The Department of Defence has extended its Engineering Is Elementary program partnership with The National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, by providing $18 million over the next five years.
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The partnership will train more than 1,500 teachers in workshop activities and encourage the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects into their teaching.
The overall aim is to help educators plant the seed of curiosity and inspire students to consider careers in STEM fields through activities such as designing submersibles, parachutes, water filters, and bridges.
Flight Lieutenant Michael Schramm, who has participated in the virtual workshops, said Defence engineers give teachers real-world examples of applying the engineering design process to solve problems, either virtually or face-to-face.
“Students are fascinated by unique technologies like rockets, phone-controlled drones or even just funny ways to change their voice online,” FLTLT 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 increase STEM literacy and skills, providing educators with hands-on and simple methods to bring STEM into their classrooms.
Captain Nathan Pagulayan, who has attended the workshops as a STEM role model, 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,” CAPT 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,” LCDR Karlovic said.
“We look at all ideas to improve the program and all opportunities to partner with territory institutes and TAFE programs.”