Idea starters for your Bragg Prize essay

Bragg Prize Essay
Write about the STEM in everyday life and you could win some epic prizes. Image: Shutterstock

Keen to enter this year’s Bragg Prize but can’t figure out what to write about? Here are some pointers to get you off to a flying start.

The UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing is a competition for Year 7-10 students in Australia. You’ll need to write an 800 word essay on this year’s topic, which is the STEM in everyday life. There are amazing prizes up for grabs, and the winning essay will be included in the 2022 edition of NewSouth Publishing’s highly acclaimed anthology The Best Australian Science Writing. So exciting!

Where to begin…

First up, take some time to really think about the topic. Science, technology, engineering and maths are part of everything around us, from our response to the pandemic, to the tech we use for play. Mobile phones, traffic lights and TikTok, your food, health, the climate, the built environment and the natural world around you – STEM has had a part to play in understanding, refining and creating so much of the world we take for granted everyday.

In your essay, you’ll need to explain the STEM behind something that’s part of your everyday life and important to you, your family, your culture, or your region. This includes describing the science behind something that is directly relevant to your everyday life including why it’s important for society and to you personally.

Step #1 – think about your passions

We love STEM because it’s so easy to combine it with your interests. We call this your STEM + X. Here are some examples that could make great essay topics:

  • Science + animals – what’s your local area doing in terms of animal conservation, or how has your pet’s species evolved over time?
  • Science + music – how does frequency work on your favourite musical instrument?
  • Tech + communications – what has been the impact of social media on your life, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Tech + health – how has a piece of technology helped you (or someone you know) in terms of health?
  • Engineering + agriculture – how does engineering assist in getting food from the farm to your plate?
  • Engineering + environment – what solutions has your council come up with to combat pollution reduction, land erosion or waste management in your region?
  • Maths + fashion – what maths was involved in the making of your favourite piece of clothing?
  • Maths + sport – how does keeping track of data improve your (or a local team’s) performance on the field?

Step #2 – find out what’s going on in your area

What’s unique about where you live?

If you live near the beach, has your house or a community facility been impacted by coastal erosion? What protection plans are in place?

Has your area ever experienced a natural disaster, like floods or cyclones? You could explain the science behind these phenomenas and any tech or engineering used in the recovery.

Is your region known for something? E.g. If you’re from the Hunter, you could explain the process of wine making and how climate change affects it, and the flow-on effect this has on your community (think tourism, exports etc).

Step #3 – make it personal

Remember to link your Bragg Prize essay topic back to your everyday life. Why is it important to you? How has it impacted your life or your community? Make the connection super clear and try to weave it through your piece. Emotion can be powerful in essay writing – you just have to strike the right balance.

Need more writing tips? The Bragg Prize judges have plenty more that you should take on board before you start your essay.

Feeling inspired after reading our idea starters for your Bragg Prize essay? Ready to get started? Check out the entry page for all the details, including deets on prizes and a handy FAQ section.

Louise Meers

Author: Louise Meers

Louise is the production editor for Careers with STEM. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals.

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