Innovative Young Minds - 27 July 2021
Rotary Club of Plimmerton
Aleha Thorn (who was accompanied by her father, Joel) spoke to us about her recent experience attending the six-day live-in programme for Innovative Young Minds.
Along with forty other young women, she was swept along with the intensity of the work aimed at involving them in a variety of activities associated with the STEM sector. With inspirational speakers, visits to several organisations and hands-on environmental problem solving, the days were full and challenging.
As a young woman, Aleha is often asked the common question of 'what do you want to do?' and of course the answer is not always clear. While having a broad range of study interests, Aleha noted few students understand or can uncover the mysteries of the future.
The IYM programme with its real-life and hands-on experiences will be a great help in guiding her along the paths to unexpected places her life can lead her.
Aleha finished her presentation by thanking the club for the opportunity to attend the programme and expressing the hope that the support might be continued for other young women in the future.
Here is the full text of her speech.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experience at Innovative Young Minds Residential 2021. The programme gives 40 young women with an interest in science and technology the opportunity to spend 6 days living together at Silverstream retreat, where they can discover the amazing range of options available for women in the STEMM sector. IYM includes visits to various businesses, research centres and tertiary institutions, hear from inspiring speakers and create new friendships.
Whenever I speak to adults, ‘the big question’ somehow always pops up: ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ Without fail, my answer is always ‘I have absolutely no idea’. I have a broad range of interests, from french and history to food technology and biology, often leaving me wondering how on earth these things could ever coalesce into a single career path. There is an ever-expanding array of career and study options available to us, however, no students really know exactly what’s out there, only making those important decisions more difficult. So when I heard about IYM, I knew it was an unmissable opportunity to finally uncover the mysteries of what my future could hold.
Over the course of the week, we travelled to a diverse range of sites across the Wellington area. These included NIWA, a biocontainment laboratory, Weltec Petone, victoria university’s physics and chemistry laboratories, a coastal ecology lab, Callaghan Innovation, and Massey university school of health sciences. It was really cool to see what life is like in a variety of different jobs and study pathways and try out a few experiments ourselves. We also got to hear a panel of women speak about their careers in STEMM and incredible life journeys so far, a talk on astronomy, and participate in an innovation challenge. This is where we worked over several days in small groups to come up with a creative solution to an environmental issue that uses a renewable energy source. Some of our creations included a net to catch plastic waste in our waterways, a vertical farming system to minimise soil erosion and pest trapping drones to protect our native wildlife. An earlier challenge also had us devise a new technology using Brussel sprouts, which yielded a rather interesting assortment of items like brussels sprout boats, life rings, and fruit roll-ups.
My biggest surprise throughout the week was that the experiences I enjoyed the most were not at all what I had expected. One of my favourite visits was to A44 games, a video game company, which is strange considering I generally think video games are a waste of time. But I was surprised by the many different fields of knowledge involved in the design process, and the positive impact they hoped to make through their creations. Some interesting demonstrations at Vic and Callaghan Innovation have also rekindled my interest in physics, after almost deciding it wasn’t for me. This just goes to show how valuable opportunities like IYM are for young people like myself, to support us as we evolve as people and undergo shifts in perspective. Hearing from so many strong women has taught me that it’s okay to have no idea what I want to do, as life can lead you to the most unexpected places.
Thank you for sponsoring me to attend Innovative Young Minds, and I sincerely hope you choose to invest in this programme for many more years to come. The positive impact your contribution makes is incredible.