Curious Minds is a program aimed at highly capable girls in Years 9 and 10 who have an interest in STEM learning areas. It is a six-month invitational program for approximately 50 girls from across Australia that combines two residential camps (December and July) and a mentoring program. The camps enable the girls to explore all aspects of STEM through guest lectures, interactive sessions, experiments and field trips. The mentoring program involves matching each girl with a female mentor with a STEM background and together they construct personal goals. To attend this program, students must compete in the Big Science Competition and achieve a very high result as well as meet other criteria endorsed by their school. Anna Coldham-Fussell attended in 2016-17 and Rebecca Leonard in 2017-18.
Coordinator: Exceptional Scientists' Program
During the last summer holidays, I participated in a science camp for girl called Curious Minds. Over these past holidays, I went back to Sydney to complete the second, and final, part of the Curious Minds program.
This second camp was composed of more keynote speakers, a few more workshops, and each student presenting the project that they had worked on between the two camps. My project was on the fusion of two bones in a bird’s leg: the tibia and the fibula. In some bird species, these bones fuse together, and in other bird species, the bones remain completely separated. After a visit to the Queensland Museum, some online research, and a few dissections, I formed a hypothesis. When the bones were fused, the bird had greater stability. When the bones were not fused, they had a greater flexibility at the knee, which is important as most of a bird’s foot is fused together. In birds that sped a lot of time on rough ground, the tibia and fibula are not fused. In birds that spend most of their time in water, air, or on flat, smooth ground, the tibia and the fibula are fused.
I presented this idea to a group of my peers and their mentors, as well as to my mentor, Alex, who worked with me via email over the past six months to formulate and test this hypothesis. Several other mentors commented on the effort that went into my project and suggested that I go back to the Queensland Museum, work with the expert there and go further with my hypothesis. I also learnt a lot from listening to the other students’ presentations, from the best way to store bananas to how anaesthetics affect the human consciousness.
I participated in workshops on coding with Python, chemistry, and the physics of musical instruments and sound, and visited an aquatic research centre, where they are working with Port Jackson sharks, among other fascinating projects.
Overall, I enjoyed spending time with the other girls in the program, as we had a lot in common. I believe I have made some worthwhile connections, especially with my mentor Alex. Alex and I are planning on keeping in contact, and she has been very supportive of my project and has given me useful advice, particularly relating to school and academic life.
Throughout the entire Curious Minds program, I have strengthened my love for all things science, improved my public speaking and research skills, and discovered how much I have left to learn. I look forward to anywhere further I might go with my project, and I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who gets the opportunity to participate in it.
Rebecca Leonard, Year 9