Flinders University’s annual Cochlear Aurora Photo Contest has opened early, providing valuable holiday time for high school girls to creatively capture science for the chance to win cash, ahead of a planned national expansion of the successful initiative that encourages more girls to consider STEM futures.
The brain child of 2019 South Australian Woman of the Year (Advertiser Top Innovator) Associate Professor Maria Parappilly OAM, the contest was established five years ago with the aim to inspire more girls towards futures in science.
Associate Professor Parappilly says linking science with the arts highlights the creativity inherent in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines, providing girls an opportunity to learn the science behind natural phenomena (or science in everday life), and enabling reflection on the interface between art and science.
“We want to inspire more women to consider STEM futures by engaging more girls in the wonders of science,” she says.
“Based on feedback received from teachers and parents last year we decided to open the 2020 contest early, so students in years 11 and 12 have more opportunity to participate.”
The contest is run by Flinders University’s STEM Women Branching Out group and offers cash prizes to South Australian students from years seven to 12. This year a total prize pool of $4,200 will be awarded across two categories; years seven through to 10, and years 11 and 12.
Associate Professor Parappilly says the STEM group is hoping to expand the contest into Victoria and New South Wales. “We’ve had discussions with Monash and the University of New South Wales, with support from the Physics Education Group of the Australian Institute of Physics.
“We’ve received such amazing feedback and seen the impact here with increasing entries especially from regional areas, and several winners going on to study science, optometry/medicine here at Flinders University.
“The standard of entries last year- particularly the great physics entries – enabled us to introduce some discipline-based prizes and a prize for the best natural photo last year, and this will continue in 2020.”
A physicist herself, Associate Professor Parappilly says this year’s winners of the best physics entry will be showcased at the upcoming Australian Institute of Physics congress to be held in Adelaide in 2021.
Past winners have appreciated the opportunity to delve into science and be recognised for their skills, including last year’s junior category winner Molly Wild of Mount Gambier. Molly says the contest paves a way towards careers in science, technology, engineering or maths for young women, teaching them that their gender, age “or whether they live in the city or country, should not restrict what they are able to achieve.”
The contest has earned national and local industry support, including from major sponsor Cochlear together with Beach Energy, the Australian Institute of Physics, the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and UniBank.
Entries for the 2020 contest must be received by 28 September 2020, finalists have the opportunity to attend an awards ceremony at Flinders University. Enter here