Five Minutes With … Nerida Thurbon

Every month, we like to get to know a member of our amazing Victorian Guiding community a little better. This month we caught up with Unit Leader, Acting District Manager and Microbiologist Nerida Thurbon.

A Leader at Whitehorse Nighthawk Ranger Guides and Acting District Manager at Whitehorse Girl Guides, Nerida has introduced a great deal of Guides to STEM in her time as a volunteer, in many different (and incredibly fun!) forms.

How did your Guiding journey start, and why did you become a volunteer with GGV?

I did not go to Guides when I was growing up. I became involved when my eldest daughter became a Guide. About a year or so after she started, the Unit helper at her Unit left. The Leaders asked if I would be interested in helping out, and from there, I progressed to Unit Leader.

I have been involved in various roles in the Whitehorse District and Eastern Region over the years. My role as Acting District Manager came about as I was a contact person for the District anyway. When our last District Manager moved on to another role in Guiding, some of us stepped up to keep the district going. I am grateful for Sarah and Lisa in their roles as Assistant District Managers!

You’ve been instrumental in developing our new robots and coding program, RoboGuides. What inspired the creation of this program?

In early 2020 I attended the Guides 14+ STEM camp at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds, where Karen Chatto coordinated a wonderful array of activities facilitated by staff in Deakin’s Science & Engineering Departments. Vex IQ robots were used for some of the activities, and the Guides were given a number of challenges to complete with their robots. From there, the idea was born. How good would it be if Guides could build and learn to code robots?

Covid delayed our plans, but we got there in the end. I am extremely grateful to Cat and Bek, the other Guiding adults who co-facilitated the program with me. We were also grateful for the support from IC Robotics, a community-based robotics team, for their support.

In what ways do you think that learning about robots and coding empowers young girls?

Being able to build something, for a particular purpose, requires special skills. Learning how to program something to do that job autonomously brings enormous satisfaction. More and more jobs now and in the future involve some sort of robotics. Learning how the processes work and being confident around the technology will be a huge advantage.

What advice would you give to young girls who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields, based on your own experiences?

My advice to everyone when it comes to STEM is ‘give it a go’. STEM is everywhere. STEM is fun! Over the years I have been involved in a number of programs within Guiding, to present STEM in different forms.

Even as a Leader with 5-7 year old Guides, we were learning about rockets and how to fly to the moon. I have coordinated ‘Guide For A Day’ program with STEM themes. We even ran a CSI program at camp one year to work out who kidnapped the teddy bear. There are so many options with STEM.

What does life for Nerida look like beyond Guiding?

In my professional life I am a Microbiologist. I used to work in diagnostic microbiology, then in research. I currently work for a company that makes microbiological media for testing laboratories where I oversee the quality control of the products.

My hobbies include knitting and crochet, and I love going to book club. I also enjoy going for picnics and travelling. My husband and I also enjoy a bit of geocaching or Munzee (a scavenger hunt game played using QR codes) from time to time.

What’s the most mind-blowing scientific fact or discovery that you’ve come across?

This is a difficult question to answer. There are so many things that have made me say ‘wow!’ Here are a couple of fun ones:

  • Bananas are radioactive
  • Animals use the Earth’s magnetic field for orientation
  • Uranus and Neptune may have switched places in the solar system
  • You cannot burp in space.

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