As Australia’s innovation catalyst, we have a responsibility to develop Australia’s scientific and research capability, ensuring a future population of Australians can solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

As Australia’s innovation catalyst, we have a responsibility to develop Australia’s scientific and research capability, ensuring a future population of Australians can solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. Through our education and outreach programs, we help increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) knowledge and its application. We also provide tailored innovation programs that help address research and development needs of Australia’s industries and businesses.

CSIRO Education and Outreach delivers high-quality, engaging STEM learning experiences for primary and secondary school students, teachers and the community to equip all Australian students with the skills they need to enter the workforce. Through our science outreach programs, we promote the importance and application of our research to the community and increase Australia’s STEM literacy.

We also support undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers to boost the calibre of researchers working in Australian industry and strengthen our future innovation capacity.

Table 3.11: Summary of our performance for developing national science talent
Table 3.11: Summary of our performance for developing national science talent
KPI and metric Target Result
Use of science outreach programs as measured through participation 5% increase in participation compared to 2015–16 G We increased total number of visitors and education program participants by 51.8% compared to 2015–16.
Innovation hubs established to facilitate partneringactivity 5 hubs established G Average of 5 hubs established per year over the past 3 years, to a cumulative total of 15 innovation hubs established or used by 2018–19. (2017: 5 hubs; 2018: 12 hubs; 2019: 15 hubs.)

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

Science outreach programs

2018–19 highlights

  • We inspired the next generation of STEM professionals – more than 190,000 primary and secondary school students participated in our science education programs.
  • We helped more than 1,900 university students develop their skills to meet the demand for STEM capability in employment.
  • We increased the interest in STEM of 25 young Indigenous women through our new Indigenous Girls’ STEM Academy program.
  • We helped 125 students and teachers from 13 schools apply their learning through our award-winning PULSE@Parkes program.

Programs for primary and secondary school students

CSIRO Education and Outreach delivers more than 16 STEM education programs and has education specialists and facilities in each capital city as well as in Townsville, Cairns and Newcastle. This year, more than 190,000 primary and secondary students took part in our STEM education programs, and more than 1,000 teachers participated in our teacher professional learning programs.

The STEM Professionals in Schools program partners STEM professionals with primary and secondary teachers around the country. At 30 June 2019, 845 STEM Professionals in Schools partnerships were operating in 787 schools. Of these, 29 per cent were in regional and remote schools. The number of partnerships is lower this year than previous years because we are transitioning to a new customer relationship management system, which will allow us to manage new child safe requirements.

The BHP Foundation Indigenous STEM Education Project increases the participation and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in STEM in schools and through to employment. In 2018–19, 922 teachers and teacher assistants and 46,989 students, (of which 12,397 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students) in 168 schools and 11 communities took part in school programs.

CSIRO Sustainable Futures was introduced to 19814 schools Australia-wide to help them understand the science behind climate change and sustainability.

The Digital Careers program increases student participation and interest in ICT courses and careers. During 2018–19, 123,450 students took part in the suite of Bebras computational thinking challenge programs and 1,311 students took part in the Young ICT Explorers program.

In 2018–19, Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) helped more than 5,860 students plan and conduct research projects, including 47 participants from an international school in Malaysia. Many students then participated in the BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards that recognise outstanding scientific research and technology projects by school students. In 2018–19, 12,014 students entered Science & Technology Australia competitions.

We introduced two new programs: Generation STEM to increase students’ interest and participation in STEM in high school, higher education and into employment in New South Wales; and the Indigenous Girls’ STEM Academy in partnership with CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program. The latter program aims to encourage young Indigenous women to participate in STEM at school, higher education and into employment. In 2018–19, 25 students took part in the Academy.

Another way we shared our science with school students is at the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra, where we welcomed 4,500 more students to the Centre compared to last year, and major visitor centres at observatories near Parkes and Narrabri 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 – where the visitor centre now features large digital displays – attracted 10,094 school students during 2018–19. The total number of general visitors was 68,581.

In 2018–19, the visitor centre at the Parkes radio telescope welcomed 112,224 people. Our award-winning PULSE@Parkes program attracted 125 students and teachers from 13 schools, seven of which were new to the program. A public session at Perth Astrofest drew around 100 people.

Table 3.12: Science outreach: education programs
Program 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19
Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) (participants) 10,805 9,600 5,57915 5,436 5,860
BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards (participants) 8,146 7,639 10,950 12,567 12,014

Table 3.13: Science outreach: visitor centres
Centre 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19
CSIRO Discovery Centre (visitors) 33,189 18,47716 26,332 27,622 32,122
Parkes radio telescope (visitors) 68,427 95,212 83,851 105,085 112,224
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (visitors) 61,051 67,378 70,753 69,279 68,581
Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri (visitors) 10,971 11,511 10,965 12,081 10,363

Case study: STEM X Academy

Run in partnership with the Australian Science Teachers Association, CSIRO and Questacon, STEM X Academy is a professional learning experience that develops hands-on, inquiry-based lessons and activities that tie the national science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum to Australian research.

A STEM X teacher explaining her journey to CSIRO Education Specialist, Melissa Lane.  ©David Howe

STEM X provides an important and focused professional development opportunity at a time when scientific inquiry is becoming more collaborative, multidisciplinary and necessary to solve the challenges of the future. Teachers walk away with confidence, enthusiasm and the ability to create and deliver high-quality, inquiry-based lessons that tap new ideas in STEM and use innovative teaching tools.

The signature STEM X event is a five-day residential experience held annually in Canberra. Regional STEM X experiences have also been held in most states and territories. The demand from primary and secondary teachers to attend STEM X continues to grow, with the number of applicants far exceeding the number of places available. Last year, 102 teachers and eight alumni participated in STEM X or STEM X regional events.

The main CSIRO STEM X activity is the Future Challenge inquiry where teachers are presented with a future scenario based on CSIRO’s Global Megatrends, and work in teams alongside CSIRO mentors to design a STEM-focused solution. Our researchers also present and provide tours of CSIRO facilities. Additional skillset sessions focus on building teacher capacity, including sustainability, coding and data literacy.

Darwin primary school teacher, Simone Timms, attended STEM X in 2018. Since participating, she has used the Megatrends to help teachers at her school develop inquiry lessons and has learnt to frame up inquiry questions that matter.

Similarly, Angela Roccasalva attended STEM X in 2019 and said the experience changed the way she teaches. She starts every unit with an overarching problem that needs investigating. For example, with her Year 5 and 6 students, she investigated how to reduce the impact of natural disasters. Using robotics kits to build and program an earthquake simulator, her students made predictions about what kind of building would survive. The students recorded results in a table and drew conclusions. They then used this knowledge to design, build and test their own buildings.

STEM X alumni have reported positive learning outcomes for their students, including higher student engagement, better developed creative thinking skills and greater student confidence in their abilities, ideas and solutions.

Programs supporting university students

We give undergraduate and postgraduate students the opportunity to collaborate with scientists to help them develop their skills and meet the increasing demand for Australia’s STEM capability. Through collaborative efforts with industry, we are supporting tertiary science students with their career progression and providing opportunities to innovate and generate new theoretical perspectives. Our programs include industrial traineeships, vacation scholarships, and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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 or master’s degree.

Over the past year, we supported 1,985 undergraduate and postgraduate students through our programs, represented in Table 3.14. The number of students fluctuates within a year and across years, as students start and finish programs at different times of the year.

Supervised students have a CSIRO staff member appointed officially by the university as a co-supervisor for their research project. Some of these are also sponsored, receiving a partial or full scholarship paid from CSIRO funds to pursue a research project leading to the award of a PhD or master’s degree.

Table 3.15 compares the numbers of students that we supervised only, or both supervised and sponsored. These numbers represent a point in time at 31 May 2019, not the total number of students over the course of the whole year.

Table 3.14: Our program students in the 12 months to 31 May 2019
TYPE OF ENGAGEMENT 2017–18 2018–19
Tertiary level

Undergraduate students 633 529
Postgraduate students 1,438 1,45617
Total 2,071 1,985

Table 3.15: Our supervised students as at 31 May 201918

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Industrial Trainees - - - 100 100
Honours Students 80 89 84 74 54
Total - - - 174 154
Sponsored postgraduates20
PhD 224 280 416 418 390
Masters 16 36 27 12 7
Total 240 316 443 430 397
Supervised postgraduates
PhD 621 599 673 816 812
Masters 70 132 115 159 144
Total 691 731 788 975 95621
Number of all students
Total - - - 1,149 1,110

Industry PhD program

This industry-focused applied research training program produces the next generation of work-ready research and innovation leaders in Australia. In March, we piloted the program at the University of New South Wales. We have since expanded the program to another five universities: University of Adelaide, University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University. Students began the program at three universities in 2019. Expressions of interest are now open to find new industry projects for students to start across all six universities in 2020.

Innovation hubs

In 2018–19, ON delivered programs in nine innovation hubs; since inception, accumulatively ON has delivered programs in 15 hubs. We deliver our ON programs geographically based on demand. Prime5 was delivered in six hubs and Prime6 was delivered at 11 hubs nationally. Accelerate5 was also delivered in six hubs.

ON delivered programs in the following 15 locations across various programs and delivery formats, and within the ON partner network:

  • New South Wales: Sydney, Newcastle, Narrabri, Wollongong
  • Victoria: Melbourne, Geelong
  • Australian Capital Territory: Canberra
  • Western Australia: Perth
  • Queensland: Brisbane, Cairns, Toowoomba, Townsville
  • South Australia: Adelaide
  • Northern Territory: Darwin
  • Tasmania: Hobart.

  1. [14] In previous years, Sustainable Futures participation numbers reported were cumulative. For this report, only new school registrations are reported.
  2. [15] For the last three years, our CREST program has been focused on refreshing resources and developing new ones to align with the Australian curriculum and include investigations across the spectrum of STEM.
  3. [16] Visitor numbers are lower than normal as the Centre was closed for renovations for part of the year.
  4. [17] Includes nine supervised in collaboration with Cooperative Research Centres over the 12 months.
  5. [18] In previous annual reports Honours students were counted as postgraduate students. This annual report regards Honours students as undergraduate students since they are studying for a Bachelor-level degree.
  6. [19] This includes Honours students and Industrial Trainees.
  7. [20] A student may be sponsored and supervised, or supervised only.
  8. [21] The total number of postgraduate students as at 31 May 2019 was 956, including eight supervised in collaboration with Cooperative Research Centres.

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