulations, a competitive black hole ball flinging game, and black hole image bending demonstrations. The Einstein physics had educators from around the world were there answering questions and sharing their knowledge. To end the day all of the groups gathered together to watch a Big Bang Physics show.

Day 2 was like an astronomy based day which was perfect for us as we had been talking about astronomy with our mentor Wael (pictured below). Naturally, we started the day with more bonding games. Our first activity was the ‘Back of the envelope Astronomy’ where we spoke with an astronomer about the size of our Galaxy and the age of planets, and even learned how to calculate and estimate things in our solar system. This was followed by a viewing of a 3D presentation called the “Astro Tour’ where we got the chance to see just how big the planets, suns, stars and galaxies actually are compared to one another. Once we had finished we travelled to Monash University. While at Monash we worked with lasers looking at how they differ in size and shape depending on what light goes through them, before heading across to the Synchrotron and learning about how it is a cyclotron in which the magnetic field strength increases with the energy of the particles to keep their orbital radius constant.

Day 3 began with a tour of Swinburne’s Factory of the Future, looking at the 3D printers and virtual reality studios created by the Swinburne students. We were also lucky enough to tour the structures lab which is used by researchers developing earthquake-proof buildings. We then created our own electronic dice working with soldering tools creating our own circuits. During the workshops on DNA forensics, we applied DNA to technology to solve crimes and identify people based on their genes and looked at unique identification methods used in the actual justice system. To finish off the whole experience we all got together in a big hall to receive our certificates and hear a speech from the astronomical rockstar, Prof. Alan Duffy (pictured left), who gave us his 3 most important pieces of advice for Uni and life in general. He couldn’t stress enough how

important it was that we always keep connected to each other, keep our options open (whilst specifically mentioning how even if you are science-based you should not cut out art), and most importantly to travel. He specifically mentioned how there is practically free money handed out by universities to allow the students to travel, and it is the single best thing he has done in his scientific career. To meet new cultures and to learn new languages is something that changed his life. All in all the experience not only made us more passionate about continuing to stay curious and passionate about scientific things but also gave us new friends and memories that are truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

By Sarah Simonetti and Ebony O’Donohue (Year 9)