My scientific journey

Thomas Nicholls from Warilla High shares his experience attending an Aboriginal summer school for science.

01 December 2020

Video: My scientific journey

Duration: 3:13
Thomas Nicolls shares his experience of taking part in the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science.

Thomas Nicholls

My name's Thomas, an Aboriginal man from the Wailwan Nation. Back in 2019, at the start of the year, I was able to go to the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Science and Technology, ASSETS, run by the CSIRO.

This is a week-long summer camp, that had a main focus on experimental design with regards to environmental science, to tie back to the land and culture and apply that into a modern society. But jumping straight into our project with a bunch of people you've only known for a couple of days, it's a very daunting experience, especially at the start of the camp.

We were designated to assign groups, with there being five people in my group, trying to find a team composition, like who will be the leader, designer, tester, were all tricky to navigate at first, but with help from staff from the University of Newcastle and CSIRO volunteers we were able to settle and complete our task. So attacking this project, we had access to use the resources at the Uni of Newcastle's science labs. Now, all we need to do is come up with a question. We discuss it for a bit, then the topic of acidification came about, how we could test the susceptibility of water types to introduction of carbon dioxide? And what areas would be worse at handling the introduction of carbon?

Being the first time interacting with all these new people at this stage was awkward, but we were still able to overcome this and communicate and discuss what we could feasibly do in a week. Next came to design the method. How are we going to do this and give you each sample the same amount of gas? This is where assistant professors from the uni really came in handy. We were offered help in designing the experiment.

We used a study of bicarbonate and sulfuric acid to produce the gas. How we were able to channel it into our samples. The rest of the experiment was relatively easy to set up, doing the carbon dioxide experiment in a flask. Hooked up with tubing into our four samples of water or served by magnetic mixes, measuring the PH over time. By this time, our group had become a lot more friendly with each other and connected with each other and were able to work towards completing the experiment.

From collecting our data we have to turn it into something that shows any potential trends or patterns which made it into a graph. Besides this, we had to make a presentation that will be presented to an audience of our family and members from the CSIRO. This is the most stressful part for me. I mean doing speeches is hard, even right now, it's a challenge to present this. But I persisted and did my part in creating a section of a slide presentation. Then we finally presented. It was a bit tough but apparently it went well. And the members of the CSIRO and my family were impressed what we'd done over the last week.

This summer camp is a pretty fun experience and definitely one of the highlights of last year. The biggest takeaway from this experience was just to try new things and take advantage of any opportunity that is given to you. This is just a suggestion from one of my teachers. I just took the chance when given not exactly knowing what I'd get myself into. Without doing this, I wouldn't have met all these new people from across Australia I never would have otherwise.

These new experiences gave me memories that won't leave me for a long time that I can reflect on as I get older. I would advise anyone listening to try and get past some of the stigmas of events advised from school, and maybe try them out. It could be even more fun and let on. It really pushes you out of your comfort zone and challenges yourself while meeting new people and creating new memories you'll savour it for years to come after.
End of transcript.
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