News and events

07 February 2019

Almost every day of the school year the Extreme Science and Engineering Van visits Queensland schools to inspire the next generation of scientists about what can be achieved by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Demand from schools have increased by more than 40 per cent over the past three years alone.

In 2018 more than 17,000 primary and high school students in economically disadvantaged areas north of Brisbane participated in 460 free in-school workshops delivered through the Extreme Van program.

The program is a favourite among QUT alumni, staff and donors whose gifts enable the purchase of vital new equipment and workshop materials, like microscopes and chemistry kits.

Donations also help the Extreme Van reach more students, especially those in regional areas with limited access to university outreach programs.

2018 saw the introduction of a swag of new workshops covering everything from using genetics and probability to investigate an alien’s chances of survival, to helping students understand virtual reality games and code their own.

The free workshops generate a strong interest in STEM among students from Prep to Year 12 and provide teachers additional tools to inspire their students.

QUT’s STEM student ambassadors lead the workshops. They are also role models for young people who may be the first in their family to consider university.

Several student ambassadors are former students of schools visited by the Van only a few years ago.

Kingaroy High School Science Head of Department, Steven Langton, credits the Extreme Van program with helping to increase enrolments in STEM subjects.

“Over the last eight years several hundred students have participated in programs run by the Extreme Science Van team,” Mr Langton said.

“These programs are incredibly important for regional schools such as ours. They allow students to gain exposure to STEM careers that in many cases they did not even know existed.

“Students have also benefited from direct contact with university students and this has allowed them to learn about university life and envisage possible future pathways for themselves. The value of this in a regional context cannot be overestimated.”

Launched in 2001, the Extreme Van program has been a runaway success of QUT’s future-shaping school outreach program.

However, its increasing popularity with schools, teachers and students creates challenges in keeping up with demand.

Donations from alumni, staff, organisations and the community are critical to the program’s survival and expansion beyond its current geographical focus.

Support from donors and sponsors ensures the programs long term security and broadens its reach to inspire students to consider university and STEM careers, and to work closely with schools with significant Indigenous populations.

The Van is part of the QUT Science and Engineering Faculty’s Widening Participation Program which in 2018 engaged more than 22,500 students with in-school workshops, excellence days, Explore Uni events and STEM events.

The program is supported by the Australian Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty, Boeing and generous donations from alumni, staff and community support, including the Gambling Community Benefit Fund.

Read more about this special program and its impact on young Queenslanders in our Opening young minds to new possibilities (PDF File, 7.46MB) publication.

Students writing on paper while looking through microscope


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