COVID created opportunity says influential Griffith grad

STEM Punks Director and Education Damien Aldridge is passionate about teaching STEM in a way children understand.

A Griffith teaching graduate who was recently named a 2020 Global Education Influencer says the pandemic has actually created a whole new world of opportunity for educators.

The STEM Punks team with their 2019 Telstra Business Award

Damien Aldridge, Director of Brisbane STEM Education business, STEM Punks, said COVID-19 forced the 2019 Qld Telstra Business Award winners to completely overhaul their business model rapidly.

“COVID made us move quickly. We always had the plan to do it but what we didn’t think we could do for a few years, we did in three weeks,” he explained.

“The pandemic was an accelerator.

“We had a really successful business, winning the Emerging and Energised category of the 2019 QLD Telstra Business Awards, but when your whole model is face-to-face and that stops as schools close, it shook the tree.

“We did innovate and really quickly. And now we’ve got programs in schools across Australia which we never thought we were going to have partnerships with.”

Damien co-founded STEM Punks in 2017. The leading STEM education provider focuses on making science, technology, engineering, and math education accessible to children, while supporting and upskilling educators, to make it fun to teach.

While he was honoured this year with a place on the list of Global Education Influencers, by Excelligent magazine, he admits the pandemic gave the business, which also employs two other Griffith graduates, a real fright.

“We got a big kick in the pants when COVID hit,” he admitted.

“We had a team of some of the best educators in Queensland and suddenly we looked at each other and wondered what an earth are we going to do?

“That’s when we designed STEM Punks tv.

“COVID taught us to produce high quality film quickly and therefore what we turned into was a team that could design our own programs that we all really enjoy but was also aligned to the curriculum.”

Digitising their offering has led to some incredible opportunities, and their programs are now available internationally.

Even in South Australia, in the midst of the current lockdown, they’ve been called on – virtually – to assist teachers with resources for students who have headed home, again.

“From a predominantly Queensland company, we’ve definitely gone national, and international, quickly,” he said.

“Teachers had fallen into the trap of thinking they need to know everything but the game has fundamentally changed thanks to Covid.

Damien Aldridge, who was honoured earlier this year as a Global Education Influencer by Excelligent magazine.

“It has showed teachers that you don’t have to be the expert, what you need to be able to do is to find the experts to give the students the best educational experience.

“Its our team at STEM Punks and the teacher and the student working together. It is the cool little link that was missing.”

“Through our STEM Education programs we create confident creative thinkers who develop an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset to solve tomorrow’s problems, today.”

Damien is now also set to be honoured virtually with a Global Teacher Award at the upcoming AKS Education Awards in December.

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