Agnes fell in love with astronomy in Kenya when she’d go stargazing with her Dad. One day, she hopes to be an astrophysicist. Agnes got to look through a telescope for the first time ever at a STEM Together Future Shapers camp.
Agnes is one of 26 students from around Australia selected to take their interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) further. Future Shapers are from groups we want to encourage to pursue STEM careers. This includes Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, girls, and children from regional or lower opportunity schools.
Eleven Future Shapers came to Townsville for an action-packed camp to build their confidence, capability, and connection with STEM. They met likeminded kids, explored science research and careers, and heard from experts in the field. Sometimes literally.
Methane busting cows
The Future Shapers were in a paddock of curious cows at our Lansdown Research Station, wondering what they were in for.
Senior Research Scientist, Dr Ed Charmley, and the team shared their fascinating research. Students learned about how cows contribute to global warming (it’s mostly from burps, not the other end). These cows are on special diets to reduce the amount of methane they produce. Innovative technology monitors herds and measures emissions in controlled environments and in the field.
"It’s only when you see science in action in the field that you realise the depth and breadth of what STEM can do," Ed said.
"Agricultural science isn’t just dusty old fields and smelly old cows. It's a lot more than that. The science and the tech that goes into agriculture is mind blowing. It’s how you bring that all together to understand the technology, the animals, the pasture, and the environmental impact,” he said.
The talk of monitoring cattle with technology brought us to another fascinating topic: space cows.
Meeting science experts
The camp allowed students to connect with many experts from Queensland’s scientific community. Dr Erin Graham from James Cook University (JCU) shared how we use satellites, drones and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to track feral herds for our Space Cows project.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority took the students through the amazing and dangerous creatures on the reef. From stone fish to killer jellyfish to sea turtles, and everything in between.
Samson Rogers, a teenage tech expert who invented an e-waste sorting robot, led a hands-on coding session.
JCU’s Cyclone Testing Station team blew the Future Shapers away (figuratively speaking) when they saw the wind tunnel in action. The team showed how building materials cope with windborne debris by shooting a wooden beam through plywood at high velocity.
The camp also included team challenges (an escape room and innovation pitch) to build communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.
Shaping the future
As Australia’s national science agency, we love measuring our impact. The survey of the Future Shapers shows these students are now more engaged with STEM than ever. Students told us the camp had significantly increased their awareness and interest in STEM. They’re more likely to study it and consider a STEM career. They felt supported on the camp and made friends. And, perhaps most importantly, each one said they had fun. This is what Future Shapers is all about.
STEM Together is powered by CSIRO and BHP Foundation.