Championing Design Through STEM Girl Power

STEM Girl Power was on display at QUT in March when the QUT Design Lab again hosted a transdisciplinary campus workshop program for the final day of the annual STEM Girl Power Camp. The event coincided with World Science Festival (WSF) activities that took place in Brisbane.

The 56 regional high-achieving Year 10 girls became designers for half a day on Friday 23 March to tackle some of the greatest global STEM challenges, through three hands-on workshops exploring wearable technologies, the future of robotics and plastics pollution.

You can see them at work here.

With employment in STEM growing two times faster than other occupations, the camp is an important initiative of Advancing education: An action plan for education in Queensland. 

Organised through a partnership between the Department of Education’s State Schools Division and the Queensland Academy for Science Mathematics and Technology (QASMT), the camp addresses the lower participation rates of girls in STEM subjects and careers, particularly in regional Queensland.

“After a week of immersion in STEM during the World Science Festival, the QUT workshops gave the girls a great opportunity to explore real world applications of the STEM disciplines and widen their perspective on STEM careers, beyond what is available to them in their regional schools,”  Dr Kathy Mackey, QA Manager and Program Manager of the STEM Girl Power Camp said.

“Both the students and the teachers will return to their communities across Queensland with the tools to inspire others,” she said.   

Program co-ordinator Natalie Wright, said that the camp allowed QUT Design Lab to showcase design’s critical role in STEM education, and highlight the great work that its researchers are doing in the three core research programs exploring design for Health and Wellbeing,Technologies of Tomorrow, and Communities and Resilient Futures.

“The program was designed to ignite the passion for twenty-first century innovation and enterprise, and empower both the students and teachers as critical, creative and collaborative agents of change. It also exposes the girls to the QUT university campus and the feast of opportunities it offers them for future study,” Natalie said.

Dr Rafael Gomez, facilitator of the Wearable Tech for Sun Safety (Designing for the Aussie Sun) workshop, said the experience in the J Block Fabrication Workshop highlighted the importance of designers, scientists and technologists working collaboratively to achieve solutions for the sun safety of Australians.

Dr Glenda Caldwell and Dr Jared Donovan, facilitators of the Designing for the Future of Robotics workshop enjoyed sharing the Design in STEM experience with the diverse group of talented students drawn from across Queensland.

Dr Jared Donovan facilitates the Designing for the Future of Robotics workshop

“We were able to discuss a range of highly relevant issues in relation to robotics and the kinds of roles we want these technologies to play in future society. The students were incredibly bright, perceptive and brought an engaged criticality to the discussion,” Glenda said.

Dr Manuela Taboada, facilitator of the Plastic Attack: Saving our Oceans workshop, was also impressed by the enthusiasm of the girls and teachers who participated.

“This collaboration with the Department of Education and Queensland Academies allows us to share and discuss ideas for improving our communities with some of our future leaders.  It’s great to see the girls embracing these twenty-first century challenges, such as the human destruction of our ecosystems, with the gusto and agency that these complex systemic problems deserve,” Dr Taboada said.

The QUT Design Lab would like to thank Karen Hall and Karen Macintosh from the Department; Dr Kathy Mackey from QASMT; Dr Erica Mealy from University of the Sunshine Coast and the staff from the QUT J Block Workshop (Wearable Tech for Sun Safety workshop); Alan Burden (Designing the Future of Robotics workshop); and Carla Amaral (Plastic Attack: Saving our Oceans workshop).