Collaborations with two key industry partners – BMD and Caltex – are helping to keep QUT’s Extreme Science and Engineering Van on the road, igniting a passion for STEM and further education among school students in regional and disadvantaged areas.
Each year QUT student ambassadors drive the Extreme Science and Engineering Van to primary and high schools all around Queensland to deliver free hands-on STEM workshops to students, many of whom are the first in their family to consider tertiary study.
The Extreme Van travels an average of 19,000 kilometres each year. But it’s not easy, or cheap, to keep the Van visiting schools almost every day of the school year, and the demand from schools for the Extreme Van program grows every year. The costs of regular maintenance and servicing, fuel, registration and insurance, combined with staffing, workshop equipment and resources is significant.
A new three-year partnership with BMD will extend the program to schools in the Kingaroy region, an area experiencing high levels of socio-economic disadvantage that rarely receives support from university outreach programs.
The partnership will also see the Van visit schools in North Queensland. BMD’s North Queensland-based workforce will share their career journeys with students to ignite an interest in pursuing further study and training after they graduate from school.
BMD’s partnership with the Extreme Science and Engineering Van was launched as part of QUT Giving Day 2019 with a $25,000 Challenge Donation, which inspired more than 70 people to donate in support of the program.
Scott Power, BMD Group Executive Director – Operations, said the Extreme Van initiative aligns with the organisation’s commitment to supporting the next generation of construction professionals. “BMD has a longstanding relationship with QUT, having funded an annual engineering scholarship in partnership with the university for over seven years,” he said.
“We are proud to further our support of an initiative which encourages and inspires students to consider a future career in STEM related fields.”
Caltex Australia has also supported the program with a $5,000 Star Card. Each year QUT spends close to $3,000 on fuel to keep the Van running, so Caltex’s donation means it can travel further, reaching even more schools in regional Queensland.
According to Kingaroy State School Science Head, Steve Langton, the impact of the Extreme Van on students can be life changing.
“QUT's programs let our students gain exposure to STEM careers they did not even know existed, and their direct contact with university students has let them learn about university life” he said.
“With the limited exposure students in rural areas have to STEM careers, the value of this regional context cannot be overestimated.”
The popularity of the Extreme Van with the students is perhaps best summed up by a teacher from Tullawong State High School, north of Brisbane, who said: “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.”
QUT Science and Engineering Faculty's Assistant Dean - International, Engagement & Diversity, Melissa Nugent, said there is immense power in industry partnering with universities to inspire and shape the next generation of STEM professionals.
“Research shows that moving students experiencing socio-economic disadvantage from uninterested in tertiary study to being actively interested is a journey and not a single revelatory experience.
“Building aspiration is arguably the most challenging aspect as it involves individuals going through a personal change process, and the support of BMD, Caltex, industry partners, donors, government and the community enables QUT to keep this vital program on the road, changing lives every day of the school year,” said Ms Nugent.
If you would like to contribute a gift that inspires students from regional and disadvantaged areas to consider university and STEM careers, please contact Kym Mansfield, Senior Development Officer (STEM), on +61 7 3138 7840 or at email@example.com.