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Australia Stellar school workshops aim to launch more girls into the STEM career space

07:20  20 april  2021
07:20  20 april  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a little boy that is standing in the grass: Hymba Yumba Independent School year 12 Students Ziphoria Minniecon and Shaylana Campbell with the rocket motor at the Stellar workshop.  (ABC Radio Brisbane: Antonia O'Flaherty) © Provided by ABC NEWS Hymba Yumba Independent School year 12 Students Ziphoria Minniecon and Shaylana Campbell with the rocket motor at the Stellar workshop.  (ABC Radio Brisbane: Antonia O'Flaherty)

A STEM workshop — involving hands-on experience with rockets — has been launched at an independent school south-west of Brisbane, with the aim of igniting female students' interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The first of 14 Stellar workshops, run by Richlands-based Australian company PFi Aerospace, was held at Hymba Yumba Independent School, an Indigenous school in Springfield.

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The Stellar STEM program will be run in other schools in Ipswich, Logan and Brisbane this year, before a national rollout next year under a federal government grant.

In a spectacular launch of the program, students were shown how a fully functioning Hybrid rocket motor worked before it was ignited on the school's oval.

Hands-on experience

PFi Aerospace general manager Megan Badger said the aim of the workshops was to "be a launchpad" for more female students to become involved in STEM.

Ms Badger designed the Stellar program because growing up, she found it difficult to break into STEM industries.

"I think it's important that we promote women in STEM to girls who want to get into STEM, so they know that just because all they keep seeing is boys doesn't mean they can't go out and be in the industry," she said.

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The program is presented by a panel of women who work in STEM and is delivered in three parts: a question and answer panel, four specialist hands-on workshops for smaller groups of students, and the firing of the hybrid rocket motor.

Hymba Yumba Independent School principal Peter Foster said the prep to year 12 school had about 140 female jarjums (students) and many would benefit from the program.

He said the students would be engaged in various workshops, in a "real-world environment and a hands-on environment which they actually learn the best from".

Inspiring future STEM careers

Mr Foster said the program would be integral to the school's curriculum, and would be part of the school's science and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) classes "for the years to come".

"All of our students, when they finish are either earning or learning, some of our students go to university, some are in trades, but within the science field we'd like to see our jarjums enjoying science and have a desire to be involved in [careers] that would be in science," he said.

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Ms Badger said the program initially would focus on schools in low-socio-economic areas and girls to encourage greater representation of women in STEM industries.

She said the rocket was designed for school use and was made from items students used in their classrooms already.

"If even one student goes after something that they're passionate about instead of settling for a job that they've been told to do, rather than something they really want to do, that will have made all the difference," she said.

'It empowers us to achieve'

Hymba Yumba STEAM coordinator Elizabeth Pynor said the experience had been great for jarjums.

"It's so good to see a smile on their face and none of them are walking away and going, 'This as silly'," Ms Pynor said.

"They're all getting involved and saying, 'Yes, I'm going to be able to say I built part of a rocket today'."

Year 12 jarjums Shaylana Campbell and Ziphoria Minniecon both found the experience "pretty cool", and were especially impressed that women ran the workshop.

"I found it pretty cool because we got to see women presenting … I found it interesting because we got to see women in science," Ziphoria said.

"It empowers us to achieve what people might not think we're able to achieve as women," Shaylana said.

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This is interesting!