Wagga Wagga students take on the Science and Engineering Challenge

Primary and high school students in Wagga Wagga have been given a glimpse into exciting future career opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) fields after taking part in the STEM on Track Science and Engineering Challenge led by a specialist team from the University of Newcastle.

Students from Sturt Public School take part in the Science and Engineering Challenge

The visits were made possible by a $700,000 investment from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) Inland Rail Skills Academy. Designed to raise awareness of STEM and build capability and aspirations in regional communities, the STEM on Track partnership supports the University of Newcastle to deliver educational programs in regional communities along the Inland Rail alignment, between Brisbane and Albury.

Last week, the University of Newcastle presented the Science and Engineering Challenge over two days in Wagga Wagga, with approximately 450 students from 16 local primary and high schools invited along to join the fun.

In groups, students participated in a day-long competition where they accumulated points for activities including constructing model bridges, designing earthquake-proof towers, building a model glider, using string to plan efficient transport networks, and constructing a space buggy on a mission to Mars.

The highest scoring schools from each region will subsequently compete against each other for a place in the state and national finals.

The University of Newcastle was awarded the prestigious United Nations Day Honour last year for the Science and Engineering Challenge, in recognition of the program’s longstanding efforts to advance inclusive and accessible STEM education and engagement in Australia.

Stephen Jones, Inland Rail Director of Health, Safety and Environment said:

‘We’re delighted that the STEM on Track partnership with the University of Newcastle is supporting young people in regional areas to have fun exploring science.

‘The Science and Engineering Challenge days are an important way for us to give back to our communities and support the next generation of STEM professionals, giving them a positive experience of science and engineering.

‘We are committed to supporting the wellbeing and prosperity of communities along the Inland Rail alignment and this partnership means students in regional communities are benefiting from these programs and having fun along the way’.

Professor Craig Simmons, University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engineering, Science and Environment said:

‘The Science and Engineering Challenge is designed to provide high school students with a fun and practical experience in science and engineering.

‘We know that if students can have the positive experiences in earlier years, it can encourage them to then go on and choose a career in STEM, so these early activities are really important for students.

‘At the University of Newcastle, we believe that students in regional areas should still have the same opportunities as people living in Sydney, which is why it is so important for us to bring initiatives like the Science and Engineering Challenge to the region’.

IMAGE: Students from Sturt Public School take part in the Science and Engineering Challenge