A week of STEM sparks inspiration in Mackay youth

17 June 2021

Mackay's brightest young minds have been exploring their futures over the past week as CQUniversity supported a series of Science' Technology' Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) events for the Whitsunday STEM Challenge -Festival of STEM.

Given Australia's growing demand for STEM skilled workers' these activities play a significant role in helping students understand how an interest in STEM can lead to a rewarding career.

The week had a roaring start with Mackay's leg of the 2021 CQU Qld Pedal Prix Super Series held on Saturday 12 June. 10 local and three visiting high school teams participated in the annual event.

CQUniversity Coordinator and Whitsunday STEM Challenge Secretary Leanne Williams said the sport was great at attracting students who otherwise would not have been exposed to STEM learning.

"While it may seem like all fun and games for students to race around a specially designed track at speeds at up to 70km/h' teams were required to demonstrate a range of skills to design and build a vehicle that was streamlined' easy to drive' and able to sustain continuous work over eight hours at maximum input'"

she said.

Mackay Northern Beaches State High School were the overall top scorers of the day completing 160 laps in their winning vehicle 'Flyers'.

Continuing the STEM agenda' CQU Mackay hosted Brisbane based educators 'STEM Punks' on Tuesday 15 June' which Ms Williams explained contributed to an overall focus to increase the number of women in STEM industries.

"Only one-quarter of students studying STEM in Australia are women - these figures demonstrate the significance of having more than 100 students from Pioneer High' Mackay State High School' Holy Spirit College and Mercy College involved in the day.

"Events such as these work to change society's gender assumptions about scientists and increase the public visibility of women in STEM.

"Participants in Grades 7-11 were given the opportunity to learn and utilise design thinking skills alongside Tinker Cad and CoSpaces computer software to solve a real-world problem relating to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal."

Rounding up the week was a fan favourite of both primary and high school students with the Regional F1 in Schools competition and Junior Robocup event held on Wednesday 16 June.

"Multiple CQUniversity staff not only volunteered their time to be a part of the judging panel but value being part of these school competitions to engage with the next generation of engineers' scientists' and innovators'"

Ms Williams said.

"We have seen first-hand how community-wide engagement activities can encourage and motivate students to go on to higher education and choose a career in STEM thanks to the conversations and insights gained at these events."

BMA Australia is a proud sponsor of the Festival of STEM activities which include Pedal Prix Super Series' F1 in Schools and Junior Robocup. The STEM Punks women in STEM event was supported by the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Community Fund.