The future of the University of Newcastle's Science and Engineering Challenge looks brighter thanks to a critical funding recharge from the Australian Government.
The Challenge has been awarded $450,000 over three years under the Government's 2012 Inspiring Australia - Unlocking Australia's Potential initiative. The grant, the largest awarded in the nation, is one of 63 Unlocking Australia's Potential science communication grants announced by the Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans.
Now in its 12th year, the Challenge aims to spark high school students' interest in science and engineering and last year attracted more than 22,000 students from 812 secondary schools in 54 locations across Australia.
Professor John O'Connor, Head of the University of Newcastle's School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said the University was thrilled by news the National Science and Engineering Challenge would continue to inspire young minds.
“Australian Government funding for the Science and Engineering Challenge finished at the end of 2011. With bridging support from the University and sponsorship from Ausgrid, the Challenge continued to run but its future was in question,” Professor O’Connor said.
“High schools across Australia have demonstrated enormous support for the Challenge and news of the renewed funding will be welcomed greatly by thousands of students, teachers and parents.
“The grant will allow us to run the Challenge as a modified program around Australia until at least 2014.”
The latest funding follows the Government’s recent budget announcement of an extra $54 million over four years to improve participation rates in science and mathematics studies at school and university.
“Programs like the Science and Engineering Challenge are extremely important at a time when Australian school students’ interest and participation in science is in steady decline,” Professor O’Connor said.
“Many industries, especially manufacturing and mining, rely on a workforce with science and maths skills and it is pleasing to see the Government investing in these areas of education.”
The Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
For interviews with Professor O’Connor: Megan Cunneen, Media and Public Relations, 02 4985 4049.