UOW festival to focus on next generation of women in STEM
More than 2,300 local high school students will descend on the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Innovation Campus this week for the inaugural UOW Festival of STEM and Entrepreneurship.
Featuring key players from across UOW campuses, the Festival of STEM will deliver an extensive program of STEM-focused activities to students from the Illawarra, Southern Highlands, Shoalhaven and southern Sydney region, with an emphasis on encouraging young women to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths with leading female role models.
From user testing in app design and experiencing a virtual underground coal mine to nuclear physics with lollies and building a spaceship interface, students will be given the opportunity to explore STEM-concepts through hands-on, interactive sessions with a range of UOW faculties.
Twenty unique STEM activities will be delivered across the Innovation Campus, with fun-filled and informative sessions taking place at the Science Space, Australian Institute of Innovative Materials (AIIM), Institute for Transnational and Maritime Security (ITAMS), the Mike Codd Building, Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) and iAccelerate, the University’s start-up business incubator.
The festival is supported by a Commonwealth grant from the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, enabling students to attend free of charge and covering the cost of registration and transport. The grant forms part of the $8 million Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grant program under the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.
The grant program aims to support women in STEM and entrepreneurship by funding outreach programs, projects and activities that foster interest in entrepreneurship, develop innovation and entrepreneurial skills, and build professional networks.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Judy Raper, said the event will have a strong focus on inspirational female scientists to address current gender imbalances.
“The number of students coming through the schooling system within the STEM subjects is declining, and of those who do make it through we are seeing a large imbalance in gender with a lower proportion of girls taking STEM subjects,” she said.
“By exposing large groups of students to strong role models in STEM – particularly women early in their high school experience – we aim to change both the students and the teachers’ opinions of the subject and not only grow the talent pool and quality but address the gender balance.”
The Festival of STEM project also strengthens UOW’s participation in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot, based on the successful UK Athena SWAN model, an accreditation and improvement program that recognises commitment to advancing women’s careers in traditionally male-dominated disciplines.
UOW is an inaugural member of the SAGE pilot project and is committed to upholding the ten principles of the Athena SWAN Charter aimed at further enhancing opportunities for women in academia.
Director of UOW’s Science Space, Mr Stuart Creal, said the interactive event program aims to inspire students.
“It is planned that students will leave the festival with a greatly improved knowledge of STEM and the possibilities available for them in following an education or career in STEM,” Mr Creal said.