Helping bright young minds thrive 

The Scientia Challenge Program features a range of exciting workshops taught over three days designed for gifted and talented high school students in Years 7-10.  

Developed and led by practising experts, the workshops follow a university-style investigative structure with intellectually-stimulating content. With the level of study aimed two years higher than the students' grade level, these dynamic workshops offer gifted students a rigorous and challenging program.  

The program is held at the UNSW Sydney Campus giving students exposure to university life to help reimagine their future study options and provide opportunities to meet potential role models and mentors. The program also offers a space for gifted students to meet like-minded peers with similar interests.  


2021 Programs

Scientia Challenge Workshops Years 7-8

Cinematic Sounds with Anthea and Rodney Wikstrom

Think of your favourite movie. If it had no sound or music, would it still have the same impact on you? Film music and cinematic sounds enhance character, create mood and heighten emotion in films. A soundscape can make or break a film. In this workshop, you will explore the work of film score composers, Foley artists, and the impact technology has had on the history of film music. Using computer software, you will learn to produce and arrange sounds, compose and record music, synchronize sounds to video, and create a film score soundtrack. Film composers of the future, come on down!

About the presenters: 

Anthea is a graduate of the Conservatorium High School, and of the University of NSW in violin performance, film & composition. She has performed in many interesting roles including the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Anthony Callea and various rock & country bands. Anthea currently performs with country music act Jackie Dee, and The Real Mexico Mariachi Band. She is a trained school teacher and taught at the Conservatorium High School, accompanying students to Shanghai Conservatorium and World Expo. Anthea's enthusiasm is infectious, and is an inspiration to her violin students.

Rodney is also a passionate music educator with an interest in gifted education, and has studied with internationally respected violin pedagogues. He teaches violin privately, and is also a trained high school music teacher experienced with all levels up to HSC Music 2.

Critical Thinking; Ethics; Philosophy and how to Debate an Issue Brilliantly with Michele Waterson

This program aims to develop in our children, qualities of strong critical thinking, philosophical contemplation and ethical consideration of the global issues that they, as global citizens, will encounter each day.  We begin by acknowledging: "That in a free state every man may think what he likes, and say what he thinks..." - Benedict de Spinoza.  However, as citizens in a 21st Century reality of information overload, we must ensure that we are discerning consumers of information. People need to validate 'facts' and 'arguments' presented to them in order to justify all claims and assertions in line with their own world view and personal values. Students will develop skills of: critical thinking, ethical accountability and philosophical reflection. Students will learn to delve for accountability from all facts and arguments presented to them through all media forums. Students will use these skills to build arguments and debate those arguments effectively and ethically.

About the presenter: 

Michele is the debating convenor at St Pius X College in Sydney and an experienced GERRIC presenter.

Spatial Storytelling with Dean Utian

Spatial Storytelling uses film as a lens to explore the character and stories of space, place and time. In addition, you will get the opportunity to experience virtual reality (VR), and particularly 360 video as significant immersive spatial experiences and storytelling. Through this exploration, you will produce your own short films with spatial stories. Your knowledge in the making of films and immersive experiences will grow together with your understanding of the spaces within the world we live. 

You will:

  1. Create a short film with space and place as a main character, learning about film making and developing technical skills in video editing with Adobe Premiere. 

  1. Assess the nature of stories, frameworks for telling them and the meaning they provide. 

  1. Analyse films and spatial experiences (including VR) to develop deeper understanding of the messages they communicate and what they say about the real world. 

About the presenter: 

Dean is  an architectural graduate who has specialised in multimedia and educational design. He teaches electives in digital communication, games and film within the Built Environment at UNSW Sydney. He also support staff the use of technology in learning and teaching and has taught GERRIC workshops for many years.

Scientia Challenge Workshops Years 9-10

The Brain in Health and Disease with Ken Ashwell

We study the structure and function of the normal brain and spinal cord and then consider types of disease that can affect the brain and spinal cord. The classes explore the structure of the nervous system at the microscopic and naked eye level, and we discuss how function is localised in the brain. Students practice clinical examinations of the nervous system on classmates and analyse how brain disease or damage might be prevented or repaired. Students also have the opportunity to make diagnoses and recommend treatment for patients with brain disease

About the presenter

Ken is a professor in the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW and a researcher of Comparative and Evolutionary Neuroscience. He is an experienced GERRIC presenter and author of textbooks. 

What to bring:

Paper and pens for writing.


Approximate reading time: 1 hour 

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Techniques with Vladimir Tosic 

You might have watched a science-fiction movie with intelligent machines or heard that artificial intelligence (AI) will change the world. In this workshop, you will be introduced to some of the techniques used to make computers behave more intelligently (e.g. to beat humans in challenging games like chess or to make complex decisions in stock markets).

   You will first learn about various application areas of AI and then discuss potential benefits and issues (e.g. ethical or legal) of some current and near-future uses of AI, e.g. in computer games, self-driving cars, or other areas. If circumstances allow, you will see a practical demonstration of UNSW robots playing soccer! However, the majority of the workshop will contain practical, "hands-on", interactive learning about various AI techniques. Using several free interactive online learning systems, you will study how artificial intelligence programs represent knowledge, how they solve problems by searching among potential solutions and how they make optimal decisions in game playing. There will be some programming (in the logic programming language Prolog), but no prior programming experience in any programming language is necessary! Additionally, you will learn "hands-on" about different machine learning techniques (supervised, reinforcement, unsupervised) that enable artificial intelligence systems to learn from past experiences and improve their performance over time. For example, you will experiment with artificial neural networks (ANNs) that are inspired by how human brains work and learn. Finally, you will think critically about some problems in machine learning, e.g. the impact of bias in training data.

About the presenter

Vladimir is an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) educator with diverse teaching experiences, both at universities and in NSW secondary schools. He is currently a part-time Casual Academic at the UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering where he lectures or tutors university students. He also works full-time as an IT Teacher at Taylors College where he teaches ICT to young people who prepare for university studies. He wrote diverse artificial intelligence programs and published research results (e.g. about application of artificial intelligence techniques to managing distributed computing systems). Vladimir is looking forward to help GERRIC students start learning and loving this exciting area of human creativity.

Workshop preparation:



This document includes what to bring and what you should know and do before the workshop, including pre-reading.

Dreaming Computers? Language, science and creativity: an interdisciplinary writing workshop with Maja Milatovic

Have you ever wondered how writers are able to imagine entire worlds populated with magical, unique and compelling creations? How they create such immersive and emotionally resonant narratives which fill us with exhilaration? Creativity is the spark which ignites our imagination – it drives us to reach beyond the known and envision new horizons. But what actually is creativity and its connection to language? Can creativity be taught? If creativity is a skill to be mastered, then can computers be creative and dream up fantasy worlds? These are some of the questions explored in this unique workshop, bringing together insights from diverse disciplines.  Delving into creative writing through a scientific lens, this workshop will allow you to actively reflect on your writing process, enhance your ability to improvise, and produce exciting work stored in your own digital portfolio.   Specifically, you will have the opportunity to write your own short creative pieces grouped around themes within your interest areas and prompted by various multimodal stimuli. You will also receive valuable feedback on your work from your teacher and collaborate on creative projects with like-minded peers. 

About the presenter

Maja is a researcher and a teacher working with diverse high potential and gifted students. She holds a PhD in English Literature, a Master of Postmodern Fictions and Master of English and French Language and Literature (Qualified Teacher degree - qualification accredited by NESA for English and French). She is currently completing a Master of Education in Expert Teaching Practice, specialising in areas of gifted and inclusive education, and teaches at Westbourne College Sydney. Her research background falls within the fields of literary and cultural studies, education and social justice. 

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