This week we have celebrated National Science Week, which has the theme Food: Different by Design. We were lucky enough to have a guest speaker, Dr Madeline Mitchell, a plant scientist present a webinar to our students about her journey into science, how plant science might be able to solve problems of food and resources, and what the future of food might hold. We also had students compete for the first time in the ANSTO Hackathon, where they had to design a solution to the issue of food waste.
Madeline is a plant scientist with broad interests in the social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture. She has collaborated with industry and community partners as well as diverse researchers to develop novel crops for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the environment. Madeline is also an advocate for gender equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM and is an alumna of the global leadership initiative, Homeward Bound. Her skills in science communication have been recognised by an ACT Young Tall Poppy Award and selection in the Superstars of STEM program. Madeline holds a joint role with Food Agility and the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University.
Student reflection - Hayley Di Stefano, Year 12
Hearing from Dr Madeline Mitchell was such an uplifting and reassuring experience for myself as a Year 12 student. When she left high school, Dr Mitchell didn’t know what she wanted to study but was willing to embrace her journey and was excited to see where her interests took her and I think this is something that we can all reflect on as Siena students. She had such a positive attitude to learning and her slides were filled with quotes that I think reflected her career and engagement in the science industry, including “stay curious”, “be brave and lead the way, be smart and learn from others”, and “have fun”. I learnt not only about her work but what’s to come in environmental science and she is clearly someone who is paving the way for a more sustainable planet and eco-friendly future.
Each year, the United Nations “International Year Of…” is considered when exploring potential themes, and 2021 provides us with both the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.
In keeping with these UN topics, Food: Different by Design covers a broad range of areas in food production and sustainable agriculture, enabling students to explore topics such as biosecurity, food technology, laboratory-developed foods, and more. In the true spirit of National Science Week, scientific development will be at the core of the theme.
The ANSTO Hackathon has students tackle a problem and using the design thinking process to generate a solution which they pitch to a range of STEM and industry experts. Over the first three days of National Science Week the students collaborate, empathise and define the root problem, before generating ideas and testing and prototyping them, all around their normal classes. In this time they meet with design mentors and industry mentors including scientists and engineers to help them with the process.
We entered a team of three Year 7 students, Katie Kim, Helen Kyriakos and Steph Cullinan. They worked cleverly and diligently to come up with their solution, the SmartTrolley and an app to help people purchase exactly what they need for their families to minimise food waste. They found the process initially ‘overwhelming’, but this gave way to ‘satisfying’ and ‘really fun’ and found the feedback from their mentors particularly helpful especially the further along the design process they were. They are to be congratulated on their excellent efforts and innovative thinking. Well done!