What do hydroelectric systems, solar panels and mobile apps have in common? They’re all innovations at the heart of student-led projects developed during the first year of the STEM Community Partnership Program (STEM CPP) as part of Generation STEM.

As the first program launched under Generation STEM, the STEM CPP invites Year 9 and 10 students in NSW to participate in inquiry-based projects, using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to address challenges faced by their local communities.

Generation STEM launched in 2019 in Western Sydney, where major industry developments will generate 200,000 new STEM jobs over the coming years. 

In its first year, 293 students from 13 Western Sydney schools across Camden, Campbelltown and Liverpool collaborated with their local Councils and industry to find solutions for challenges in energy, water, agriculture, biodiversity, heat stress, population growth, transport and mental health.

The solutions developed include:

  • development of a mini hydroelectric power plant which would enable households to recycle greywater to generate electricity, including the creation of a prototype using CAD and 3D printing
  • designing solar panels to replace individual house roof tiles to make it more appealing as an alternative energy source. The tiles are specifically designed to blend into each household's roof, are made from recycled materials and are also recyclable
  • hanging teapots from trees to provide a safe nesting place for native bird species which have been impacted by introduced species
  • the design of a community café which provides a comfortable place for local residents with mental health issues to gather, read and relax.

Students presented their project findings to Council, local industry, their peers and families in late 2019, highlighting their passion for STEM in ways that surprised teachers, local community members and even the students themselves. You can see highlights from the project showcase at STEM Community Partnerships Program.

As part of STEM CPP's collaboration between schools and industry, students were also able to participate in site visits and local careers days. In November 2019, approximately 150 teachers and students attended site visits to LaserBond's manufacturing facility in Smeaton Grange.

Feedback from teachers involved with the program has been positive, with one teacher commenting that it’s "an excellent opportunity to see the link between what they are learning at school and the community".

Do you want to take part in next year’s STEM CPP?

In 2020, the STEM CPP is expanding to other parts of Western Sydney and NSW. If you're interested in engaging, equipping and inspiring young people with tomorrow's skill sets, contact the Generation STEM team at generationSTEM@csiro.au.

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