Scholarship boost for girls STEM enrichment

Almost 300 Year 9 girls from across South Australia and the Northern Territory will gain new insights into science, technology, engineering and math at this year’s Flinders University STEM Enrichment Academy workshops – thanks to a new scholarship program for regional students.
For the first time, students from as far as Alice Springs and Darwin in the NT will travel to Adelaide for ‘hands-on’ STEM experiences to ‘be inspired’ by science, math and other subjects.
The interstate excursions have been assisted by a total $65,000 in scholarship assistance awarded to a range of NT and SA regional schools as part of the Flinders University Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship goal of introducing a further 1000 high school students and their teachers to high-tech, engineering and other pathways.
Professor of Physics Maria Parappilly at this year’s conference.

Now in its fifth year, the annual Flinders University STEM conference (18-21 June 2024) aims to provide Year 9 students with new understanding of STEM education and workplace options before they make their subject selection at senior secondary school level, says STEM Enrichment Academy director Professor Maria Parappilly.

Professor Parappilly is chief investigator of the Australian Government’s Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WiSE) grant program at Flinders University, which in its second phase is targeting a further 1000 SA and NT girls from regional and remote areas to engage in the Flinders STEM enrichment program by 2025.
“Already since May last year we have ‘enriched’ 500 schoolgirls as part of the Phase II targets and are delighted to be inundated with applications from rural and remote schools alongside strong interest from metropolitan schools to support our growing program,” says Professor of Physics Parappilly.
“Several of our NT applications state the students are interested in enrolling to study engineering, hoping to use this experience to start their STEM studies to find a career in areas of high demand and high pay.”
Engineering has one of the lowest female representations of the STEM professions, with women comprising about 16% of Australian engineering graduates and 13% of the Australian engineering workforce.

After the three days of workshops (18-20 June) an additional 80 students from St Dominic Priory College will also come to Flinders’ Bedford Park campus for the STEM experience on 21 June and 140 schoolgirls from another metropolitan school are due to attend August enrichment days.

As well as 50 NT students, there are 80 SA regional students, including from Port Lincoln, Millicent and Kadina as well as 13 Indigenous students from the SA country areas, Kaurna Plains Schools and the NT.

Darwin Middle School teacher Prue Rathborne says: “The 15 young women selected to attend the three-day workshop (at Flinders) have been ecstatic about the life-changing opportunity that will facilitate their growth and development in STEM fields.

Darwin Middle School students who attended this year’s STEM Enrichment Academy at Flinders University.
Dr Mamta Singh, left, ANSTO’s Dr Stefania Peracchi with India Shackleford, Professor Parappilly and Rahul Choudhary from Flinders who worked on the student workshops.

“As an educator, it has been inspiring to witness how an opportunity can positively shape the confidence and attitudes of young women towards their futures in STEM disciplines.”

Darwin Middle School principal Ben McCasker adds the trip to Adelaide “will unleash the possibilities to our students, as they immerse themselves in a truly rich experience.”
The WiSE grant scheme is run by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science and Resources.
Previous STEM enrichment groups, from the first phase of the Flinders program, reached hundreds of schoolgirls who were encouraged to increase STEM subject enrolment and outcomes in senior secondary school, and then through to university and tertiary level.
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