Patrick Guthridge Is 17 years old, and is School Captain at St. Clare’s High School, Taree. His two close friends, WenYuan LimSchneider and Nathan Smith also attend St Clare’s and the three of them were supported by Taree Rotary to participate in the National Youth Science Forum.

This is a program for Year 12 students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths). 

It is run in January each year, and involves various lectures, tours, and workshops to learn about university, STEM career pathways, and exciting research into various science related fields. 

It is also a great opportunity to learn about science communication from various journalists, scientists, and professors across Australia, and say the boys, it is a fantastic time to bond with other like-minded students from all over the country. 

Traditionally, the program is a residential camp in Australian National University or University of Queensland, but due to COVID the program was entirely online. This meant a lot of tiring ZOOM meetings, but luckily the three were able to persevere with the circumstances, and agreed that overall it was a very exciting experience and are very grateful to Taree Rotary for their help.

Said Patrick, ‘Attending the NYSF was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience – not only did it fuel my motivation to pursue an engineering-related career and provide a broad view of STEM’s applications in the real world, but it was a wonderful opportunity to network with others my own age who have the same passion and excitement for STEM as I do and gave me an insight into what humanity can achieve through the collaborative nature of STEM. The plethora of niche interests brought to the NYSF by individuals from a multitude of diverse backgrounds opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that exist in our ever evolving world, and gave me the courage to pursue my dream of going to university next year to study a Bachelor of Engineering.’

Adds Wen, ‘As an extremely curious person I grew up watching Doctor Who and science was a natural interest, as I can’t resist trying to figure out how something works. I am amazed when a group of scientists take a picture of a black hole or land a rover on mars! However, more recently I’ve started to realise the necessity for science to not just be a curiosity, but a way to benefit society – especially with COVID and climate change – and that we need scientists and politicians to work together to help solve these problems to help humanity (and not to just make a profit or put someone on Mars).  

Nathan adds, ‘I can’t honestly give a single event in my life the title of ‘creating my interest in science’, I have always had an innate desire to expand my knowledge in the scientific fields.’

Patrick also grew up with a love of technology how and why it works, saying, ‘Ultimately, I believe that STEM represents humanity’s fundamental means to change the world: that it’s a unifying force which empowers society as whole to move forward and overcome challenges, yet has equal significance for the discovery of our identities as individuals through connection to our passions. I believe that our experience of the Pandemic exemplifies this: We’ve not only been able to identify the spread of a potentially lethal virus and develop vaccines to combat it using knowledge of science, but we’ve connected through technology.’ 

Wen hopes to study a double degree Bachelor of Engineering/Bachelor of Science at Australian National University. ‘I’m not too sure what I want to do career-wise, but one thing I’ve learnt from the NYSF is that if you study something you love and are passionate about, you’ll be sure to find a job you love!’

Adds Nathan, ‘I am continuing to study subjects around science and hope to continue for the rest of my career, with the experience of the forum I believe expanding upon this even more. I hope to pursue a career in Mechanical engineering.’ 

Patrick continued, ‘I’m particularly amazed by the interaction of acoustics and electronics, having spent many hours conducting extensive research into the area, building home-made speakers, and learning about sound engineering.’

I asked these three bright boys what they’d like to see happen or change in the near future.

Wen: I think our area (and our country) needs more renewable energy and infrastructure for electric vehicles and high speed rail. It’s embarrassing when governments invest in gas and fossil fuels as opposed to renewables, and instead of encouraging electric vehicles, try to tax them instead (also our trains are just really slow). We need to rethink the way we deal with our rubbish – it is hard to know what you can and can’t recycle, our groceries come with way too much packaging (that is neither made from recycled materials or is itself recyclable), and the amount of edible food thrown out by farmers, supermarkets, and consumers is extremely concerning. Of course this isn’t a local community problem, but even if we can make small, habitual changes (like recycling bits of clean aluminium foil by scrunching them up into tennis-ball sized balls, or buying more local produce), we can make a difference and inspire/force those higher up the chains of power to make a difference as well.’

Patrick’s pointers are; ‘While we are fortunate to have several excellent schools in our area, the Taree Universities Campus is a promising sign for the future, but more consistent government funding is required to provide students in our region with the best possible education.

With the increased regularity of these devastating events with the onset of climate change, it is vitally important that our council reassess how disasters are better responded to on a local scale.

Climate change is undeniably one of humanity’s greatest challenges, so to combat the great challenge of climate change we need to achieve global net zero emissions which will require the contribution of everyone. Australia is in a prime position to become a world leader of climate action, and we can promote this on a local level by investing in renewables and educating the local community about the benefits of leading an environmentally conscious lifestyle. 

We need significant investment in renewable energy generation and storage, as well as initiatives to establish carbon-neutrality on a local scale.’ And he adds – ‘Also, we need some more devoted, expeditiouspoliticians who don’t settle for mediocrity.’

The three friends all take similar subjects at school (4 units Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry) and with these shared interests they’ve become fairly close and competitive friends.

It was heartening to meet them. 


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