August 16, 2022

International Science School

This summer, I got the stellar opportunity through Higher Orbits to participate in Australia’s online International Science School. Everyday day was fun filled with thought-provoking lectures from guest speakers, followed by group hands-on activities. We worked through issues and solved problems through discussions and workshops. Finally, we explored the University of Sydney’s research facilities during online lab tours. At the end of the day, students and staff socialized by playing games, competing in trivia contests, and participating in movie nights. During the ten days of daily sessions, I learnt about different fields of STEM and met some amazing, inspiring, dedicated students and staff along the way.

The ISS started off with a bang: a Q&A with Dr. Derek Muller, better known for his YouTube channel, Veritasium. For me and probably many other students, this was one of highlights of the ISS. Veritasium is one of the most well-known science channels in the YouTube community. I am a huge fan and have learnt so much through his videos! However, that’s not to say that the other programs ISS had to offer were any less impressive and interesting.

Nearly every day began with a lecturer covering a different STEM topic. The topics included astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and environmentalism, just to name a few. All the lectures were inspiring and exciting since the speakers were leading researchers in their respective fields. In particular I enjoyed the astrophysics lecture, given by Elaine Sadler. It was captivating to learn about the models used by astrophysicists to accurately predict the movement and evolution of galaxies over time. Since I aspire to be an astrophysicist, it was a wonderful exposure to learn more about the field. During the lectures, students were able to share their thoughts and questions on Discord. Discussing the material of the lecture while it was happening live led to better comprehension of the topic.

I was extremely excited for the workshops since I enjoy hands-on activities. The experiments did not disappoint! We created physical projects for math, chemistry, biology, and physics. However, we also did two ethics workshops. I found it interesting because it was unique, and I have never experienced before. I enjoyed each of the workshops immensely because they were fun, and I gained knowledge during each session. I absolutely loved the physics workshop, during which we created hydrogen using the process of electrolysis!

I also got to explore the university’s research facilities and labs from the other side of the world. It was fascinating and captivating to see scientists at work creating and testing solutions. The quantum lab tour was especially amazing, since I saw the computers which we might use in the future.

My ten day experience at International Science School was so unique and inspiring. The story wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention other individuals I met at the ISS, both students and staff.

This was my first time being exposed to the science community on an international level, so it was awesome to be able to connect with other passionate high school students and staff from around the world. The International Science School was an experience that is distinguished not only by the science it taught and the programs it offered, but also its brilliant students and staff who turned this amazing journey into an unforgettable one. Huge thanks to Michelle and the ISS staff for organizing and conducting an out-of-this-world, fun-filled educational program and giving me the opportunity to participate.

About the author

Nikhita Penugonda is a high school junior who is passionate about math, astronomy, and physics! She attended Go For Launch! and participated in Space at Home programs. Her art flew on the Neptune 1 test flight to the Edge of Space! Nikhita is a member of the Million Girls Moonshot Inaugural Flight Crew, a group of 16 remarkable youth from across the country, who are working to inspire young girls to envision a place for them in STEM. Nikhita loves thinking outside of the box! She has participated in Destination Imagination for six years and won second place in Global Finals, summer of 2021. Nikhita has also been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and earned her Silver Award by raising awareness so teens can help fight climate change. She has many hobbies and enjoys camping, hiking, rowing, stargazing, reading, and playing video games! In the future, Nikhita aims to study astrophysics and computer science in order to make new discoveries about the cosmos.



Nikhita Penugonda


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