Volume 29 Issue 8 - 2 June 2017

Year 9 STEM Symposium

On 5 May 2017, the Year 9 girls had the pleasure of participating in a STEM SYMPOSIUM. This day highlighted key points such as engineering not being only a profession for males, nor is it just for people that are technology wizards.

For those who don’t know what STEM is, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives.

Australia’s Chief Scientist says

“STEM is everywhere. Our nourishment, our safety, our homes and neighbourhoods, our relationships with family and friends, our health, our jobs, our leisure are all profoundly shaped by technological innovation and the discoveries of science.”

With employment in the STEM area increasing, of significance for St Patrick’s, are the inequities that currently exist in STEM such as the fact that:

  • Girls
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • Students from non-metropolitan areas

can be less likely to engage with STEM education and more likely to miss out on the opportunities STEM-related occupations can offer. Therefore, enrichment days, like our symposium are important for raising the profile of STEM.

We started the day off with an inspirational keynote speech from Destiny Paris, a woman who chased her dreams of becoming an engineer. Destiny spoke about the need for creative thinkers to develop new innovations and fill new and fast-changing jobs.

  • How important it is for students to add STEM skills to their tool belt to help serve areas from – medicine, the natural environment, sustainability in the built environment, creative design and much more.
  • The emerging technologies that will set the scene for the jobs of the future - examples of these include Electro materials used for the Bionic Bra for cancer treatment; 3D printing body parts; Sustainable Building; Virtual Reality applications.

After that, we heard from a panel of university students, including two Engineering students who are on staff here at the College Ms Payer and Ms Stockwell. We had a chance to ask them questions about STEM, university and all things science.

The Year 9 girls where then split across 6 workshops. We had a chance to participate in:

  • A solar car challenge – run by the University of NSW faculty of engineering. Mike Richards brought along a 20 metre track and students designed and made solar-powered model cars.
  • A MouseTrap car challenge run by Macquarie University Engineering team which allowed girls to explore concepts like energy conversion and energy efficiency while designing cars out of recycled materials that were powered by the energy stored in a mouse trap.
  • Innovation and Sustainability in the Material World run by the University of Wollongong’s Engineering outreach group that had students thinking about engineering materials that could be used for making artificial muscles, transistors and computer chips.
  • The Helicar Velocity Challenge, run by Mark Woolley from Wollongong’s Catholic Education Office using a device called a Power Anchor to explore Newton’s first law of Motion. Students had to think about concepts such as aerodynamics and energy efficiency to make the fastest car possible.
  • The Solar cooker challenge had students thinking about the best shapes and surfaces to capture the suns energy to cook a meal without gas or electricity.
  • And finally, the Engineering a Better World by the University of Technology. This workshop had students thinking about how different climates around the world shape the way people live. The girls worked together to create an innovative floating house using recycled materials.

These workshops changed many girls’ perspectives of science, including me. The workshops had their own mini adventures in them, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to participate.

We thank the Universities and Destiny for coming out to St Patrick’s College and guiding us well on our way with our Next Gen Science Assessment that involves building a model like some of the ones we saw during the Symposium.

On behalf of the Year 9 girls, a big thank you to the teachers who made this day possible, especially Mrs Bourne as the day would not have ran so smoothly without her organisation and preparation.

Stephanie N - Year 9 Student