Experiencing Flooding and Science

“Get up Stephanie!  The flood waters are at the back stairs!”

Projected my mother at volume.  As always, I returned from the Science Experience exhausted.   After only a day back at home to catch up on sleep, the unexpected smacks me in the face.  With a raincoat.  I’ll get back to my flood experience soon: “The Science Experience” is an 8 day Science Camp I attend annually in Brisbane.  Myself and roughly about 80 others staff the camp for years 10 and 11 students across many Brisbane University Campuses.  I was going to have a busy time at camp, and when I got home there would be no rest for the wicked.

Getting involved in extracurricular activities such as “The Science Experience” is invaluable in so many ways for learning about the industry, making contacts and having a ridiculously good time all round.  For other science students who might be interested, I’ll give you a brief run-down.  The first five days of the camp is comprised of staff training, like crowd control mechanisms, first aid, CPR, dealing with unruly teens and many techniques that would be old hat to readers studying education.    There is also a heavy social emphasis in this time with activities such as ‘The Amazing Race’, the Relay Quiz, dinners out, Wet N’ Wild trip, Movie night, Ice Skating and much more.  We also bond through our close quarters sleeping on the floor at a local school hall and through constant games and shenanigans.  Things get serious in the last four days, and we split off to our separate universities.  Before the camp begins, you can elect to staff Griffith University Nathan Campus, University of Queensland or Queensland University of Technology.  This year I staffed at the hilly Griffith campus and looked after a group of about ten students.  On the final three days, these students are shuffled in between workshops, lectures and excursions and kept entertained by the same games which entertained us.  It’s a great program for the staff and students, and if you are interested in staffing the camp in 2014, feel free to hit me up with any questions you many have.  Keep in mind that the camp is not just for people who study science.  There are many others from all walks of life who join in the fun, e.g. Arts and Law studies.  The only prerequisite is being younger than 26.  More importantly, however, if you know any years 9 or 10 students in the local Toowoomba area who are nurturing a passion for science, they can attend the USQ Science Experience on the 25-27th of September.  It is an engaging program with a wide variety of hands on Science activities and is great for answering any questions they may have about tertiary study in the sciences.   If you have questions about the program or would like to put forward any names, the lovely Debbie and Erin White are the ladies you need to speak to.   They are contactable at sciences.engage@usq.edu.au.

The rain begins on my way back from camp, and the day after I get home, before I know it, the floods have arrived.

“Get up Stephanie!  The flood waters are at the back stairs!”

Projected my mother at volume.  I open my eyes to see her dripping wet, sporting a raincoat that could probably be used as a tent.  It was 5am, and mum only uses my full name in situations where extreme emphasis was necessary.  My sleepy brain interpreted the rest of the shout, in haste, as something like

“The flood waters have the drop bears!” 

So I got out of bed awaiting the promise of something awesome to justify the early hour.  What I found, however, was the back veranda with a view of a sea of water stretching away into the horizon.  It was like waterfront living, except compulsory.  To get an idea of the magnitude of the flooding, the water had to cross 300-400 acres of grazing land at a depth of 15 metres overnight to land at our back fence.  And the water was still rising.


With us cut off from the rest of the town and no power, phone service or internet, the water ended up rising about half a metre underneath the house and thirty centimetres into the shed.

Car Island

Lucky for us, no water came into the house so we fared quite well compared to many others across the state.  However, the neighbour’s German Shepard ran into a bit of trouble.  He was stuck in deep water past our back fence, entangled in a network of vines.  Mother and I went into Wildlife Warrior mode and managed to safely extract the animal without incident.

cut offCars on Ramps

When I finally regained internet access, I found out that USQ offers a fantastic range of flood and bushfire support.  Semester three exams can be deferred for those cut off by flood waters.  Those who are yet to accept University offers can rest assured that allowances can be made for those finding it difficult to submit their application due to the weather.  As always, the university offers free counselling services and study support if you need it.  Take advantage of these services if you need them, and I’ll leave you with a quote from our prime minister when speaking about the floods.  It’s optional to read this in a voice obscured by a scuba diving mask. 

“There are still more dark days ahead … but the spirit of Queensland is to face these circumstances with courage and determination.” – Prime Minister Julia Gillard

National Student Leadership Forum

Currently I sit at the window seat of an aircraft flying away from one of the most inspiring and challenging experiences of my life the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF).  The mountain ranges dappled with countless water bodies pass below us while (the famous) purple-haired ball of energy that is Ally sits opposite and chats to two of the many forum delegates on their way back to Brisbane.  I am accompanied by my laptop and a favourite hour long dubstep mix and am finding it difficult to describe the amazingness of the last four days.  From the 20th to the 23rd of September, Allysha Jensen-Swift and I (Stephanie Piper) were fortunate enough to be nominated, selected and fully sponsored to attend the NSLF in Canberra.  The time consisted of a fast-paced timetable jam packed with thirteen guest speakers, visits to parliament house, and many other engaging activities.  We both felt that the experience was thoroughly enriching and gave us a new perspective on life.

Stephanie Piper NSLF

The forum was based around the theme of ‘faith and values’ and explored the way that these two crucial aspects formed the basis of an individual’s leadership style.   Each individual guest speaker that spoke to us had some fantastic life experiences and many pearls of wisdom to share.  To name a few, we were addressed by P.M. Julia Gillard, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbot (who is a great impromptu speaker), the CEO of the ABC, Chief in charge of the NSW police Officer Andrew Scipione, U.S. Ambassador Jeffery Bleich,  Senator Gary Humpries and Senator Penny Wong.  We also heard the stories of Australian Local Hero Mrs Lynne Sawyers, who has fostered over 200 children over 24 years.  Her love and compassion for all people was fantastic.  Lynne’s allocated ‘Question time’ at the conclusion of her talk was overwhelmed with requests for hugs rather than insights.  Jane Tewson, the founder of Red Nose Day in the UK was also great to hear from.  She was accompanied by the previously homeless Duane.  Duane had a collection of horrible experiences, including his brother drowning, uncle getting hit by a car, another brother committing suicide on a train line, and his father having a fatal car accident.  After all this, his family home burnt down and he was left homeless with the remainder of his family.  Despite all this, he has pulled out of the despair and has been able to inspire and encourage others to make the best of life. Hearing from the life experiences of all these successful people was fantastic in such a short space of time.  It seems that there are many reoccurring themes from people from all walks of life.

Stephanie Piper NSLF

Nestled amoungst the many guest speaker time slots we had ‘small group’ time.  We were allocated into groups of six to spend the forum time with and managed to form very tight bonds with these people.  During our allocated group time over the four days, each of us had a chance to ‘share’.  This involved giving a full account of our life experiences, inspirations, failures and aspirations for the future with everyone else.  At first it seemed very confronting to share such a personal account with strangers.  However, because of the nature of the ‘sharing’ it was beneficial in many ways and we all found that we share many of the same struggles.  Understanding religion, the direction our future is heading, dealing with loss and family issues were just a few.  When it came to my time to ‘share’ the feedback and questions really were useful and are something I will be able to keep in my thoughts for the future.  It is rare to share such things with others and an invaluable experience to listen.

I encourage others to apply for the 2013 Forum and receive the same fantastic experience that I will now carry with me and shape my decision making for the future.  I will conclude with one of my favourite quotes from the forum – a famous definition of leadership.

Leadership: Dealers in hope.