Editorial Team

An innovative photo competition is gathering an enormous following, inspiring girls to delve into science and find synergies between their passions and how these connect to purposeful journeys in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) careers.

The Cochlear Aurora Photo Contest, now in its fourth year, celebrated its newest wave of teenage winners last night, awarding a record-breaking 14 prizes to girls and their schools and seeing more than 3,000 votes cast for the People’s Choice Awards.

A total of $4,200 in prizes was awarded, with Molly Wild of Grant High School in Mount Gambier taking out the top prize in the Year 8-10 category for her vibrant water drop image captured mid-splash, also winning the regional Best STEM prize and her school this year’s winner.

Jadzia Hanson of the Australian Science and Mathematics School, located at Flinders University, won the Year 11-12 top prize for a stunning magnification representation constructed through a clever assembly of shells, glass and a coastal setting.

The People’s Choice Awards went to Stephanie Jones (St Dominics Priory) for the year 8-10 category and Nevie Peart (Australian Science and Maths School) in the Year 11 – 12 category.

The Cochlear Aurora Photo Contest is run by the Flinders University STEM Women Branching Out group, which was initiated by Professor Maria Parappilly to support women studying STEM at Flinders University and inspire high school girls to consider STEM futures. Its major sponsor is Cochlear, and the initiative also enjoys support from the Australian Institute of Physics, the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Beach Energy and UniBank.

Associate Professor Parappilly – who was last night named The Advertiser Woman of the Year Top Innovator – created the state-wide competition to stimulate young women’s interest in STEM subjects and excite girls about everyday science. She is delighted at the burgeoning interest.

“The standard of entries this year is again fantastic and reflects the enthusiasm of the girls. I’m really impressed with this year’s finalists – particularly the great physics entries,” Associate Professor Parappilly says.

Students can submit just one photo each, which must convey the fact that ‘Science is everywhere!’ Images need to be creative, unique and eye-catching.

“A gender gap in the STEM fields still exists, despite community awareness that jobs of the future will be skewed towards these areas as a result of advancing technology, environmental concerns and increasing automation,” Associate Parappilly says.

“Therefore, encouraging high school girls to consider STEM pathways is so important, and a creative initiative can be particularly effective in inspiring young people who may not be considering STEM to take a closer look.”

Winners of both the 2017 and 2018 competitions have gone on to study Advanced Science and Engineering Honours programs at Flinders University.

The success of the unique programs delivered by the STEM Women Branching Out Group has seen Associate Professor Parappilly awarded a number of honours. She is currently shortlisted in the 2020 Asia-Pacific Triple E Awards on Entrepreneurship and Engagement Excellence in Higher Education, with the winner to be announced early in the new year.

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