SWAPA Scholarship Scheme
Students with a Passion for Astronomy
The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) provides scholarships to 10-15 secondary school students who are NZ citizens or permanent residents and have a passion for astronomy, allowing them to attend the annual RASNZ conference. The conference will be held in Auckland from June 2nd to 4th, 2023, and the scholarship includes free conference registration, travel (if required), backpacker accommodation, and a banquet ticket, with chaperones provided for successful applicants. Students in years 13, 12, or 11 can apply, and non-Auckland residents may receive travel and accommodation if required.
To apply for the scholarship, students should request the information from their Principal or Head of Science, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the forms. Students need to fill out a registration form, including personal and contact details, science teacher’s information, and a 300-word statement explaining their interest in astronomy and why they want to attend the conference. The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 7th, 2023, at 8 pm, and successful applicants will be selected based on their enthusiasm for astronomy, clarity, and quality of their statement by a panel of RASNZ members.
Professor John Hearnshaw introduced SWAPA in 2014 as a program to recognise and reward ten high-achieving secondary school students with a passion for astronomy by sending them to the annual RASNZ conference
Each year, the Society invites students from all New Zealand secondary schools to compete in a short essay competition, explaining why they would like to attend the conference. For the first three years of SWAPA, selected students received a waived registration fee and a free banquet dinner ticket, thanks to a donation from Graham Blow. In 2018, Michael Snowden's generous contribution allowed the SWAPA scheme to cover students' travel, accommodation, registration, and banquet expenses. The University of Canterbury Foundation now administers Snowden's donation, which is expected to provide continued support for SWAPA students in perpetuity.
Over five RASNZ conferences (2015-2019), 50 exceptional young students received SWAPA scholarships and participated in the events held in Tekapo, Napier, Dunedin, Christchurch, and New Plymouth. Many of them have gone on to excel in astronomy and astrophysics at university. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 conference was canceled, so in 2021, a double cohort of SWAPA students was selected to attend the Wellington conference. The group comprised nine students selected in 2020 and ten selected in 2021, supported by Michael Snowden's donation. Additionally, the Wellington Astronomical Society sponsored five more SWAPA students from the local area, bringing the total number of attendees to 24.
Moreover, since 2019, Astronz has funded the conference participation of undergraduate university students who are no longer eligible for SWAPA and typically do not qualify for university funding, which is usually reserved for postgraduate students. In 2021, five university students from all New Zealand universities with impressive credentials were awarded the Astronz Scholarship to attend the RASNZ conference.