Year 9 and 10 students from 51 high schools across Western Sydney and the Central Coast recently presented the solutions of their inquiry-based research projects at the STEM Community Partnerships Program (STEM CPP) end-of-year showcases.
The events were the first time since 2019 that students, teachers, parents, councils and industry partners could get together face-to-face and celebrate everyone’s hard work.
For Maria Doan, a Science Teacher from All Saints Catholic College in Liverpool, seeing the student’s engagement and responsiveness to the inquiry projects has been one of the highlights of participating in STEM CPP.
“Students have been very engaged in STEM and their projects. They’ve been working very well together, learning to collaborate and understand how science, technology, engineering and maths work together to solve problems in the real world.”
STEM CPP engages students to discover the relevance and significance of STEM in everyday life by connecting schools with local industry.
Participating students have been investigating local issues with the support of their teachers and industry mentors.
The aim is to encourage innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills – all skills needed for students to thrive in their careers.
For some students, the program offered an opportunity to work on projects close to their heart and have the space to try, test (fail) and learn.
For others, it was all about putting ideas into a tangible solution that could improve their future.
Teachers also reflected on how students would often work on their projects during breaks and after school at their own initiative. It has even helped to engage some students who hadn’t shown an interest in STEM.
Local solutions to address everyday challenges
Working on real community challenges provides an engaging way for students to take part in shaping what their local community could look like in the future.
Heat stress, flooding, management of the environment, pollution, transportation and infrastructure problems were just some of the local challenges the students worked to address.
“Our project aims to help the environment. We’re the next generation, and we need to make sure that we have a sustainable future,” said Tanjee, East Hills Girls Technology High School student.
Her group created a vortex trap to stop pollution from contaminating the Georges River, ensuring clean water for its inhabitants. “We don’t want climate change and plastic pollution to increase and ruin our world,” she said.
When asked whether she enjoys STEM subjects at school, Tanjee said, “STEM is extremely important to me because it allows my creativity and imagination to expand. It also gives me more insight into the future, and I believe that’s beneficial, especially right now.”
The power of seeing STEM outside the classroom
Showcase attendees included the Australian Defence Force, Bingo Industries, TAFE NSW, Telstra, Stryker and Western Sydney Airport who engaged with the students and enquired about their projects.
Craig Apted is a Science Teacher from LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown. He said participating in STEM CPP has helped the students to develop solutions and engage with industry.
“Our students got to work together with Canva, our industry partner, and do a site visit to their office. It was an amazing experience for them,” he said.
“It has opened their eyes to opportunities. This is what drives and motivates students in their selection of different subjects and career choices.”
The program, part of the CSIRO’s Generation STEM initiative, aims to highlight the different pathways students can take to create their dream STEM careers.
“The future is about nurturing the next generation of problem solvers and innovators. That’s what Generation STEM is about,” said CSIRO Director of Education and Outreach Ruth Carr.
“Whether you’re interested in agriculture, health, business or the arts, STEM-based skills are the future. It’s what every industry needs right now.
“The end-of-year showcase is a fantastic opportunity for the students to share what they’ve learnt through the STEM Community Partnerships Program.
“Congratulations to the students, teachers, parents and industry partners. They’ve all done an outstanding job,” Carr said.