• Over 1,400 female students participated in interactive activities at Melbourne’s Luna Park.
    Over 1,400 female students participated in interactive activities at Melbourne’s Luna Park. AIR4
  • MathsAlive!
  • MathsAlive!

The inaugural AIR4 event has taken place in Melbourne with the aim of encouraging young women to see the value in pursuing STEM studies.

More than 1,400 female students and 80 teachers participated in various interactive activities at Melbourne’s Luna Park, including learning about driverless cars and experiencing a HoloLens firsthand.

Students also had the opportunity to attend a special screening at St Kilda’s Palais Theatre of Jasper, an animation made in partnership with the RAAF and the University of Technology Sydney.

Jasper was made to spark interest in aviation and developed using both traditional techniques and new technologies such as robotics and 3D printing.

Jasper’s character is based on Squadron Leader Jacqueline Killian, who voiced the main character and shared her personal story and career achievements at the event. The film was recently awarded Gold at the 2018 Animation Effect Awards and Festival.

According to Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne, the interactive activities offered students the opportunity to have fun with rides and attractions while exploring the possibilities of STEM-related fields.

“Women represent only 16 per cent of STEM graduates across Australia. In order for Defence, and indeed the country, to get the very best capability, we need to have greater female participation in STEM subjects,” Minister Pyne said.

“We may have the next aerospace inventor, satellite engineer, or a future fast jet pilot at the AIR4 event. For these girls, we see their future as limitless, and we would like them to see it that way too.”

“It’s great the students got to engage in exhibitions such as the Augmented and Virtual Reality, where participants could fly or watch a pre-recorded flight, wear protective equipment and helmets used by Defence personnel every day and test new wireless sensing systems,” Minister for Defence Industry Steven Ciobo said.

Also on the STEM education front, Raytheon is set to launch their MathsAlive! exhibition in Canberra this week. The program aims to make maths practical and fun and let students from primary school through to high school see maths in action. The exhibition has interactive displays that are designed to answer the age-old question: “Will I ever use all this maths they’re teaching us?”

Working across a range of areas from sport and fashion through to engineering and space, the program provides access to experiments and the professionals behind them.

Speaking to ADM in the lead up to the launch this week, Jessica Formica, a Raytheon Australia engineering staff executive, shared her engineering journey and what inspired her to choose this path. From primary school interest to working on the Air Warfare Destroyer and Collins Class Submarine programs at Raytheon Australia, Jessica’s journey is just one of the many paths from school to industry.

“My journey started in primary school at a young age. I was always that kid asking why? How? Can you explain this to me?” she said. “From microscopes, to magnet kits and everything in between. I loved making things, but was more artsy in my problem solving. In Year 9, there was a science competition to build a motor. I went to my cousin who was an electrical engineer and we spent 6 weekends bringing it together! We still joke that it could power a washing machine. I won the comp and it went from there.”

From primary to high school and then into university studies in mechatronics, Jessica’s journey was characterised by both parental and school support, with teachers playing an important role in her journey.

In addition to championing the MathsAlive! program, Raytheon Australia also co-sponsors an initiative with Questacon – known as Engineering is Elementary – which provides teaching materials to teachers who may not have a STEM background themselves.

“Engineering to me was understanding the theory of something and then applying it in a real-world way,” Formica said. “Many engineers are hidden from the public; unless you know one personally it’s not like you would interact with one the way you would a doctor or lawyer. Programs like this let you see that engineers come in all shapes and sizes. Eroding that stereotype around what an engineer should be is really important.

“It can be hard to see what the path looks like when you’re at school and see something like an AWD and think, how can I do that? Engineers get to do some cool stuff and I’m glad I can be an example in this space of what that can look like,” Formica said.

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