Engagement in and an understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines will be an important skill required of our future generations.

CSIRO Education and Outreach is focused on delivering high-quality, engaging STEM learning experiences for primary and secondary schools and teachers to help ensure all Australian students are equipped with the skills needed when entering the workforce. Through our science outreach programs, we aim to promote the importance and application of CSIRO research to the community and increase Australia’s STEM literacy. CSIRO also supports undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to boost the calibre of researchers working in Australian industry and strengthen our future innovation capacity.

Table 3.5: Summary of our Performance for Activity 2
KPI and metric Target Result

Utilisation of science outreach programs as measured through participation

5% increase in participation compared to 2015–16


We increased total number of visitors and education program participants by 10.5% compared to 2015–16

Green shading indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved.

Programs for primary and secondary school students

Year 10 students from John Calvin School in Western Australia, viewing the butterfly and moth installation at the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra.

CSIRO Education and Outreach has education specialists and facilities in each capital city as well as in Townsville, Cairns and Newcastle. This year, 151,720 primary and secondary students took part in hands-on science education programs.

In 2017–18, we delivered:

  • STEM Professionals in Schools (formerly known as Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools)
  • Sustainable Futures
  • BHP Billiton Foundation Indigenous STEM Education Project
  • BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards
  • CSIRO’s Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) Awards (formerly known as CREativity in Science and Technology Awards)
  • CSIRO Discovery Centre and Digital Careers programs.

The STEM Professionals in Schools program partners STEM professionals with primary and secondary teachers around the country. By 30 June 2018, 1,684 STEM Professionals in Schools partnerships were operating in 1,218 schools. Of these, 22 per cent were in rural and regional schools and 42 per cent were in schools where more than 25 per cent of the students were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The BHP Billiton Foundation Indigenous STEM Education Project increases the participation and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in STEM in schools and on to employment. The program is in its fourth year and is successfully delivering all program elements. In 2017–18, we estimate that 725 teachers and teacher assistants and 49,215 students (of which 11,704 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students), in 151 schools took part in school programs. Twelve communities were involved in community programs and 27 students were enrolled in the Bachelor of Science (Extended) at the University of Melbourne.

CSIRO Sustainable Futures worked with 1,139 schools Australia-wide to help them understand the science behind climate change and how to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Digital Careers program increased student participation and interest in ICT courses and careers. During 2017–18, 99,136 students took part in the suite of Bebras computational thinking challenge programs and 1,065 students took part in the Young ICT Explorers program.

In 2017–18, CREST helped over 5,436 school students plan and conduct research projects. This year, to increase the engagement in and impact of the program, the team developed resources to align with the Australian Curriculum and to include investigations across the spectrum of STEM. Many students went on to participate in the BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards that recognise outstanding scientific research and technology projects by school students. Last year, 12,567 students entered the awards.

We host the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra, and major visitor centres at observatories near Parkes and Narrabri in NSW and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC). These centres are purpose-built to showcase our research in an entertaining way that demystifies and educates people of all ages about research and innovation. Education and outreach programs at CDSCC attracted 10,270 school students during 2017–18. The total number of general visitors was 69,275.

The visitor centre at the Parkes radio telescope welcomed 105,085 visitors in 2017–18.

The PULSE@Parkes program attracted 100 students, 30 teachers and 180 university students, staff and professionals.

At the Australia Telescope Compact Array at Narrabri, 12,081 visitors in 2017–18 took self-guided tours of the visitor centre. This continues to be highly popular with families, schools, photography clubs and seniors’ groups.

Table 3.6: Science outreach: education programs <
Program 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18

CSIRO Science Education Centres (visitors)






Creativity in Research Engineering Science and Technology (CREST) Awards (participants)






BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards (participants)






Table 3.7: Science outreach: visitor centres
Centre 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18

CSIRO Discovery Centre (visitors)






Parkes radio telescope (visitors)






Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (visitors)






Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri (visitors)






Programs supporting university students

CSIRO gives undergraduates the opportunity to collaborate with scientists to help them develop their skills and meet the increasing demand for Australia’s STEM capability. Several programs run throughout the year providing this opportunity, such as industrial traineeships, vacation scholarships, and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Through collaborative efforts with industry, we are optimising STEM school-to-industry partnerships, helping science students to progress their careers and supporting the exploration of frontier science.

Our Postgraduate Scholarship Program provides opportunities in science and engineering for outstanding graduates who enrol at Australian tertiary institutions as full-time postgraduate students for research leading to the award of a PhD.

Students are deemed to be supervised if they have a CSIRO staff member appointed officially by the university as the supervisor for their research project. Normally, CSIRO staff are joint supervisors in conjunction with a university academic.

Students are considered sponsored if they receive a full or partial scholarship paid from CSIRO funds to pursue a research project leading to a PhD or Honours/Master’s degree. This excludes CSIRO employees, whose study expenses are considered to be training and development.

In the past year, 2,456 undergraduates, postgraduates and postdocs participated in our programs.

22% increase in postgraduates this year

Table 3.8: CSIRO Students and Postdoctoral Fellows in the 12 months 1 June 2017 to 31 May 2018
Tertiary level 2017–18

Undergraduate students


Postgraduate students


Postdoctoral fellows




The number of students fluctuates within any given year and across years, as uptake to programs varies and students conclude programs at different times of the year. Table 3.9 provides a comparison with previous years of the numbers of students that we supervised, or sponsored and supervised. The numbers represent a point in time only, 31 May 2018, and not the total number for the year.

Table 3.9: Science outreach: CSIRO students as at 31 May 2018
2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18








Sponsored postgraduates6

























Supervised postgraduates8

























Postdoctoral fellows







Programs supporting our leaders and staff

During 2017–18, our strategic focus was on partnering to expand our collaboration and global development offerings to complement the Leadership, Innovation and Customer curriculum available across CSIRO. We also focused on delivering more digitally enabled programs to reach more learners, including people at remote sites and with carer responsibilities. Highlights included a stronger Early Career Scientist capability via the CSIRO/UNSW Industry PhD Program and Post-Doctoral Fellowship initiatives; progress towards a CSIRO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Awareness curriculum; and investment in greater Asia cultural competency.

This year we delivered a modest increase in program-based learning opportunities: 3,652 program-based days, up from 3,608 days in the previous year, consolidating the more significant year-on-year growth over the past five years. This was achieved alongside our deliberate focus on digital transformation, implementing a new Learning Management System (LMS) and Social Learning Platform (JAM) and the creation of new digitally enabled programs – the Ready to Lead and Project Leader On-Boarding programs.

Year to date participation has been lower in traditional eLearning (826 days less than last year), however, this does not include participation in the three eLearning modules released in June 2018: the refreshed Code of Conduct, appropriate provision of Financial Services through the CSIRO Innovation Fund and the Business Model Canvas.

A highlight of 2017–18 was recognition, via independent, external benchmarking undertaken by CEB/Gartner that confirmed CSIRO Leadership Programs are exceeding global standards for executive programs. Further, CSIRO staff survey results indicate a correlation between participation in two key programs, Leading Australia’s Innovation Catalyst and Experienced Leader Program, and higher levels of engagement. Program alumni report they are more engaged, energised, enabled and aligned with CSIRO strategy than other leaders.

Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into STEM pathways

The Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS) is a nine-day residential program for high-achieving Indigenous Year 10 students, which continues to support students through Years 11 and 12. ASSETS was first established in 1992 by the University of South Australia, and in 2014 the program was integrated into the Indigenous STEM Education Project, managed and implemented by CSIRO and funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation.

Since then, ASSETS has grown from a single summer school event catering to 28 students in 2014 to three separate summer school events in Townsville, Newcastle and Adelaide, catering to 105 students each year between 2015 and 2018. A total of 331 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have attended ASSETS.

A survey of students who attended ASSETS in 2016–17 found that completing the program increased student awareness of STEM career possibilities (up 33 per cent to 99 per cent), and resulted in students changing their career preference to a STEM career (up 33 per cent to nearly 82 per cent) and deciding to study STEM at university (up 21 per cent to nearly 85 per cent.

ASSETS is committed to providing ongoing support to students outside the residential school through the ASSETS leadership program, which includes keeping students informed of relevant events, dates and scholarship opportunities, as well as organising work placements.

In 2017, Boeing Defence Australia partnered with the ASSETS program, offering week-long work placements at its Brisbane simulation, analysis and pilot training facility to four students. Kayla Pattel from Queensland’s Tullawong State High School attended the ASSETS residential program in 2016 and was offered one of the Boeing placements in 2017. As part of her four-day placement, Kayla was involved in activities from building and coding a robot to piloting a simulation fast jet against computer-generated forces.

Kayla Pattel standing in front of a space and astronaut display.

Kayla Pattel attended ASSETS in 2016 and went on to win the 2017 Indigenous STEM Secondary Student Award.

‘The best part, in my opinion, was meeting the amazing and inspiring people that worked in all fields of Boeing, who took time out of their busy day to talk to us about what they do,’ said Kayla.

Following the initial week-long placement, Kayla was invited back to Boeing to join a project for a further three weeks. At the 2017 Indigenous STEM Awards, Kayla and fellow 2016 ASSETS alumni Jessica Storrar were recognised with the Secondary Student Award. Kayla’s work with Boeing was noted when she received her award.

Wayne Cawthorne from Townsville State High School also attended ASSETS in 2016. He completed two work placements with a postdoctoral research fellow at James Cook University, as well as placements at a medical office and an engineering firm, GHD Australia. In 2017, Wayne became one of three students to win the Queensland Government’s Peter Doherty Outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Senior STEM Student Award. He is now enrolled in a Bachelor of Advanced Science at James Cook University and plans to work towards a Medical degree and eventually a job as a research scientist. Wayne’s mum Maria said that attending ASSETS was the catalyst for his successful journey in STEM.

The Indigenous STEM Education Project is committed to increasing the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in STEM education and careers. ASSETS is one of six program elements that make up the Project to target students through primary, secondary and tertiary education.

  1. The state-based science education centres closed in late 2014.
  2. The focus of the CREST program for the last two years has been on refreshing and developing new resources to ensure alignment with the Australian curriculum and include investigations across the spectrum of STEM.
  3. In 2014, we changed our operating model and opening hours to focus on STEM education activities, not general community events.
  4. Closed for renovations during part of the year.
  5. Includes 20 supervised in collaboration with Cooperative Research Centres over the 12-month period.
  6. A student may be supervised or supervised and sponsored.
  7. Includes 143 students fully sponsored and 294 students partially sponsored by CSIRO.
  8. The total number of Postgraduate students as at 31 May 2018 was 1,042, including 11 supervised in collaboration with Cooperative Research Centres.

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