STEM Academy recognised in Eureka Prize finalists

More than 90% of female participants in a Flinders University Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Enrichment Academy have gone on to study the subjects in their senior year of high school, with the program successfully reversing young girls’ negative attitudes towards a career in the booming sector.

The Flinders program has now been recognised as a finalist in the STEM inclusion category of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.

Since its establishment in October 2018, the STEM Enrichment program has reached 531 Year 9 girls in South Australia, with excellent participation rates across all three enrichment days, its design and technology series and STEM conferences.

Reversing a trend of declining female STEM participation is more important than ever, with The Global Gender Gap Report (2020) finding a 31.4% average pay gap between men and women in the global STEM workforce, which could take almost 100 years to close based on current trends.

Australia’s record also needs to improve, with the country listed only 44th out of 153 countries on the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index.

Director of the STEM Enrichment Academy, Associate Professor Maria Parappilly, says research has shown that science becomes less challenging for young women participating in the STEM Academy, helping them to develop positive attitudes towards careers in scientific fields.

“We’re extremely delighted to see the sheer impact of our program on the girls, driving participant enrolment (a staggering 91%) in year 11 STEM subjects, including girls from regional SA.”

“The results from the 2021 STEM Enrichment conference highlight the significant impact enrichment initiatives can have on young women to consider careers in STEM, by engaging them in informative and inspiring activities that underline the benefits and opportunities of such an education.”

“There are limits on undertaking these activities at school, as the curriculum covers a large spectrum and resources are finite, so if we want more girls to consider STEM, we need to create positive interventions that enrich and empower our girls.”

“Create more hands-on activities, allow them to perform science rather than making them to listen to the lectures and long panel sessions.”

In addition to providing enrichment programs for students, the Flinders STEM Enrichment Academy also ran teacher professional development workshops in physics, mathematics, and technology subjects.

“Our research findings show that hands-on enrichment activities were favoured by both students and teachers, and positively shifted student attitudes towards science, getting the girls to think about science through cool activities.”

Winners will be announced on Thursday 7 October at a live broadcast event that is free to stream online.

STEM Enrichment Program Fast Facts:

  • 221 students attended the 2019/21 STEM Enrichment conferences
  • 280 students were enriched through the Real Science Enrichment Days program
  • 11 Professional Development sessions were offered to teachers, focussing primarily on physics and engineering
  • 8-14 teachers attended each Professional Development session
  • Total of 85 teachers participated in the Professional Development workshops
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College of Science and Engineering