Inspiring next generation

Department of Defence

Primary school students will continue designing submersibles, parachutes, water filters and bridges thanks to a recently extended partnership between Defence and Questacon.

The Engineering Is Elementary program was extended this year, with Defence providing $18 million over five years to train about 1500 teachers and encourage them to integrate STEM subjects into their teaching.

The program’s ultimate aim is to plant the seed of curiosity so students can see what a STEM career in Defence would be like.

Teachers participate in eight units that have been converted by Questacon into workshop activities.

Defence engineers give teachers real-world examples of creative thinking and problem-solving, either virtually or face-to-face.

Flight Lieutenant Michael Schramm teaches the virtual workshops and wants to showcase what gets students interested and engaged in STEM subjects

“Students are fascinated by unique technologies like rockets, phone-controlled drones or even just funny ways to change their voice online,” Flight Lieutenant Schramm said.

“Engineering isn’t that hard to understand – it’s about problem-solving and finding new ways to use technology to do it.

“If you think about a Lego set, you can do a lot with its pieces, but it’s an engineer who dreams up a specific design.”

The program is designed to gear the ability to teach students with a military perspective.

Captain Nathan Pagulayan assists with ensuring that the workshops have access to Defence personnel that offer technical mentoring and said it was excellent to see all the motivation.

“People are a bit afraid of STEM; they think it’s too complex, but it’s not that scary because it relates to so many aspects of life,” Captain Pagulayan said.

“These sorts of activities influence the next generation and instil confidence in individuals to get involved in STEM.”

Questacon supplies resource kits containing materials to the teachers after they participate in the workshops.

There are also a series of videos to complement the units and showcase real-life applications of engineering.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Karlovic, of STEM Taskforce Recruiting and Attraction, said there were a lot of opportunities for the training to be delivered to schools in remote locations.

“We want to get in front of young Australians to see what potential careers there could be for them, particularly in regional and remote areas,” Lieutenant Commander Karlovic said.

“We look at all ideas to improve the program and all opportunities to partner with territory institutes and TAFE programs.”

/Public Release. View in full here.