How small business can have a big impact on STEM education

To sustain Australia’s STEM industries, businesses need to step up and help schools and teachers to educate and motivate the next generation of innovators. You don’t need to be a large corporation to have a positive impact on STEM education, as demonstrated by gemaker’s small but powerful contributions in 2018, described below.

We hope to inspire other businesses to support Australian STEM students by following the simple steps we’ve taken:

1. Donate STEM equipment to your local school

This can be as simple as reaching out to your local school’s science department and asking what STEM supplies they need and either purchasing them or donating funds.  gemaker has provided Me3D printers, robotics equipment, electronics kits, STEM books and STEM career magazines (from Refraction Media) to several local schools.

gemaker MD Natalie Chapman sponsored the Lucas Heights Community School STEAM room by donating $5,000 for lab coats, safety glasses, robotics equipment and a 3D printer, so students can dress the part and be well-equipped for innovation. She also organised an amazing launch event and invited award-winning biomedical engineer, Jordan Nguyen, to tell his life story. During Science Week, Natalie spoke with SBS News about why she sponsored this initiative and what she hopes students will gain from it.

2. Run a class

In Science Week, Julie Wheway, gemaker’s Manager of Strategic Engagement, ran a class at her local school on Viscosity for Year 5 students. On the following day, she helped students to run their own viscosity experiment at the school’s science fair, dropping marbles through honey, water, oil and dishwashing liquid, in a ‘race to the bottom’.

3. Sponsor an incursion

gemaker sponsored a visit from Starr’s Planetarium to Marrickville Public School. More than 300 students experienced a stunning 360° movie: a trip through the Solar System to the edge of our galaxy and then back down to Earth to find see the night sky.

4. Connect schools with industry

Do you work in a STEM-based field or know someone who does? Why not invite them in to speak at your local school? Or facilitate a tour of a STEM workplace? As reported last week by Science Technology Australia, Australian schools are in desperate need of industry partnerships. School-industry partnerships offer a range of activities to students, including real-world projects, mentoring programs and career-taster days.

For Lucas Heights Community School, gemaker’s MD facilitated a visit for school students to the quantum computing laboratory of Australian of the Year, Prof Michelle Simmons. gemaker coordinated activities involving Telstra and Robogals, to show students examples of STEM careers and get them excited about careers in engineering and coding. Subsequent to the visit students from K-6 are now attending coding classes with Scope IT.

5. Offer STEM work experience

Work experience brings multiple benefits to senior secondary students, from teaching them the ‘soft skills’ they will need to impress potential employers, to helping them see all their diverse career options. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of meaningful work experience for Australian students interested in STEM careers. To build the workforce of the future, Australian companies must create more opportunities and encourage STEM professionals to mentor students interested in their field.

Each year, gemaker strives to take on one or two work experience students for a week. Our students have written about their experiences and what they learned here.