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

We were excited to welcome students back to UNSW in January 2021. These programs were especially anticipated after what was an unusual school year for so many. Though things looked a little different (and more physically distanced!) this time, we have been overwhelmed with positive feedback. Thank you to everyone who was involved and supported the programs.

We are currently planning the July 2021 Student Programs. We look forward to sharing details (including dates and available workshops) with everyone soon. To stay up to date with all the latest Student Programs information you can join our mailing list here.

Scientia Challenge Workshops

Workshops run in January 2021.  Not confirmed for July 2021. 

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. 

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.

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 and an experienced GERRIC presenter.

What to bring:

Pens and paper for writing.



Organisational units