across the Canberra region. Students from any government school can now apply for a partnership through Science Mentors ACT. I link the kids with one of the 60 or so scientists and engineers I have on standby. Most of the investigations are carried out either at the school, in the field, or at an astronomical teaching facility called MSATT I built at Mount Stromlo Observatory. Occasionally, the project calls for specialised facilities of the mentor’s home institution. Facilitating such activities (the students are all minors) is one of my core duties and presents no problems for the mentors. Parental support has been astonishing, and they are just as excited about the prospects for their child, so the partnership becomes four way: student, mentor, teacher, and parent. The result of all this work – most of which the student has to carry out – is a young person not only skilled and experienced in science and science writing. More than that, they are inspired. The variety of interests of the students is illustrated in Figure 1, which shows the range of sciences covered so far. Each year, a few more branches are added, while staples like the earth sciences remain constant. However, as the programme grows, students such as Emily Bryce (Figure 2) and Muhammad Abdullah (Figure 3) need more mentors. If this kind of experience appeals to you, or you want more information, please get in touch. Beyond the personal experience, there’s a larger issue at stake. It’s become downright fashionable to talk about the importance of STEM in Australia, and a great deal of attention is focused on the tertiary sector. What needs to be understood, however, is no matter how good STEM education is in our universities (and it is very good indeed), unless we challenge and inspire young people well before they have to decide on a degree, we won’t have the supply of scientists – or at least the scientifically literate – needed by the very generation whose future is determined almost entirely by scientific development. But rather than complain, I think it’s far more satisfying to be a part of the solution. All it takes is a little time, a little patient explanation, and your brilliant example as a scientist. Figure 2.  Mentor partnerships involve experienced professionals engaging with intelligent, curious, and hard-working students. Here, Dr Sofia Samper-Carro is tutoring student Emily Bryce in the field of zoo-archaeology at the Australian National University. Figure 3.  Adjunct Professor John Rayner tutoring Muhammad Abdullah in quantum physics. Muhammad’s practical work was conducted at the Science Education Centre, Melrose High School. Figure 1.  Graphic adapted from the 2018 Science Mentors Awards presentation showing the range of scientific disciplines students have engaged with since 2012. Geology, seismology, and spatial sciences have been highlighted for this article. 21 PREVIEW Education matters FEBRUARY 2019