• Two student winners at 2016 Indigenous STEM Awards Sharni Cox and Greta Stephensen attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in US. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) was held in May this year in the United States and two young talented Indigenous STEM students were lucky to get the chance to attend.
By
Emily Nicol

20 Aug 2017 - 9:06 PM  UPDATED 21 Aug 2017 - 10:51 AM

Greta Stephensen and Sharni Cox were two of the 2016 Indigenous STEM Awards winners, a great achievement in an area where girls can often be under-represented.

The Indigenous STEM Awards recognise, reward and celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and scientists who are studying and working in the STEM field, as well as the integral role schools, teachers and mentors have in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in pursuing STEM education and careers. Part of the Indigenous STEM Education Project, the awards are delivered by CSIRO, funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation and aim to increase participation and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Both were given the opportunity to head to the US to attend the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) an annual gathering that sees only 1700 students from a pool of over 7 million applicants globally, come together to share ideas, be inspired and compete for more than 4 million USD in awards and scholarships.

Both students had an interest in STEM subjects but it wasn't until high school that it became a passion and an area that held potential for personal growth. For Greta, maths is her main interest.
"Throughout primary and early high school I was always interested in STEM subjects, however maths particularly interested me. This love for maths remained throughout the years until I went to the Science and Engineering Challenge when I was in grade ten. This was the first step that really got me interested in engineering, but then attending the Junior InspireU Engineering camp at UQ really cemented the idea in my head." 

Throughout her school years Sharni has grown passionate about science and finds it a rewarding challenge. "Science hasn't always been my first area of interest, but it is certainly my biggest passion now. I originally became interested in Science when I joined an after school Robotics club in grade 9. I found it challenging, interesting and incredibly enjoyable. I loved using my mind in different ways."

With the top STEM students from around the world attending ISEF, it was a great chance to meet, share exciting innovations and meet like-minded students and for both girls the chance to connect with this international network was the highlight.

"The night we had the pin exchange was definitely the most memorable moment at the fair. That was really when we were able to meet people from all over the world and talk to them about their projects. Meeting friends there gave us a direction at the fair when looking at stalls and learning about their incredible projects. I’ve kept in touch with many people from the fair that I met at the pin exchange which is so cool because I now have friends from all over the world." says Greta.

I loved walking around the huge hall that had been set up and speaking to students from many different countries about their work. A sector I found particularly interesting, were those entered in the medical research category

Sharni adds that seeing the ideas around medical science was particularly inspiring.
"Some of the most memorable moments from the fair, for me, consisted of the broad range of talent that was showcased in the student presentations. I loved walking around the huge hall that had been set up and speaking to students from many different countries about their work. A sector I found particularly interesting, were those entered in the medical research category."

The experience for both students was one that grounded their desire to be leaders in their chosen fields and their Indigenous heritage will play a big part of their success. 

"I walked away from the science fair with an overwhelming desire to do as best as I could in my studies so that one day I could be a STEM professional. It is the past, present and future. There’s definitely an increase of Indigenous STEM students with the amount of encouragement found in institutions and Universities now. With this, the Indigenous STEM students would be able to offer new perspectives which, in end, would improve the STEM community abundantly. Already, there are projects and experiments targeting areas that only the Indigenous would think about."

 
"From the Intel Science Fair, I walked away with a wealth of knowledge and some truly extravagant memories. It was certainly a trip that I will never forget. The fair also made me realise what I truly want to do with my life, and that is Science Communication.  I believe Indigenous STEM has a very bright future. I think that teaching the youth of today at a younger age and getting them interested in STEM, is the ticket to many new discoveries and talent being found." Said Sharni.
 

The Indigenous STEM Awards recognise, reward and celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and scientists who are studying and working in the STEM field, as well as the integral role schools, teachers and mentors have in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in pursuing STEM education and careers. It is part of the Indigenous STEM Education Project, delivered by CSIRO and funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation and aims to increase participation and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Read These Too
Are our Indigenous Sciences at risk of Assimilation?
From homeopathic remedies to ecology, Indigenous Sciences need more protection.
Science lessons on country: students learn botany by collecting plum bush
The CSIRO is working with students in remote communities to encourage the practice of Indigenous Sciences in the school curriculum.
Science community calls for more Indigenous STEM students
Today kicks off the start of National Science Week, in which Australia celebrates the contributions made by science to the world we live in.