Within the first few minutes, the children’s eyes grow wide. The classroom hubbub quickly dies down.
As the presenter makes her first bold statement, kids lean forward in their chairs, transfixed by a new way of looking at science. Many have never seen it presented in such an exciting way.
Almost every day of the school year, this plays out as QUT’s Extreme Science Van takes its message of what can be achieved by studying science to Queensland schools.
The free workshops are led by QUT student ambassadors who also act as role models for young students.
Since it was launched in 2001, our Extreme Science Van program has become a ‘sellout’ success of QUT’s future-shaping schools outreach program.
The program is so valued by teachers that each year the Van is fully booked out by February for the rest of the year.
It kick starts a real interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among students from prep to Year 12, and gives teachers extra tools they can use to inspire their students to embrace STEM subjects, which are quickly becoming essential life skills.
Importantly, the Extreme Science Van program focuses on schools in economically challenged areas and on disadvantaged students.
Several of the QUT ambassadors who lead the workshops are former students of schools visited by the Van.
They’re able to relate easily to the young kids, pointing to themselves as living, breathing examples of people who have been unable to see themselves attending university, but then finding a way to pursue their dreams and make good on their potential.
Last year alone, 11 500 primary and secondary students attended 430 Extreme Science Van workshops.
Teachers respond avidly.
A teacher at Tullawong State High School near Caboolture told our presenters:
‘You have just presented to the really hard, high-needs class, and I have never seen them sit quietly, let alone so captivated. You had them in the palm of your hand for the full 60 minutes.’
Students too are genuinely excited.
‘What I learnt about what uni can do for you has made me now want to go to uni and expand my choices’, wrote one 13 year old after a session.
While the ongoing support of individual donors has made this remarkable program possible, it still needs a sizeable injection of funding to enable vital equipment upgrades and to keep the Van on the road in the long term.
Demand for the program outstrips supply but with more support we can take the Extreme Science Van to regions where schools aren’t currently able to access university programs that support students with determination, talent and curiosity to go further.
The real impact is felt by the students who experienced the program in years gone by and, against the odds, are now working and studying in STEM-related careers.
One student from a disrupted family background, whose father was unemployed long-term, participated in an Extreme Science Van workshop just a few years ago.
It inspired him to work hard at school and gain entry to mathematics at QUT, where he now works as an ambassador while concurrently being the main income earner and primary carer for his young siblings.
There are many stories as inspiring. The continued support of our wonderful donors will bring more of them to light.
Students from Banksia Beach State School taking part in the Extreme Science van program.
General enquiries and student services
- Phone: 3138 8822
- Int. phone: +61 7 3138 8822
Level 3, O Podium
2 George St
- Postal address:
QUT Science and Engineering Faculty
GPO Box 2434
Brisbane QLD 4001