Young Engineers Summer Holiday workshops launch kids into STEM

24 January 2022

Regional Queensland's brightest young minds have spent part of their school holidays immersed in LEGO®' as CQUniversity hosted a series of Young Engineers STEM (science' technology' engineering and mathematics) workshops designed to challenge and inspire them.

Held at CQU campuses in Gladstone' Bundaberg' Rockhampton and Mackay' as well as Cannonvale State School' the two-day workshops attracted over 160 school students from Years 1 to 8.

Combining the use of hardware' LEGO® building blocks and coding' the students created several prototypes that were related to the space industry' including the Mars Rover' space elevators' pumps' radio circuits' paper plane launchers and rocket launch site cranes.

For the first time' electronic kits were also introduced at selected workshops for the eldest participants' which allowed them to gain hands-on experience in understanding' designing and building circuits that they use in everyday life.

Event organiser CQUniversity Deputy Director of Online Systems and Future Proofing' Pavle Jeric said the electronic kits were a huge hit.

"The launch of our electronics program' which uses brand new kits' allowed the kids to dive deep into the circuits that underpin many of our day-to-day applications'" Mr Jeric said.

"Students had a crash lesson on basic circuits' then we built a metal detector' an FM radio and a record and playback device.

"During lunch breaks' we experimented with various types of rockets that flew using bicarb soda and vinegar or air pressure' which was ideal for teaching hypothesis making and data collection.

"There was also time for creative play' where we saw some interesting space vehicles that look like they belonged on the set of a Star Wars movie."

Throughout the workshops' instructors incorporated play-like scenarios' where the students were sent on spy missions to retrieve their build plans from rival space agencies' or they had to solve mathematical puzzles to unlock access to their build equipment.

Mr Jeric said with most of the students now facing an extra two weeks of school holidays' parents were seeking ideas on how to keep them entertained.

"We received great engagement from parents who were keen to continue their children playing and learning on these themes even after the workshops. So' we started sharing tips on the props and books we used on our Facebook page'" Mr Jeric said.

With the Young Engineers programs becoming more popular each school holidays' Mr Jeric and his team try to make each program both fun and educational by exploring the careers and jobs of the future.

"One of the best things I get out of these workshops as an organiser is to tackle the fun challenge of tailoring themes to workshops that are delivered in regional Queensland'" he expressed.

"At the Summer Holidays workshops' we explored how Australia's and Queensland's geography lends itself to launch sites' how our vast regional spaces that are devoid of light pollution are ideal for observing the skies' and the different types of STEM careers kids can one day pursue at CQUniversity.

"We engaged with over 160 children' and I would not be surprised if many of them chose to pursue a STEM career."

Mr Jeric has already commenced brainstorming ideas for the theme of the Easter School Holidays program and said the school-based workshops will be starting when schools reopen in February.

"Our Young Engineers instructors' most of whom are CQUniversity students' are looking forward to getting back into it and we are inviting any CQU student who might have an interest in joining our team to reach out and get involved'" Mr Jeric said.