First published 11 September 2020

A QUT-based program designed to support the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) leaders has won a major education award, as announced by the Queensland Government.

The Peter Doherty Awards for Excellence in STEM Education recognise students, teachers, support officers, schools and education partners who demonstrate an outstanding and innovative contribution to education in Queensland.

QUT’s Young Accelerators (formerly known as STEM for Schools) won the award for STEM Education Partnership during a presentation ceremony held online on Friday 11 September.

Engaging Years 7-12 students the program harnesses and builds enthusiasm for STEM skills drawing on concepts of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

The program delivers on-campus workshops, events, and professional learning across STEM disciplines.

Manager of QUT’s Young Accelerators Gabrielle O’Brien said the award is recognition of the hard work across the university to engage STEM activities, providing meaningful experiences for high school students, schools, and teachers.

“This program has strong connections throughout our school communities and a reputation for providing a unique range of learning opportunities to students and teachers which foster a passion for STEM,” Ms O’Brien said.

QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil said the award was recognition of the university’s commitment to promoting the importance of science and engineering careers.

“QUT has strong programs in science, engineering, maths and information technology and we have excellent facilities with specialist cutting-edge precincts, labs and workspaces for our students on offer,” Professor Sheil said.  “This program allows young people thinking about possible careers to explore and learn about their options.”
The impact of the program is assessed in terms of its performance in influencing students to study STEM at university.

Since 2013, there have been 995 STEM workshops which reached 20,006 students and a survey of first-year STEM students found 83 percent were influenced in their degree choice as a result.
“The foundation of the program’s learning activities is to showcase the interdisciplinary nature of STEM and the enterprise skills such as collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving which are vital for future STEM professionals,” Ms O’Brien said.

The program was also adapted to handle the challenges to learning by the coronavirus pandemic with a new learning hub launched earlier this year.

“This resource has a large range of online resources to assist students and teachers to continue to engage with STEM learning,” Ms O’Brien said.

“We plan to use the prize-money to develop additional coding and programming events for girls in 2021.

The program was also named 2019 Gold Award winner (K-12 category) at the international Reimagine Education Awards.”
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