Five girls redefining what's possible in STEM

The success of an all-girl team at the national finals of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge in Adelaide last week is helping inspire more females into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school.
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The Golden Diversity team celebrate at the National F1 in Schools Championships in Adelaide. Photo: REA

The success of an all-girl team at the national finals of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge in Adelaide last week is helping inspire more females into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school.

The Golden Diversity team from Queechy High School in Launceston are five girls aged 14 and 15.

“We saw it as an opportunity to extend our learning," said team manager Yara Alkhalili. "Our school always taught us to take every opportunity offered to us, so we decided to take a chance.”

The team members believe strongly that women and men should receive equal opportunity in the area of STEM employment.

“Coming into such a male dominated competition, as an all girls team, we felt that we were underestimated because of our gender by other teams”, Alkhalili added.

“The attitude towards us from other girls has been extremely positive with many young women coming up to us and saying that we have inspired them to pursue STEM opportunities. One example was the first development class team from the Illawarra to make it to the National Finals. They came up to us to say that they met us at the last Nationals and we inspired them to take part in the competition.”

The five girls aren't yet certain which careers they will choose but say that exposure to STEM has opened an unimaginable number of doors.

“Through F1 in Schools we have gained important life long and transferable skills that will aid us in any career we want to pursue," said Alkhalili.

"It has had a considerable influence on how we approach the areas of careers we will pursue by giving us the practical and authentic learning environment in which to advance our skills and abilities. As well as giving us more opportunities within our schooling.”

The organisation behind the competition, Re-Engineering Australia Foundation (REA), says F1 in Schools attracts upwards of 40,000 students each year and is just one of its competitions, which also include Subs in Schools, the Land Rover 4x4 Technology Challenge and Jaguar Primary School Challenge.

REA Founder Dr Michael Myers said 38 percent of the entrants in its STEM competitions are female and more than half (58 per cent) of those girls say that, as a result of their participation, they have changed their career direction to one which involves STEM.

“We link Schools, Industry, TAFE, Universities and parents in a collaborative and experiential learning environment focused on changing the metaphor of the education process," said Myers.

"The challenge is multi-faceted and multidisciplinary. It encourages students to collaborate with industry partners within the context of their projects to learn about engineering principles such as physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, leadership/teamwork, media skills and project management, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive and exciting way.”

Nominations are now open for Engineers Australia's Women in Engineering Gender Diversity Awards. Find out more.

 [The Golden Diversity team celebrate at the National F1 in Schools Championships in Adelaide. Photo: REA]