As we enter new and uncertain times, the crucial role that science plays in solving some of today’s greatest challenges is being underscored on a global scale. Now, more than ever, we must guide school students in developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize is a short film competition that encourages school students to communicate a scientific concept in a way that is accessible and entertaining to the public while increasing their science knowledge or, as prize patrons Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Adam Spencer like to say, "Learn something without even noticing”. Delivered as part of the prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, it supports budding young scientists across the nation, who will be our future leaders in research, discovery and communication.

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize patrons Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Adam Spencer

The Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize is a short film competition that encourages school students to communicate a scientific concept in a way that is accessible and entertaining to the public.

Image: University of Sydney
© University of Sydney

Earlier this month, in collaboration with the University of Sydney, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes team hosted a free webinar for teachers and parents assisting students with an entry into this year’s competition. It was a great opportunity for the community to connect and receive some practical advice on the submission process as we remove ourselves from familiar routines and navigate new ways of working, teaching and living.

What the judges are looking for - and how to get there

Students are asked to focus on a scientific concept, discovery or invention, or their own scientific hypothesis; judges then make their selection based on three key criteria: accuracy of the science content, science communication skills and originality in capturing the prescribed theme. So, what are some ways you can assist a student with preparing a well-organised and imaginative response that nails the assessment criteria?

Tsambika Galanos and Ellie Cole, finalists in the 2018 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize

2018 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Primary finalists, Tsambika and Ellie, impressed judges with their short film 'Dust Detectives'.

Image: Supplied
© Australian Museum

Accuracy of the science content

You can’t believe everything you hear and read! Encourage students to refer to multiple sources while they’re doing their research, then allocate some dedicated time for fact checking before they start recording. Not sure where to start them? AM Inside Out features a range of science resources and has been designed specifically for kids learning remotely. Helping them reach out to an expert, like a university professor or even a PhD student, is also a great way for them to build knowledge around their chosen topic and can really add value to the experience.

Science communication skills

Studying online footage of science communicators and thinking about what makes them so interesting and easy to understand, is one way that kids can refine their skills in this area. Get them to think critically about their observations through a few questions: is it the way they speak, the way they present their knowledge … or something else?

In addition to Adam and Dr Karl, local science communicators kids might benefit from watching include Lisa Harvey-Smith, Alan Duffy and Darren Saunders. Each is a fantastic role model who continues to make science accessible to Australians through a variety of mediums. In fact, in recent years all three have been awarded a Eureka Prize for their work in this space, so there's no better starting point.

By no means should entrants limit themselves to the 'piece to camera method' - animation, original diagrams, narration and song are among the many ways entrants have presented their work in the past, and the judges have loved each one of them!

Eureka Prizes 2019 Finalists

Associate Professor Darren Saunders, resident scientist on ABC TV's The Drum, is a fantastic role model for kids wanting to see an Australian science communicator in action.

Image: Supplied

Originality in capturing the theme

This year’s theme, ‘Water’, has been selected for its wide scope of interpretation, so there are plenty of opportunities for students to explore a topic that satisfies their curiosity. Help them get creative in coming up with their focus through a quick activity. It might be as simple as encouraging them to observe their surroundings at home, space by space, and record everything they associate with water. A boiling kettle, falling rain, the family goldfish ... 15 minutes of documenting is bound to generate a substantial short list.

2018 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prizes finalists, Owen and Abby

2018 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Secondary finalists, Owen and Abbey, wrote and presented a song for their entry.

Image: Supplied
© Australian Museum

Importantly, this isn’t a competition that rewards the highest production budget and best set design: the objective is to get kids engaged with, and excited by, STEM. One thing that judges do appreciate, however, is the ability to hear and see content clearly, so we recommend that you assist young filmmakers with quality control in these areas. Encourage them to keep that wind away from the microphone, and if you’re squinting at those diagrams that have taken so long to prepare, the judges probably will be too.

Visit our website to view full entry guidelines, including the conditions of entry.

Submitting an entry

All entries must be submitted via our secure and easy-to-use online entry system, which involves three steps.

  1. Register an account

    Once an account has been registered, multiple entries can be submitted via that account. While individuals can only enter once in any year, this functionality streamlines administration for teachers and anyone else overseeing multiple entries.

  2. Complete an entry form

    All entrants are required to include a brief synopsis of the film, contact information for each entrant and their guardian, details for the teacher or parent overseeing the entry and an overview of any assistance they received.

  3. Upload the film and submit

    It’s crucial that this be done by the by the entry deadline as further extensions cannot be offered. Given the large volume of people competing for bandwidth now, we highly recommend entrants allow plenty of time to upload their film. The registered user will receive an automated confirmation email on submission - if it doesn’t appear within 30 minutes, check your junk folder.

If you've got a question, don't hesitate to get in touch via email and we can help you out.

Register an online account now.

Looking for more practical advice?

These are just some of the topics covered in our 60-minute webinar, which also includes feedback on recent questions we’ve been asked, our top five tips for students preparing an entry and recommendations for anyone looking for free editing software.

Entries to the 2020 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize close at 7pm AEST Friday 15 May (extended from initial deadline of 1 May).