With quantum making waves in the tech sector, students use their break to discover the emerging technology that they may one day be building and using themselves.
31 January 2022
High school students took time out of their holidays this January to learn about quantum computing with some of Australia’s top quantum experts.
At the Quantum Computing Summer School (January 17-23), over 30 high school students and recent graduates tuned in from around Australia for a week-long virtual program. The camp was run in partnership between Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA) and leading quantum education nonprofit Qubit by Qubit, with IBM Quantum generously funding equity scholarships.
It’s predicted that commercially viable quantum computers and technologies could spur entirely new industries and help address some of the most urgent challenges of our time — from climate change and cybersecurity, to developing new vaccines. Through early exposure to fun and engaging education, today’s high school students are preparing to lead the next computing revolution.
Qubit by Qubit provided instruction for the camp, introducing students to quantum computing fundamentals including foundational quantum physics concepts like superposition and wave-particle duality. Famous quantum algorithms and protocols like Quantum Key Distribution were also covered.
With Sydney hosting one of the world’s largest concentrations of quantum experts, students were also treated to talks from leading researchers and students at Sydney Quantum Academy’s partner universities (University of Sydney, UNSW Sydney, UTS and Macquarie University).
The students explored high-tech labs online, learnt about current and future applications of quantum technologies, and gained a glimpse of the Australian quantum ecosystem and quantum career opportunities.
Memorable moments involved a demonstration on how to build a single qubit circuit by SQA PhD student and outreach ambassador, Irene Fernandez De Fuentes; a talk by UTS quantum expert and author Assoc. Prof. Chris Ferrie; and a virtual tour of an ion trap lab with SQA postdoctoral fellow Dr Ting Rei Tan and SQA PhD student Arjun Rao.
Students heard how fast the Australian quantum ecosystem is growing from experts across the various sectors — including a quantum data scientist from Woodside (Annie Naveh), an industry leader from IBM Quantum (Anna Phan), the CEO of a quantum start-up (Matt Van Breugel, Redback Systems), and an expert on responsible use of quantum tech (Gabi Skoff).
SQA ran the Summer Camp in partnership with Qubit by Qubit — a non-profit organisation with extensive experience delivering similar education and training programs. Their 2020-2021 Introduction to Quantum Computing course had over 7,500 students from 125 countries participating, with 88% of students interested in future quantum programming.
“This program was special because it brought together so many people in the quantum computing world who, through their enthusiasm, managed to excite a group of high school students into learning something that has never been taught to high school students before,” said Angus Mingare, the Lead Qubit by Qubit Instructor.
One of the world’s largest tech companies also threw their support behind the new Australian program, with IBM Quantum sponsoring equity scholarships aimed at widening participation for young people traditionally underrepresented in STEM.
“IBM Quantum is working to build the world’s largest, most diverse community of quantum developers,” said Anna Phan, Asia Pacific Quantum Alliance Lead at IBM Quantum.
“We are proud to partner with the Sydney Quantum Academy and Qubit by Qubit to expand access to quantum education and prepare the next generation of quantum leaders through the Quantum Computing Summer School Camp.”
Due to equity scholarships offered by IBM Quantum the program was offered to a diverse range of young people, with more than 50% of students identifying as female or non-binary (which is significantly above the STEM average of 20.8%), around 25% identifying as LGBTQ, more than 50% as culturally and linguistically diverse and around 6% identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander.
"SQA is committed to making quantum education and training available and accessible to everyone. This will ensure the Australian quantum community is diverse and inclusive," said Eser Zerenturk, Education Manager, Sydney Quantum Academy.
Yaroslava, recent high school graduate from Brisbane
“Quantum Computing Summer Camp has greatly expanded my horizons in exploring STEM and opened my eyes to STEM’s wide-ranging future applications. Aside from content-based lectures, the program coordinators consistently integrated a diverse range of speakers from within both academia and industry to give us an overview of all the options available to those who study quantum. The wealth of information provided to us by additional resources, including lectures, course pages, articles, and coding notebooks helped to immerse us fully in the fascinating world of quantum computing.”
Faraz, Year 12, Sydney
"It feels incredible to know that I have already been given a platform to base my future studies and career in quantum computing so early on in my life. This program will undoubtedly aid my future prospects. It has also given me a headstart in the race of quantum computing that I fully intend to use to further myself."
Amelie, Year 12, NSW
“Prior to being a part of the course, I planned to study quantum engineering in university based on my general understanding of quantum from personal research. Now, having actually gained a better understanding of the fundamentals of quantum computing, I find myself even more curious and excited to learn more!”