Young Scientists On The RISE


For the fourth year running, the Residential Indigenous Science Experience (RISE) was held at the University of Melbourne recently. From the 22nd to the 27th of November, RISE bought 30 keen Indigenous students from year nine and ten in schools all over Australia together to enjoy a week long fun, engaging and intensive, mixed Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) experience.

This program was only possible due to a multifaceted partnership, led by the Faculty of Science, the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC) and supported by the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS), the Faculty of Veterinary and Agriculture Sciences, the Melbourne School of Engineering and the Murrup Barak Institute for Indigenous Development.

The week began with a traditional dinner and team building exercise at Trinity College where students took residence for the week. Once the students had settled into their accommodation, they were treated to four days of unique and interesting experiences with partner organisations and university department leaders.

The highlights of the week included visiting Scienceworks and the Planetarium, a behind the scene's tour of the Melbourne Synchrotron and their visit to the Living Museum of the West, featuring workshops on venomous creatures and ‘volcano dreaming’. The highlights within the university included Roger Rassool's Physics Laser Show and Bungee Competition, Adlin Ramdzan’s Taste of Chemistry, and the mechatronics and robot programming workshop by the student run, Robogals.

As a support partner of the RISE program for three years now, MDHS and the School of Biomedical Sciences was proud to offer their first workshop ‘Doctor for a Day’, thanks to David Williams of the Department of Physiology.

The session began with an interactive, handheld clicker trivia game covering human and animal cardiovascular fun facts. One team receive a perfect score, thanks mainly to their knowledge of the heart rate of a blue whale, a human and a shrew; 5, 70 and 1000 beats/minute, respectively.

This then lead into the practical component of the workshop, consisting of a human electrocardiogram (ECG) illustrating their cardiac cycle and heart rate, or measurement of their partner's blood pressure, using an aneroid sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope. Some students even chose to do both.

There was also one exercise setup available consisting of a perpetual powered exercise bike and a Finometer. One volunteer undertook a set protocol to demonstrate the effects of exercise on as many as 12 different heart related parameters, all measured in real-time via diodes in a small, inflatable finger cuff.

The students took everything in their stride, confident and outgoing, none of them were too shy to ask for help and many of them were able to successfully determine their partner’s blood pressure. Their willingness to contribute actively to the class reflects their potential to contribute to society as physicians.

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing Indigenous applicants a place in a course if it can be demonstrated that they are likely to succeed. The Bachelor of Science (Extended) is one entry point into tertiary education for indigenous students, allowing them to be better prepared for the latter years of their university undergraduate course. It's true, knowledge is power! This and other entry possibilities give RISE students inspiration, foresight and the ability to plan a clear pathway into their desired course. They walk away from the week knowing their education and career goals and aspirations aren't insurmountable.

The RISE program is just one of many engagement programs gaining momentum within these university walls. Many of the reasons and advantages behind such programs are outlined in the recent release of "Engagement at Melbourne, 2015-2020."

Any staff, student or external partners willing to donate their time to RISE should contact GTAC who are always in need of group leaders or student mentors. The more Departments, Schools and Faculties that donate their time to these engagement programs, the more able we are to support student equality.

Are you interested? Will you RISE to the challenge?

Author: Dale M. Baum
Photography: Dale M. Baum