11th December 2019

A long-term QUT program that has helped thousands of Queensland school children embrace the possibility of STEM careers has won a global education ‘Oscar’ in London this morning (Brisbane time).

QUT’s STEM School Engagement program was named international winner of the K-12 category (kindergarten to Year 12) at the prestigious Reimagine Education Awards, which are billed as the ‘Oscars’ of Education.

The international competition is open to projects that are transforming education and this year attracted 1507 educational innovators from 39 countries across 16 award categories.

QUT’s STEM School Engagement program provides free science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences for K-12 students, regardless of background, gender, academic level or location.

These range from primary school students visiting QUT’s The Cube (a two-storey interactive attraction that is the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest digital data wall) to curriculum-aligned events for students in grades 7 to 12.

All events are funded by QUT and free for school students.

And while technology is a major drawcard, the program’s biggest strength is its humans.

Deryn Vahl Meyer.

“We have a dedicated team across the university who adore STEM and love nothing better than seeing a young person’s eyes light up with discovery at one of our events,” said Deryn Vahl Meyer, Associate Dean with QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty.

“This includes our wonderful STEM Ambassadors – mostly students currently studying STEM courses but also some dedicated alumni – who are integral to the program.

“They talk to the school students, share their experiences, lead workshops and tours, and help instil the passion in them to follow their pathway into STEM careers.”

Over the past six years the program has hosted an amazing 327,928 STEM education experiences for students, including:

  • 3754 workshops,
  • 521 events,
  • 62,277 hours of faceto-face contact with 887 QUT Student Ambassadors, and
  • 130,000 visits to The Cube.

While QUT has always run events to encourage the next generation of students, its STEM program really ramped up in 2013 following the opening of the $230 million QUT Science and Engineering Centre, which includes The Cube.

This landmark Australian educational development provides world-class STEM facilities to inspire not only students and researchers, but the general public.

The Cube at QUT's $230M Science and Engineering Centre.

“The opening of the Science and Engineering Centre and The Cube really was the catalyst for the STEM School Engagement program,” Ms Vahl Meyer said.

“It provided us with the tools we needed to showcase STEM in an exciting and real-world way to school students and build their passion for science, technology, engineering and maths.

“QUT has shown a long-term commitment to STEM education and our STEM School Engagement program is all about stimulating ideas, creating possibilities and really boosting people's passion for STEM.

“We recognise that there is no silver bullet to address Australia’s declining rates of participation in STEM subjects and to meet the demands of a future STEM-based workforce.

“But we can invest in long term strategies involving many different activities that connect school students with QUT’s world-class STEM facilities, student ambassador role models, real-world industry scenarios and STEM research.”

Saskia Mathers talking STEM with local high school students.

QUT student Saskia Mathers is one of the student ambassadors involved in the program and has seen its benefits from both sides.

She attended the annual QUT STEM Camp while still at high school and is now studying engineering and majoring in computer and software systems.

“I began getting interested in IT and software when I was about 13 and quickly developed a love and passion for it, but I couldn’t find many opportunities to explore that further within my high school,” she said.

“So in Year 11 I applied for the QUT STEM Camp and it was an amazing experience where I got to spend the whole week at QUT learning about what university was like and getting in-depth experience on a real-world research project.

“I was actually considering dropping my IT subjects in Year 12 but STEM Camp showed me the importance of my IT studies and how they would influence my future career.”

The QUT STEM School Engagement program team members are:

  • Deryn Vahl Meyer, team leader and Associate Dean International, Engagement & Diversity, Science and Engineering Faculty (SEF)
  • Xavier Amouroux, Executive Director, Marketing & Communication
  • Jill Standfield, Executive Director, QUT Precincts
  • Simone Long, Engagement Coordinator, SEF High School Engagement
  • Rachel Jones, School Engagement Officer, STEM for Schools
  • Emma Lieschke, School Engagement Officer, STEM for Schools
  • Sara Sheather, Widening Participation Senior Outreach Officer, SEF
  • Katherine Nickels, Widening Participation Senior Outreach Officer, SEF
  • Jennifer Packer, School Experience Officer (Workshops), Marketing & Communication
  • Kerry Turnbull, Public Programs Officer, QUT Precincts

The program includes free STEM for Schools workshops at QUT for high school students. Applications for the workshops in Term 1 and Term 2 next year close tomorrow (Thursday, December 12).  Teachers can apply online.

QUT will also host a STEM-focused Family Fun Day at The Cube on January 11 as part of its Summer Holiday Program.

Assoc Prof Greer, Prof Cathcart and Prof Neale.

A second QUT initiative, Teaching Advantage Global, was also recognised in the regional section of the Reimagine Education Awards, winning a silver award in the Oceania category for its efforts in helping prepare great uni teachers of the future.

A professional development program for PhD candidates keen to pursue an academic career, it is designed and led by Associate Professor Dominique Greer and Professor Larry Neale from the QUT Business School, and Professor Abby Cathcart, Director of QUT’s Academy of Learning and Teaching.

Professor Cathcart attended the Reimagine Education Conference in London to pitch the Teaching Advantage Global award application.

She said it was designed to model innovative, scholarly and evidence-based professional learning to build teaching self-efficacy, community and employability.

“QUT is deeply committed to supporting doctoral candidates in developing and building evidence of their transferable skills as a way of preparing them for a range of careers,” she said. “We’re thrilled to receive this global recognition for TA.”

QUT Media contacts:
- Mechelle McMahon, media@qut.edu.au
- Rose Trapnell, media@qut.edu.au or 0407 585 901

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