Inland Rail helps to inspire and educate students in STEM

Over three days in June at Narrabri’s Crossing Theatre, more than 400 students from across northwest NSW participated in fun and educational workshops as part of the Science and Engineering Challenge, hosted by the University of Newcastle and sponsored by Inland Rail.

Inland Rail staff helping primary school students with their Mars Rover activity.

Students from years 5, 6, 9 and 10 got hands on with activities and challenges from the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

The age-appropriate workshops helped raise student awareness of and interest in STEM subjects and careers. Some eager Inland Rail representatives also participated in the workshops, inspiring students with their personal experiences and the real-life opportunities that exist after school.

Inland Rail Design Manager Claire Jager was energised by the enthusiasm and excitement students showed during the primary school discovery day.

“It was so interesting to see students adapt their ideas and build on them through the testing process. And the excitement when their experiments worked was infectious! They got to experience some really cool stuff that was never accessible when I was at school”.

Nick Stavropoulos, Senior Engineer at Inland Rail assisted teams with their Mars Rover activity, which required students to design, build and test offroad buggies over increasingly uneven terrain.

Students worked in teams to collect various parts and had to plan for load bearing capacity, suspension, tension, mechanics, design, weight and balance to construct their buggies. Each team had six attempts to test their creation, with the highest score going towards their total score for the day to win the STEM trophy.

Nick’s partner host for the Mars Rover activity, Inland Rail Stakeholder Lead Kylie May was really impressed by the contribution of staff and volunteers in encouraging students to aim high.

“The event provided a perfect platform for high school subject selection and career decision-making for students, and hopefully sparked an interest to work in rail one day.”

Event highlights included the nail-biting bridge building challenge, where model bridges were tested in front of all students and judged by members of the Inland Rail team. During lunch a science show that brought STEM concepts, like force and motion, to life also got the crowd excited.

The three-day event is supported by Inland Rail through the STEM on Track partnership with the University of Newcastle, which is designed to raise awareness of STEM and build capability and aspiration in regional communities. The partnership aims to reach communities along the Inland Rail alignment to show that regardless of where students grow up, they have a chance to go after the career of their dreams. So far this year STEM on Track partnership events have engaged 240 schools across regional NSW and southeast Qld.

IMAGE: Inland Rail staff helping primary school students with their Mars Rover activity.