“Streaks of yellow and orange fill the sky as the sun sinks below the ocean horizon – another beautiful sunset to mark the end of our final day on Thursday Island. This was my second time up in this remote area of Australia’s far north and once again I fell in love with the beauty of its landscapes and its people. The purpose of the trip was to deliver introduction-to-engineering workshops as part of EWB Australia’s School Outreach program.
I joined a group of volunteers from Origin Foundation that visited schools on Thursday Island and Horn Island, where we taught students about different types of engineering and had them building floating houses, water filters, bridges and prosthetic legs. It feels quite special to take the workshops to remote areas such as the Torres Strait Islands, where students typically have limited access to such Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs. The workshops have the potential to open up new doors to career pathways that some students in these areas have never heard of and I feel privileged to be a part of that.
This trip was made even more special by the opportunity to pilot some of the new resources I have developed as part of my MECCA M-Power project. In particular, resources that include elements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture that link to science and engineering principles – resources that I was inspired to create after my first visit to the Torres Strait.
During the development of the new resources, I have tried to follow the human centred design process. The content specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture has been prepared in partnership with INDIGI LAB, an organisation working towards greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion and perspectives in STEM. Once the content was compiled, piloting the materials and seeking feedback was the next key step. I am very happy to report that I received a great response from students and teachers in the Torres Strait and I picked up some tips to help improve the resources. A resounding theme throughout the feedback was the value of including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in the resources – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are able to relate more to the subject and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander successes in STEM fields.
Delivering workshops in the Torres Strait was not only good for piloting the new resources, but also for helping me to get back to seeing the bigger picture of my project. I have been very busy working on the details of a number of different activities that make up my project and at times have felt a bit overwhelmed by my lengthy to-do list. But getting back into the classroom and watching the students faces light up as they learn new things and get their hands dirty, while also having lots of fun myself, helped to remind me of the reason I wanted to pursue this project in the first place – to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.
It particularly filled my heart with joy to see the pre-school and kindergarten students mesmerised as they watched dirty water become clean as it passed through their sand filters. One student even wrote a little story about the workshop.
All in all, the trip to the Torres Strait was a great success. I received some great comments and advice that I will feed into the resources that I am continuing to develop. There is still plenty of work to be done, but now with a refreshed view of the vision and long term goal of my project – to leverage EWB Australia’s School Outreach program to break down stereotypes so that diverse young Australian’s can see themselves as the engineers of the future.”