Students from 12 local high schools are currently participating in the program, a partnership with CSIRO, Australia's national science agency. The program connects Year 9 and 10 students with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry professionals as they tackle inquiry-based projects and develop solutions for real-world challenges.
Penrith Mayor Tricia Hitchen said the number of schools choosing to take part in 2022 reflected the community's shared desire to think innovatively and advance our knowledge for a better future.
"It is fantastic that we have 12 local schools, spread right across the City, seeing value in a program that will develop the knowledge of our students and create future learning and career pathways for them in vital fields of STEM," Cr Hitchen said.
"We know Penrith is on the cusp of great change and with growing investment in our City comes better health, education, research and manufacturing opportunities – that is where these students will rise and be our next leaders in their areas of expertise," she said.
The program is part of CSIRO’s Generation STEM initiative, made possible through a $25 million endowment from the NSW Government to the Science and Industry Endowment Fund. Generation STEM aims to upskill students and meet the growing need for a STEM-focused workforce.
At the local level, teachers and students are starting to meet with their mentors from nearby businesses and organisations to begin work on the projects the students will present at a showcase event later in the year.
Participating students from Glenmore Park High School recently visited the Western Sydney International (WSI) Experience Centre at Badgerys Creek before returning to school for a presentation from their mentor, Council’s Sustainability Education Officer, Andrew Hewson.
Andrew discussed the benefits of living, learning and working in the Penrith Local Government Area (LGA) and how the new Western Sydney (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport will transform the City along with its associated transport links.
He also listed examples of STEM-based research Council has undertaken and how various sustainability initiatives have been implemented through programs and adapted for use in the design of city-shaping projects to create better liveability for residents now and in the future.
Glenmore Park High students Bradley Koen and Ryan Masri actively participated in the presentation and said they were amazed to hear about the environmentally friendly features planned for Penrith CBD City Park and the Soper Place projects.
The pair took part in the STEM CPP in 2021 working with their peers to research how the use of genetically modified plants could reduce heat stress in certain areas, and agreed it was "a really good learning opportunity".
"It's practical – it gives you good insight as to the design and planning aspects of projects, and how to think outside the box," Ryan said.
Bradley, who plans to study civil engineering, said: "We got to see the work of students from two other schools whose projects were focused on water – it was great to hear their ideas and learn how to best develop and pitch our own ideas."
Students from all participating schools will continue to work on their projects and present their work at the Showcase event in November.
This is the second year of a three-year partnership that Council and CSIRO are delivering the STEM CPP program in Penrith.