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By  Holly Stemm 26 February 2024 5 min read

Key points

  • The Young Future Shapers program boosts confidence, capability, and connection with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
  • The program’s approaches can be used to help kids of any age feel more curious, engaged and supported with STEM.
  • Nominations for the 2024 round of Young Future Shapers are open now for Year 5-10 students.

Maya dreams of being an astrophysicist. James 3D prints prosthetics for fun. Millie analyses microplastics from her local beach. These are some of our Young Future Shapers.

All in Years 5-10, these students have had epic opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). Soon, they’ll hand the torch to this year’s group, with nominations for the 2024 intake open now.

The program supports young people from underrepresented groups in STEM. This includes girls, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, as well as those from regional schools or lower opportunity areas.

Young Future Shapers get a personalised success plan. They can also attend a multi-day STEM camp, a local learning adventure, or design their own prize pack. The program’s approach to boosting confidence, capability, and connection with STEM is proving impactful.

We’ve borrowed five ways from the Young Future Shapers program you can encourage a kid (or an adult) to fall in love with STEM.

Diverse interests meet STEM opportunities

Standing near a wind turbine at James Cook University’s Cyclone Testing Station, one Future Shaper commented she was now captivated by an area of science she’d never known about. This is a common reaction on our STEM camps.

The all-inclusive camps include science facility tours, meeting experts and confidence-building activities. The itineraries cover Future Shapers’ interest areas, allowing for powerful exposure across various topics.

One Future Shaper wasn’t sure about pursuing STEM, but the camp inspired her to follow in the footsteps of the marine biologists she met. Another camper, who loves astronomy, is now also broadening her options with robotics.

We select 25 Young Future Shapers for the program, but anyone can build an interest in STEM through curiosity. We recommend asking people in your life about their interests, trying new things, realising there are no ‘dumb’ questions, and going down (reputable) research rabbit holes.


Across two STEM camps, we covered marine biology, coding, agricultural science, space technologies, 3D printing, genetics, robotics, and climate change.

Tips for STEM-gaging friends and family

Future Shaper, Jordan wanted to dig deeper into palaeontology, so he got a VIP tour of Flinders University’s Paleo Lab. He also wanted to understand the campus experience of Indigenous university students, which the team facilitated with a yarning circle. This traditional Indigenous Australian practice involves a respectful and open sharing of stories, knowledge, and experiences in a group setting.

James asked to bring his class along, and some of his classmates left with a newfound interest in science. Additionally, the parents that attended the Year 5-6 camp loved learning new things and seeing their kids in their element.

“It was really good to have that trip together and the shared experience with the two of us. We will always remember it,” one parent said.

If someone around you is developing an interest in STEM, you can help fan those flames. It may ignite your interest too!

Jordan, third from left, brought his class to Flinders University.

Choose your own adventure

Millie, a Future Shaper, created a marine biology mini-lab as her prize. It included a GoPro and Bathyscope for underwater exploration digital microscopes to analyse the microplastic content in beach samples and various marine specimens and slides.

Her lab supports “inquiry-based learning”. It is about encouraging young people to posit questions and find the answers means they’re choosing their own STEM adventure. This approach builds critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Millie is passionate about marine biology and ending plastic waste.

Birds of a feather learn together

James loves 3D printing, so he set up a club at his school to print things like prosthetic hands.

As a Future Shaper, he came to Lab 22 – Australia’s Centre for Additive Innovation. Here, we do things like 3D printing medical implants with titanium. At Data 61’s Mixed Reality Lab and Bosch Australia, James met experts working on the cutting-edge of his favourite subjects.

“This is by far the most amazing STEM experience of my life,” James said.

Our STEM camps and virtual events connect Future Shapers with others like them.

Maya is a budding astrophysicist and Future Shaper.

“It was easy to make friends here because we all had something in common,” Maya said.

Outside Future Shapers, groups like code clubs, Scouts, Girl Guides and the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy connect kids and STEM.

James met our experts at the Mixed Reality Lab.

Build STEM skills by stealth

Young Future Shapers don’t have to be at the top of the class. Some participants like disassembling and reassembling things. Some are passionate about causes that STEM could help solve. And some are bursting with questions.

A strengths-based approach means leaning into what comes naturally, then building other skills from there. Learning is easier when you’re having fun or when it relates to something you care about.

In camp, the Future Shapers devised and presented solutions to problems they were enthusiastic about. Aside from the task’s obvious innovation and problem-solving elements, they were also building creativity, communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills. It’s a powerful skillset for the future.

“My confidence grew in public speaking while in this program," one Future Shaper said.

"I had an opportunity to voice my thoughts and questions on many different subjects, which has changed my perspective and my confidence.”

Camp attendees prepared pitches to solve future problems.

Get the ball rolling

2024 Young Future Shaper nominations are open. If you need convincing, we’ll leave the final word to Future Shaper James.

“I'd recommend it 100 per cent, the Future Shapers experience has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Young Future Shapers is powered by CSIRO and BHP Foundation.

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