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Two years of CQUni Gladstone’s STEM Central taking science beyond classrooms, into community

Published:11 August 2020

AVP (Gladstone and Wide Bay Burnett Regions) Luke Sinclair, Gena Harms (student volunteer), ConocoPhillips community relations manager Rob Gibb, Mirrin Rashleigh, Somone Boston, (front) Kobie Everingham (student volunteer), Dr Linda Pfeiffer.

It’s a state-of-the-art experience that takes science, technology, engineering and mathematics out of the classroom and into the real world – and in two years, the STEM Central facility at CQUniversity Gladstone Marina has attracted visitors from across the community.

The Australia Pacific LNG STEM Central hub first opened in August 2018, and Project Lead Dr Linda Pfeiffer said it’s inspired thousands of science enthusiasts in the two years since.

“The highlight has definitely been the diversity of people who use of the facility – from five-year-olds getting their first experience of flying a drone, primary and high school groups from right across the region, then Indigenous elders, and even senior citizens,” Dr Pfeiffer said.

“When we set out to establish STEM Central, we didn’t realise it would have such a broad outreach and value for the whole of community.

“But it’s not surprising given the concentration of high-tech industries in the region, our access to the Great Barrier Reef from the campus, and the number of community stakeholders passionate about its success.”

To celebrate the anniversary, on Tuesday 11 August STEM Central leaders from CQUniversity, APLNG and ConocoPhillips shared a birthday cake with local Year 2 students, before exploring a range of activities ahead of National Science Week (15-23 August 2020).

The class was the first students to get back on-site since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Queensland, but Dr Pfeiffer said STEM Central had continued to offer science education throughout the lockdown.

“Across May and June we delivered a fully immersive virtual reality classroom experience to primary schools in the region, as well as sharing STEM challenges every week via YouTube,” she explained.

“But it’s really great to welcome students back into the space – STEM Central is designed to switch on excitement about connecting with coding, and robotics, and natural science, and you just see their eyes light up when they realise what they’re capable of creating.”

In October, more students will flock to STEM Central, as it hosts the Queensland Virtual STEM Academy (16 Oct), the fourth-annual First LEGO League (21 Oct), and The Science Experience (previously the ConocoPhillips Science Experience), a three-day experience for Years 9-10 students across October 27-29.

STEM Central is part of a four-year, $700 000 agreement between CQUniversity and ConocoPhillips, as the downstream operator of APLNG.

And Dr Pfeiffer already has big plans for next year, including a 20-week program for Indigenous primary school students, and the CQ STEM challenge that will see Years 5-8 students race and compare remote control cars powered by hydrogen, battery and petrol.

For more information about STEM Central activities and coming events email STEMCentral@cqu.edu.au

RELATED: Listen to Dr Pfeiffer's advice for parents supporting home learners on CQUniversity Commentary podcast.