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.  

The workshops below are confirmed for the January 2020 Student Programs. Scholarship and Equity Advanced Placement applications are accepted prior to main round registration.  Registration will open at 7AM on Tuesday 26 November:

Scientia Challenge Workshops

The Brain in Health and Disease with Professor 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. 


Flex your Wii Muscles with Dr Heba Khamis SOLD OUT

Can you play Nintendo's "Mario Kart" using only signals recorded from the human body? If you believe that you can, then you may well be destined to design the machines of the future. The future promises the integration of electronics and technology with the human body to improve the quality of life of the sick or disabled. The human body is alive with the most amazing range of electrical signals. Our brains are impressive computers that use electrical signals to transmit and process information – that is, to think! Our brain sends electrical signals to our muscles to instruct them to contract, or to our vital organs to regulate chemical levels. Our senses convert light, sound, touch, smell, taste, balance and acceleration, and temperature to electrical signals for our brains to process – this is how we perceive the world around us.

This workshop straddles the important interface between human physiology and electronic system implementation, which is of huge importance in all medical instrumentation design. The goal of the workshop is to control a modified computer game (Nintendo's "Mario Kart") using only signals recorded from the human body. You'll pair up in teams of two and compete (race) in a final session. The basic electronic design elements will be provided and you'll construct the final circuit and write a simple computer program to interpret the recorded signals, such that you can control the modified game console.

About the presenter

Heba is a lecturer in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, UNSW Sydney and a Research Associate with Neuroscience Research Australia.  Her start up Contactile, a revolutionary approach to tactile sensing for robotic and prosthetic applications, was selected in top 6 in Best New Idea category for St George Bank Kickstart Competition 2019, at TedEx Sydney. Heba's primary research interests revolve around the application of signal processing and pattern recognition techniques to solve or understand biomedical engineering problems, including analysis of EEG, ECG, neural spike trains and inertial signals, as well as image processing, sensor design and robotic control. 

Spatial Storytelling with Dean Utian

Have you ever considered how the buildings and spaces you occupy have embodied stories? 
Have you noticed how architecture and the built form are often key characters in movies?
Film is an artform closely connected to architecture. Both create and define experiences of place and space. 
Digital film making is highly accessible with our mobile phones enabling cinematic production. In this workshop, you will learn about architecture, filmmaking, and storytelling. We will critique films for their spatial meaning and create our own that tell a spatial story. Through the process, you will gain a deeper understanding of spatial experience and meaning, develop filmmaking capabilities and technical skills in digital video editing to tell your own stories.
Beware! After this workshop you may never see movies in the same way again...  

About the presenter

Dean is both a Sessional Academic and Educational Designer in the Built Environment. His teaching covers digital communication, filmmaking, games and immersive environments. Dean supports the Faculty in staff capacity building, digital uplift, development of fully online courses, as well as best practice in technology enhanced learning and teaching. A recipient of the Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence, he is passionate about education and the use of current and emerging technologies to enhance the student experience and learning outcomes.

Workshop preparation task

Workshop preparation task Spatial Storytelling


Introduction to Artificial Intelligence Techniques using Logic Programming with Vladimir Tosic SOLD OUT

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) by leveraging logic programming in the programming language Prolog.  
You will learn the basics of Prolog and will spend the majority of the workshop writing Prolog programs (of increasing complexity) using a free online programming environment. No prior programming experience in any programming language is necessary! (If you already have programming experience in another language, note that Prolog requires a different way of thinking and programming, useful for solving artificial intelligence problems.) Using Prolog examples, you will also learn about how artificial intelligence programs represent knowledge, how they solve problems by searching among potential solutions, how they make optimal decisions in game playing, and how they learn from experience.  
Note: You will need to bring a fully-charged laptop or tablet. GERRIC can provide a tablet if you don't have one. 

About the presenter

Vladimir is an ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) educator with diverse teaching experiences, both at universities (in Europe, Canada and Australia) and in NSW secondary schools.  He is currently a Casual Academic at the UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering  where he lectures, tutors or mentors students part-time  per year and has taught many gifted and talented Ph.D, Masters, and Honours university students.  In addition to this, he also works full time as an IT Teacher at Taylors College.
Vladimir has taught artificial intelligence and logic programming  both in NSW secondary schools and within undergraduate/postgraduate subjects at two universities (including tutoring UNSW COMP3411/9414 Artificial Intelligence). He is looking forward to helping  GERRIC students start to learn and love this exciting area of human creativity.

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.

Students will be expected to bring to the program:
• a desire to build their debating skills through strong group-work research skills,
• an ability and desire to communicate compassionately and equitably
• a commitment to reflection on the validity and strength of their own and others’ arguments.

About the presenter

Michele teaches Senior English and Applied Philosophy at St Pius X College.  In addition to marking HSC English exams, she convenes debating and public speaking, coaches/trains CSDA Debating adjudicators, and is Vice-President of the Gifted and Talented Secondary Teachers Association (GATSTA). Michele holds a Master of Gifted Education degree from UNSW.


Cinematic Sounds with Anthea 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 presenter

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 TattooAnthony 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.

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