Challenging students to discover what STEM careers can offer

14 June 2017

Around 300 secondary school students sampled what it’s like to be a scientist or engineer when Deakin University hosted the Geelong Science and Engineering Challenge recently.

The Science and Engineering Challenge is a nationwide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) outreach program designed to inspire secondary school students to study science, engineering and technology at Years 11 and 12.

Presented by the University of Newcastle in partnership with communities, Rotary clubs, universities and sponsors, the Challenge now runs in every state and territory in Australia. It involves more than 24,000 students from over 800 secondary schools across the country.

The two-day Geelong event was held on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 May at Deakin’s Centre for Advanced Design in Engineering Training (CADET) at the Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus. The mostly Year 10 students participating came from a mix of schools, both local and from further afield.

Competing in teams, they were challenged with a variety of activities including building a 'bionic hand' using PVC pipe and other materials, simulating a power distribution network, constructing an earthquake-proof tower and, the grand finale, bridge building.

Professor Karen Hapgood, Head of Deakin’s School of Engineering, says events like the Challenge are part of the school’s commitment to promoting STEM careers.

‘Outreach activities, like the Science and Engineering Challenge, are important steps in highlighting the exciting career options in science, engineering, maths and technology to school students,’ Professor Hapgood says.

‘It’s part of the core business of Deakin Engineering and CADET to promote STEM careers to school students, and it’s hard to describe the impact and excitement of these outreach events until you have attended one and seen the engagement and interest first hand!’

Rotary clubs of District 9780 Geelong region sponsor and provide volunteers for the Geelong Challenge. Rotarian Tony Alsop, Chair of the Geelong Organising Committee, says it is a significant event on the Rotary calendar.

‘The Science and Engineering Challenge is a very important inclusion in Rotary District 9780's youth program every year,’ Mr Alsop explains.

‘Our aim is to create awareness of opportunities in STEM careers in a fun way.’

Other sponsors of the Geelong event include Gold sponsor Victorian Regional Channels Authority and Silver sponsor AusNet Services, together with Regional Development Victoria and Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM).

Whitefriars College, Donvale, claimed victory on the Thursday with Geelong Grammar Team B taking the honours on Friday. Both teams will progress to the Victorian Superchallenge final in September.

Deakin is also hosting the Great South Coast Challenge on Tuesday 20 June 2017 at the University’s Warrnambool Campus with eight schools competing on the day for the right to compete at the Superchallenge.

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