Maths Prize comes full circle for CVEN student

Angus McGregor with A/Prof Mario Attard in 20112011 was just the second year of the UNSW Civil & Environmental Engineering (CVEN) Primary School Prize in Mathematics, and the first year St Declan’s School in Penshurst had taken part. The school shared the prize amongst three students: Angus McGregor, Lucas Pok and Kimberley Tong Kuen.

The Prize, which entails a certificate and a gift voucher, is an initiative of the School’s Industry Advisory Committee, developed and managed by the School’s External Relations Committee to help address the problem of falling student numbers and interest in maths and science in high schools.  As keen proponent of the Prize, Ian McIntyre, Chair of the IAC, explained, “We wanted to find a way of communicating the practical value of maths to students prior to their high school years. We wanted them to know it is one of the key requirements for a rewarding and socially useful engineering career.”

Members of the IAC, School staff or alumni present the Prize to the student at the end of year presentation. It gives students and parents a chance to meet a real-life engineer and talk to them about the opportunities, uses and rewards of maths, and ultimately, engineering.

In 2011 the presenter at St Declan’s was CVEN’s Associate Professor Mario Attard, a gifted teacher and an expert in structural analysis.  All went well, Mario spoke encouragingly to everyone in the room, prizes were presented, and photos taken.

Fast forward a mere 7 years, and Angus McGregor is working hard on his University studies in engineering at, guess where. And not just because all the kids know that UNSW is the place to go for Engineering. “A tangible connection to a uni was so important in my decision to study at UNSW,” he says, “and the award actually played a big part in that.” Nor had he forgotten Mario Attard, although he only had met him once on that one sunny afternoon in the far past.  Angus figured that it would just be a matter of time before he came across him.

In second year Angus attends Mario’s lectures in Mechanics of Solids. By third year, Angus knows he is drawn to the whole area of structural analysis, and sustainable engineering. He is thinking ahead, pondering his fourth-year honours research.  He goes looking for that certificate, and the photo.  He finds them on an old laptop.  Yes, there’s Professor Attard. And there’s another thing. Angus had known it was a UNSW Engineering maths prize but up until then, he hadn’t remembered that it was specifically a Civil/Environmental Engineering award. So the certificate was from the very School that he is now a part of, and the presenter – a possible thesis supervisor. It’s a sign! It was then, and it is now.

In 2019 over eighty NSW schools participated in the School’s Maths Prize, and prizes were given to over 250 students.   If your School wishes to take part, please contact us at

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