AUT Roy Geddes Science Education Award

During the summer, Year 13 student Angelina Delfavero travelled to Auckland for the Rotary National Science and Technology Forum in Auckland. Of the 174 students who attended the Forum, Angelina was one of only two to receive the AUT Roy Geddes Science Education Award. Normally this means Angelina would attend the London International Youth Science Forum in July, however its likely that this will be deferred. Please read on for a recap of the Forum in Angelina’s own words.

For two weeks in January, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Rotary National Science and Technology Forum in Auckland – and quite frankly, these were two of the best weeks of my life. The Forum brought together 174 Year 12 students from across Aotearoa and was run in partnership with three universities – AUT, Auckland University, and Massey University – and as a result, the opportunities were endless.

Before the Forum, all 174 of us were split into one of six coloured groups. I had the privilege of being in Yellow, and little did I know, my 28 fellow Yellow group members and two advisors would quickly become a second family to me. We learnt together, sang together, laughed together, and in the early hours of our final day as we all began to depart, cried together. The bonds we formed were stronger than I could have ever imagined, and I am forever grateful for my new group of life-long friends.

Describing the Forum is near impossible, but if I could attempt to summarise it in one phrase, it would be ‘non-stop craziness’. Each day ran from sunrise to well after sunset – starting off with early morning activities at 6:30am and ending promptly at 10:30pm.

During weekdays, we attended two three-hour modules a day at one of the three universities. Contrary to the classes we take at high school, these modules covered a variety of specialties, allowing us to truly broaden our horizons and explore new areas. We attended applied mathematics, biological sciences, biomedical engineering, biomedical science, chemistry, a create and make workshop, robotics, food science, microbiology, molecular biology, nutrition, physics, psychology, sports science, and video science. In addition to the modules, we also attended lectures, and each had three ‘tech visits’ in which we were able to visit companies and workplaces for a hands-on experience. My personal favourite was visiting BECA where we explored the concept of digital twins and tried out augmented reality (AR) glasses.

However, while we dubbed the Forum ‘Nerd Camp’, it was certainly not restricted to learning. We went rock climbing, relaxed at the beach, explored Auckland, danced and sang our hearts out at the disco, met many inspirational people like Dr Michelle Dickinson (also known as Nanogirl), and most importantly, played a LOT of volleyball! Volleyball could quite possibly be considered the apex of the Forum. For four of the evenings, we all dressed up in our group’s colour and chanted at the top of our lungs for almost three hours. The sound and energy produced was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and as an extremely proud Yellow, I had completely lost my voice by the second week.

The final night marked the Formal Dinner. I was fortunate enough to sit next to the amazing Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains and thoroughly enjoyed discussing all topics, from neuroscience and neurosurgery to food allergies, with her. At the end of the evening, I had the incredible honour of receiving the AUT Roy Geddes Science Education Award to represent New Zealand at the London International Youth Science Forum. While this Forum may not go ahead in-person this year due to COVID-19, I have my fingers crossed for attending next year!

The Rotary National Science and Technology Forum was truly a life-changing experience for me, and I could not be more grateful for the support of Wellington North Rotary Club and the team of organisers who made this possible.