ANSTO Big Ideas Forum – A Student’s Perspective

In November 2017, 21 students from across Australia, each with a brilliant idea, were invited to the ANSTO Big Ideas Forum – at the only nuclear reactor in Australia! Two of these students were myself, Hillary Le, and Rishab Gupta, who were ready to present this new idea to the world:

“Can we develop a cruelty-free nuclear medicine delivery system that uses the body’s digestive tract and make this world a better place for both animals and humans?”

Over 200 schools submitted their ideas to ANSTO. Making it through to the final round was absolutely exhilarating! We would like to thank the incredible work our teacher, Dr Hogg, put in to assist us create the video and enter the forum.

Rishab and I, accompanied by Mr Pearce, flew to Sydney where we got to stay at ANSTO’s very own motel. Meeting the rest of the students was thrilling! We were such a small group that we all bonded instantly.

We had the privilege of visiting the reactor on-site – not your typical tourist site, after some safety training, of course! We got to tour the OPAL reactor, a research reactor powered by uranium submerged in a 13 metre-deep pool. Fun fact: uranium does not glow green when the reactor is on – it glows blue. Seeing all this in person and getting a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask the ANSTO staff in person debunked all my questions about nuclear radiation reactors and radiation and trust me, I had a lot!

The most profound aspect of this reactor and its staff was that it was responsible for producing 80% of Australia’s nuclear medicine. One in two Australians will need nuclear medicine in their life time. Not only did we get the honour of seeing the only reactor in Australia, but also the infamous Centre for Neutron Scattering, and the Centre for Accelerator Science.

But it wasn’t all about the fancy science equipment. We got to personally meet ANSTO mentors and see what thei r work in the lab looks like. Afterwards, we all shared a delightful movie night.

Wednesday was bursting with sight-seeing plans at Sydney CBD! We got to see the one and only Australian Museum, topped off with a harbour dinner cruise. Our close group enjoyed a wonderous view of the harbour sunset and night-time lights, along with gourmet food!

To wrap up such an eventful week, all the groups presented their findings to their big idea at the Discovery Centre and I was blown away by every presentation and that all presenters respected each other’s turns.

To the Year 10s out there, I absolutely encourage you all to submit YOUR idea, no matter no little it seems, because it is definitely worth joining in on such an enriching and insightful experience. My own idea was bizarrely about animal testing, but it was bold and new, and that’s what matters. The lasting friendships you’ll make across the country is also certainly worth it. To this day I am still in contact with the friends that the ANSTO experience gave me.

Hillary Le, Student