Warwick Solar Farm scholarship recipients shine brightly

6 December 2023

Five UQ students are now beneficiaries of the Warwick Solar Farm Bright Futures scholarship, which is open to high school graduates and residents from the Southern Downs Regional Council area.

The scholarship helps students with living costs during the first year of their degree, supporting the often-challenging transition from regional to city life. Students who have been accepted to study a range of programs within the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (EAIT) can apply.

See scholarship eligibility criteria

Connecting with the local community

Don Drane, Facility Manager at the Warwick Solar Farm, is passionate about the scholarship and its potential to help local families.

“It provides a very personal link between the University and the community,” he says.

“Helping to judge the annual applications and meeting the recipients is a real highlight for me. 

“I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the students come through their full study program and knowing that we have been able to assist them in getting to that point.”

Supporting the transition

The scholarship launched in 2021. This year sees one of its first two recipients graduate, with Benjamin Guy completing a Bachelor of Computer Science in Machine Learning. Ben says the scholarship helped immensely in his first year.

“Up until starting university, I had spent my whole life living in the town of Warwick and occasionally visiting family in the small surrounding locales of Yangan and Freestone.

“As a new student, I was worried about financials. Having the Bright Futures scholarship meant I was able to focus entirely on my studies and push myself to reach academic excellence.”

The 2023 Bright Futures recipient, Ewan McFarland, shares a similar story.

“I grew up in Narrabai, which is in rural New South Wales, and attended boarding school at Scots PGC in Warwick for six years,” he says.

“The scholarship benefitted me greatly, as it allowed me to settle into life at uni. It’s not easy moving from the country to the city when the entire studying experience is new to you. But with this support, I wasn’t on the back foot, financially.”

The family connection

Ewan is undertaking a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Mechanical, which he says links back to his keen interest in mathematics and physics, as well as the influence of his father, who is a mechanical fitter in the natural resources and energy sector in the Southern Downs.

Fathers are a recurring theme among the scholarship recipients, with Ben noting that his dad actually worked on the Warwick Solar Farm as a truck driver and plant operator through a local contractor.

“The solar farm provides a great opportunity for local people to work on renewable energy systems, such as the solar panels,” Ben says. 

“Then they learn about these technologies and talk about them with their friends and family in Warwick, which helps to educate people on sustainable energy.”

Don agrees that community awareness is another benefit of the Bright Futures scholarship.

“I like to invite our annual recipients, and their folks, out to the farm for a morning tea when the scholarships are announced. 

“It’s a lovely opportunity to show them around, talk with them about what we do and answer their questions about how it all works.”

Applications open in January 2024

Applications for next year’s Bright Futures scholarship will open on 15 January 2024.

Jodie Chellew, Scholarships and Grants Coordinator for the EAIT Faculty, oversees the process.

“Applications will remain open until early March 2024,” she advises. 

“Once closed, they are reviewed by a selection panel that typically includes the EAIT Faculty Associate Dean, a member of the University’s academic staff in a relevant program, and the solar farm Facility Manager.

“The panel consider a range of criteria, such as applicants’ leadership skills, extra-curricular activities, academic interests and achievements, and community service and engagement.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students in the Southern Downs region and I encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible to take a look at our website and get in touch using those contact details if they have any questions.”

Always check the Bright Futures web page for application dates, eligibility criteria and application instructions.

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