Science and Engineering a university for the real world

Byte-sized taste of IT degree for girls

6th February 2020

Before the school term officially started, nine female Year 12 students got a head start on their homework by spending two weeks experiencing what it’s like to study at uni.

In a first for the university, QUT’s first-year technology unit ‘Design of Computer Systems’ was delivered in a two-week intensive block to students from schools across Brisbane, including Stuartholme School, Mansfield State High School, Sunnybank State High School, Sandgate State High School and Brisbane State High School.

The pilot program was developed by Professor Paul Roe and championed by QUT’s Computer Science Head of School Professor Peta Wyeth. They want to motivate high school students by showing them emerging and exciting applications of IT. “IT is an area that touches all aspects of our lives, so it’s hard to imagine a more exciting area to work in,” said Professor Roe.

The program was designed to address the gender imbalance in information technology by providing female students with an insight into potential future study and careers. Only 13% of students in Professor Roe’s introductory IT unit are women, and he is ready for that number to rise. “QUT is by far the largest provider of IT students to the local Queensland industry. The IT industry wants to diversify its workforce, so we are in a unique position to change the IT ecosystem.”

Professor Paul Roe introduces female students to the possibilities of a career in IT.

It’s a new way of working involved collaboration and coordination across the faculty. “QUT has never run a unit this way before,” said Professor Roe. “It’s really been a team effort, and that’s why it has succeeded. 

During the two-week intensive, students joined in interactive workshops each morning, followed by research and investigation in the afternoon. The last three days were focused on a project that would incorporate everything they’d learned over the first week. Learning materials were adopted from work by QUT’s Computer Human Interaction (CHI) group, led by Professor Margot Brereton.

The students collaborated on exciting and unique projects including: an automated smart-home system, an internet-connected robot and a novel home game for shared house chores.

The initiative was championed by QUT alumni from organisations including Suncorp, Deloitte, Deswik and ThoughtWorks. Representatives were on hand to provide inspiration and career pathway advice to the students.

The students who attended will receive academic credit if they successfully passed the unit, opening the door to further study at QUT in the future.

Students created exciting applications of IT over the course of the two-week program.

Based on feedback she received, Leigh Ferguson, Leader of Learning - Technologies, Stuartholme School said the unit “provided a pragmatic yet innovative approach to learning. Our students gained an insightful view into translating their existing knowledge into real world situations. They are more confident in pursuing their chosen professional field beyond their secondary schooling.”

Professor Roe plans to run the program again. “It was a lot of work and quite challenging due to its novelty,” he said. “However, it was a huge success - the students enjoyed it, learned lots and produced some great projects.”

To find out more about this program or other opportunities to partner with QUT, email sef.engagement@qut.edu.au

See more images from the event online.

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