Students leverage STEM skills for a brighter future

During 2018, the nbn™ STEM+X initiative has offered students a virtual link from the classroom to some of the brightest minds in STEM.

To get students excited about developing their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and combining learning with their hobbies and passions, this year, NBN Co teamed up with the Australian Business Community Network (ABCN) to offer the nbn™ STEM+X initiative.

Eight schools from across the country were selected to take part in the program, which aimed to give students real-life STEM experiences, culminating in a virtual learning competition: the nbn™ Futurists’ Fair.

Following three months of brainstorming, planning and hard work, the students have now brought their efforts to fruition, presenting their ideas to a panel of STEM advocates.

But, first, more on the initiative.

The nbn™ STEM+X initiative

Launching in February, the program saw students from eight schools across the country participate in hands-on STEM workshops designed to present an engaging introduction to the role STEM plays in many facets of everyday life.

The ‘X’ in ‘STEM+X’ stands for ‘experience’, which meant encouraging the participating students to relate their new STEM skills to their interests, hobbies and passions like fashion, music or sport.

The participating schools represented every state and territory, and included:

  • Para Hills Primary School, Adelaide (SA)
  • Canadian Lead Primary School, Ballarat (VIC)
  • Islington Public School, Newcastle (NSW)
  • Glenorchy Primary School, Hobart (TAS) 
  • Leanyer Primary, Darwin (NT)
  • Invermay Primary School, Launceston (TAS)
  • Townsville Central State School, Townsville (QLD)
  • Beaconsfield Primary School, Perth (WA)

Following their STEM workshops, the students were tasked with developing an idea to help brighten the country or their community’s future by attempting to solve real-life challenges. They would then present their ideas at the nbn™ Futurists’ Fair to Kathrine Dyer, Chief Network Deployment Officer at NBN Co; Allegra Spender, Chief Executive Officer at ABCN; as well as Scott Gaunson and Brett Stanford from the YouTube channel How Ridiculous.

And on offer for the winning idea? A special school visit from How Ridiculous for a day of STEM-filled fun. (Each participating school would also score themselves a tech prize pack to help them develop their STEM education programs.)

Sharing ideas at the nbn™ Futurists’ Fair

On the day, students connected with the STEM advocates panel via videoconference to NBN Co’s Sydney headquarters.

Before the first session, Spender said, “We are so excited to see how the students are using STEM skills to pursue their passions and social issues they want to change, and hope they see the vital role it plays in addressing some of Australia’s biggest problems.”

And their problem-solving ideas didn’t disappoint.

Ideas presented by each school include an initiative to reduce the use of plastic on campus, a disaster-relief application, and equipment fundraising for underprivileged peers.

Para Hills Primary School

The thoughtful kids at Para Hills worked on developing a website called ‘School Savers’, which aims to provide basic school supplies, like clothing, to those not able to afford the items essential for attending school.

Canadian Lead Primary School

Canadian’s tech-savvy crew decided to complement an existing program in their school with an app to use on mobile or tablet. The US program called ‘The Zones of Regulation’ helps children and adults alike to regulate their behaviours, emotions and feelings.

Islington Public School

Concerned about plastic in the environment, Islington’s forward-thinking students focused on developing apps to help educate people about plastic and the value of reducing, reusing and recycling. One of the apps was modelled on popular video game Minecraft to help create a rubbish boom for their local creek.

Glenorchy Primary School

For Glenorchy, it was also about saying no to plastics with the aim of raising awareness about bringing plastics into school via lunch box items. This environmentally conscious bunch is creating an app so teachers can track how much plastic is coming into their classrooms and then set a weekly goal to reduce it.

Leanyer Primary

To support the community and help keep them safe in times of extreme weather disasters, the caring kids of Leanyer Primary created a power-generating, connective phone case and app complete with customisable drone.

Invermay Primary School

Invermay’s game-loving students are bringing gamification to cleaning up the local environment. Their app lets users scan logos and barcodes on discarded rubbish to collect points and ‘level up’. The app includes a map to track data on where rubbish is found, lists the top 10 brands of rubbish and also incentivises recycling.

Townsville Central State School

These creative kids are designing a sustainable ‘dream shelter’ to provide students with a special place to relax during lunch times. Inspired by the North Queensland environment, as well as coral and marine life from the Great Barrier Reef, the shelter incorporates the best-suited and sustainable power sources.

Beaconsfield Primary School

At Beaconsfield, the community-minded students are developing an app to capture and communicate information about their school’s fundraising, and to provide handy access to funds for future developments.

Now that they’ve shared their forward-thinking, STEM-based ideas with our panel of judges, the students are excitedly awaiting the final winner announcement.

“I was excited to see what the students came up with at the nbn™ Futurists’ Fair and they should all be commended for their hard work on the initiative. The students are really in tune with the issues facing their communities, and it’s great to see their passion in tackling them,” says NBN Co’s Dyer.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates on the winning idea.