Participants from the Kids STEM Conference held in Roma
Participants from the Kids STEM Conference held in Roma

Published 25 August, 2015

The University of Queensland has assumed management of a successful Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) education program that provides authentic science inquiry opportunities for regional, rural and Indigenous Queensland students.

The Wonder of Science program, which will be housed at UQ Diamantina Institute, is on track to work with approximately 2000 students this year through a robust multi-faceted delivery model that includes investigative science projects, visits to schools by University students serving as Young Science Ambassadors, and support for teachers.

Wonder of Science was launched in 2012 as a pilot program by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering with generous sponsorship from Queensland industry and university partners.

Program Manager Robyn Bull said program sponsors have played a key role in enabling the program to serve as many students as it has.

“I wish I could take them into the classroom to personally show them what a difference their funding makes. The transformation some of these students go through is amazing to see,” Ms. Bull said.

According to the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist, job growth in STEM areas has been strong over the past decade, yet the number of students undertaking science and maths in secondary schools has declined. This has impacted Queensland’s university science enrolment rates, which are well below the national average.

“The need for this program is acute,” said Ms. Bull. “Job opportunities in STEM careers are growing, but our young people lack the capability and skills to step into these roles.”

“Importantly, STEM education provides a substantial basis for the jobs of the future – which are largely unknown given the rapid technological and scientific advancement that permeates our lives today. The Young Science Ambassadors, typically PhD research students, are demonstrating to Queensland students that science is exciting and worthwhile – and within their reach!”

Wendy Fergus, Principal of Drillham State School, attests that Wonder of Science is making a difference in her school.

“Being a small, rural school, having access to such expertise was inspiring for the students, spurring their interest in science. This program proved that having access to more expertise of this nature would have a positive impact on students’ engagement in STEM. ”

For UQ Diamantina Institute, the opportunity to add Wonder of Science to its repertoire of education program offerings makes good sense. UQ Diamantina Institute’s existing SPARQ-ed program is primarily geared to students in Years 11 and 12. Wonder of Science, which will be delivered in partnership with Queensland University of Technology and the Translational Research Institute, will provide a continuum of learning that will help ensure a more sustained STEM experience.

UQ Diamantina Institute Director Professor Matt Brown agrees Wonder of Science fills a needed gap in science education. “As a research institute, we think the future of Queensland’s economy depends on students with a solid background in science” Professor Brown said. “We are keen to help provide children with first-hand experiences of modern science from an early age, and wherever in Queensland they may live.”

 

Media: Robyn Bull, robyn.bull@uq.edu.au, +61 (0)7 3443 7981 or 0410 265 404

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