A remote school in the Northern Territory, a virtual reality designer and a graduate systems engineer are the big winners of the third Indigenous STEM Awards, announced today at a ceremony in Areyonga in the Northern Territory.
[Image appears of hands holding a model aeroplane and then the camera zooms out to show a Taylah Griffin holding the model aeroplane and looking at it]
Taylah Griffin: I’m Taylah Griffin. I’m Gangulu mob and I’m a systems engineer at Boeing.
[Image changes to show Rhett Loban looking at the camera]
Rhett Loban: My name’s Rhett Loban.
[Image changes to show Rhett looking at the Torres Strait Virtual Reality game screen on his computer and the camera zooms in on the game playing on his screen]
I am a Associate Lecturer here at Macquarie University and I am the creator of Torres Strait Virtual Reality.
[Image changes to show Taylah talking to the camera and text appears: Taylah Griffin, 2018 Indigenous STEM Award Winner]
Taylah Griffin: I grew up in Gordonvale, a small sugar cane town south of Cairns.
[Images move through of Taylah as a child and then the image changes to show Taylah talking to the camera]
The remoteness of Gordonvale meant that we didn’t see many aircraft at all and it really sparked an interest in space and flight technology because it was all new and different and something I really hadn’t been exposed to before.
[Image changes to show Rhett talking to the camera and text appears: Rhett Loban, 2018 Indigenous STEM Award Winner]
Rhett Loban: Torres Strait Virtual Reality is a game that I developed that is a new way of learning and depicting a First Nation’s experience.
[Image changes to show Rhett holding a virtual reality headset up to his eyes and then the image changes to show the game playing on the virtual reality headset screen]
I believe it provides some insight into Torres Strait stories and knowledge and it helps promote my community and our unique culture to a wider audience.
[Images continue to move through of depictions from the virtual reality game and then the image changes to show Taylah talking to the camera]
Taylah Griffin: I studied an Honours Degree in Electrical and Aerospace Engineering at QUT.
[Image changes to show Taylah walking along through the grounds of the QUT]
I’m becoming the first person in my family to go to university.
[Image changes to show a facing and then profile view of Taylah as she walks and then the image changes to show Taylah talking to the camera]
I started to get involved at QUT through the Oodgeroo Unit where I was able to surround myself every day with like minded young indigenous people all looking to better themselves and our people through education.
[Image changes to show Rhett looking at a screen and then images move through of the virtual reality game playing displaying a beach and various beach creatures]
Rhett Loban: We implement Torres Strait Virtual Reality at the University of New South Wales and we came at it from a couple of different angles in each class.
[Images continue to move through from the virtual reality game showing a pier, and an underwater shot of various fish and sharks swimming, and then the image changes to show Rhett talking]
So, whether it was an advantage policy course, an education course, an indigenous studies course or even a game design course.
[Image changes to show Taylah looking at a model Wedgetail aircraft and then the camera zooms in to show it turning it around in her hand]
Taylah Griffin: I currently work in the Wedgetail Programme at Boeing. A Wedgetail is a converted Boeing 737 aircraft with a massive radar on the top of it.
[Image changes to show Taylah talking to the camera]
The RAAF has a fleet of six of them and they’re kind of like a flying air traffic control tower.
[Images move through of Rhett walking towards a building, an aerial view of Rhett walking, a computer screen displaying the game, and then Rhett operating the computer]
Rhett Loban: I think it’s important to recognise indigenous people in STEM because I think it’s an opportunity for Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people to share their knowledge with the wider Australian community.
[Images move through of Taylah walking along outside a building, Taylah talking to two school girls, Taylah displaying something on a Smartphone, and then Taylah talking to the camera]
Taylah Griffin: By recognising the indigenous achievements in STEM we’re putting a spotlight on indigenous excellence and we’re highlighting to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians that STEM education and STEM careers and STEM excellence are all completely achievable.
[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears on a blue screen: CSIRO, Australia’s innovation catalyst]
A partnership between the BHP Foundation and CSIRO, the Indigenous STEM Awards recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM professionals and students as well as schools, teachers and mentors working in Indigenous STEM Education.
Associate Lecturer at Macquarie University and designer of Torres Strait Virtual Reality, Rhett Loban, received the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM Professional Career Achievement Award.
Torres Strait Virtual Reality is a virtual reality game to highlight the unique traditions and history of the Torres Strait Islander people.
The game illustrates environmental knowledge, astronomy, stories and cultural practices specific to the Torres Strait Islands.
Rhett, a Torres Strait Islander, is passionate about using new technology and ways of learning in schools and universities.
“There isn’t a lot of digital media out there in terms of Indigenous content, particularly for Torres Strait Islander content,” he said.
“Through participation and recognition of Indigenous peoples working in STEM, everyone can benefit and learn from each other to power innovation.
“I really enjoy using new and digital media within education. At Macquarie University we are setting up a virtual reality lab and looking how we might use virtual reality in schools and universities.”
Taylah Griffin , winner of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Student STEM Achievement Award is a proud Gangulu woman who grew up in Gordonvale in Far North Queensland.
She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Electrical and Aerospace Engineering (Honours) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and works for Boeing Defence Australia as a Graduate Systems Engineer.
“My love for both my culture, and for STEM, are my motivations,” she said.
“I’m the first Indigenous person to graduate with Honours in Electrical and Aerospace Engineering, and the first Indigenous female to graduate with any engineering degree at QUT.”
“The future job market will be led by STEM and currently, less than one per cent of Indigenous students are studying STEM at university.
“If we don’t put a spotlight on Indigenous excellence and promote STEM to young Indigenous Australians, then the gap will continue to grow.”
Areyonga School won the School Award for their bilingual two-way science program.
The school works closely with a community of Elders who share their incredibly valuable traditional ecological knowledge with staff and students.
Each of the winners will have a presentation in their home communities throughout March and April.
The Indigenous STEM Award program is part of the Indigenous STEM Education Project, managed by CSIRO and funded by BHP Foundation.
The Indigenous STEM Education Project aims to increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM Professional Career Achievement Award
Rhett Loban, Macquarie University, New South Wales.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM Professional Early Career Award
Tui Nolan, University of Technology Sydney, New South Wales.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Student STEM Achievement Award
Taylah Griffin, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary Student STEM Achievement Award
Jordan Salmon, Clancy Catholic College, New South Wales
Jordan Griffiths, Seaton High School, South Australia.
Areyonga School, Northern Territory.
Markus Honnef, Innisfail State College, Queensland.
STEM Champion Award
Marcus Lacey, Gumurr Marthakal Rangers, Northern Territory.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Science Award
Deklan, Paralowie R-12 School, South Australia
Sha-Kira Austin, Byron Bay High School, New South Wales.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Maths Award
Stacey and Renee Edwards, Mount St Bernard College, Queensland
Lara Riley, Newton Moore Senior High School, Western Australia