Chemistry simmers for students and science
DESPITE science and technology predominantly becoming the crux of future economic windfall and prosperity, school kids are turning away from their Bunsen burners.
Only half of Year 12 students are studying the so-called "STEM" skills - science, technology, engineering and maths - down from 94% just 20 years ago.
According to experts such as Australia's chief scientist Ian Chubb, this was cause for alarm.
The mission to "keep teen minds keen on science" is why Southern Cross University opened the doors of its labs yesterday to more than 150 HSC science students from across the region.
The HSC Chemistry Study Day at SCU started in 2013 as a collaborative program between SCU and Taree High School science teacher Terri Patterson and has grown substantially since.
Students from 19 high schools from Tweed to Grafton compared what they did in their school labs with the whiz-bang technology of the university.
"It was awesome," Grafton High School Year 12 student Rhys Latham Brown said. "Most of the stuff we did was based on HSC practices which were pretty great practice for the upcoming HSC exams.
"We did some sulphur experiments which were pretty cool; it was like breaking down sulphur elements in fertilisers."
Southern Cross University environmental engineering Professor Andrew Rose said the experience was fantastic for the students on the cusp of university choices.
"It's good for them to see what scientists are really doing," he said. "The advantage is they get to see how we use the same principles in action."