Australian students working on their Curious Minds

Around 130 Australian girls in Years 9 and 10 have completed a six-month supercharged STEM coaching program, aimed at developing the next generation of leaders in these key fields.

The Curious Minds program aims to ignite a passion for STEM in Australian girls, grow their skills and connect them with experienced mentors and other likeminded students.

The program is delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust and features a summer camp, followed by six months of coaching, and concludes with a winter camp which has just finished.

A total of 128 girls attended the winter camp this month, which was held online due to COVID-19. The girls were split evenly between an east and west coast camp and supported by 88 STEM coaches.

Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said Curious Minds was an excellent initiative to increase participation in STEM among young women.

“So many jobs in the future will require maths and science skills,” Minister Tudge said.

“We need to engage more students in STEM, particularly girls who have typically been underrepresented. This program is a great way to do that.

“I hope to see many of the girls who participated this year go on to become leaders in their chosen field, leading innovation and solving some of our world’s great challenges.”

Since it started in 2014, 403 girls have benefited from the Curious Minds program. In 2020, the Liberal and Nationals Government committed an additional $2.35 million to increase the number of girls able to participate by offering a west coast and east coast program.

Minister for Regional Education Bridget McKenzie said the program was a valuable tool to boost STEM participation for girls in regional Australia.

“Students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, remote and rural locations and areas with higher levels of socio-economic disadvantage are prioritised to participate in the camps, ensuring we are delivering on our commitment to provide a high level of education to all Australians regardless of their circumstances,” she said.

“This is a fantastic initiative for young women, particularly those in the regions, who might not otherwise get the chance to engage in such a program.”

Minister McKenzie added she hopes to see many program graduates go on to pursue careers in regional Australia.

“Especially in agriculture, industry or manufacturing where STEM skills are highly sought after and valued,” she said.

During the winter camp participants completed STEM sessions which they had started in the summer camp, covering a topics including physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, digital technology and environmental sciences.

The students also completed two specific activities looking at recycling and drone technology.

The recycling project was developed in conjunction with the UNSW SMaRT Centre and investigated the impact of microplastics and plastic pollution in our oceans. Each student received a computer hard drive and a tool kit which they used to pull apart the device to determine how best to recycle or reuse different materials.

Curious Minds partnered with the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science to deliver a workshop on drone engineering. Students investigated how the emerging technology was being used across a range of markets and then developed their own plans to deliver engineering products to consumers.

The Curious Minds initiative is part of the Liberal and Nationals Government’s Women’s Economic Security Package.

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