K-12 Schools

How to inspire kids to love science and tech?

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The industries associated with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics offer fascinating challenges and rewarding careers.

Initiatives such as the Maker Movement, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition and an increasing number of school and community driven events are dedicated to encouraging more children and teenagers to pursue studies and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

But equally important is a strategy to nurture, educate and encourage STEM mentors, who play a vital role in inspiring a passion for science and technology.

Mentors assume the role of a teacher, a supporter, and a dedicated guardian to young people as they investigate the vast opportunities of STEM fields.

The Young ICT Explorers Final

The Young ICT Explorers Final

Barker FIRST Robotics Team's Robot with The Red Crusader Robot.

Barker FIRST Robotics Team’s Robot

This is evident with the students who excel in YICTE (Young Information and Communication Technology Explorers), a competition that encourages school students to create their best ICT project. The professionals behind Young ICT Explorers believe the greatest way to bring STEM to life is by bringing mentors into the school environment and providing students with an insight into the context and potential careers of their chosen industry.

AARNet’s Education Outreach Manager Nick Cross judged several Young ICT Explorers events this year and says the inspirational mentorship offered to the young competitors was a key factor in their success.

Mentors play a critical role in the robotics competitions that many of the schools and universities in the AARNet community are involved with. This includes FIRST® Robotics — a competition that brings together students and mentors to build robots that perform specific tasks.

The mentors, including industry engineers, school teachers, university lecturers, university students, FIRST alumni, and other passionate individuals, use their experience to teach, guide and encourage the students through the challenging program.

AARNet engineers mentored a robotics team from Barker College, and were delighted to see the young team reign victorious in the Australia Regional FIRST® Robotics Competition hosted by Macquarie University earlier this year, which earned them a place in the international FIRST Championship in St Louis USA. The team and its mentors have presented workshops to schools in Sydney and as far afield as China to encourage wider participation in this program.

The importance of mentorship has been further recognised with the inaugural Day of STEM in Melbourne recently, which launched an internet-platform geared towards allowing students to communicate with the nation’s STEM leaders. The platform, run by the US-based company LifeJourney, links mentors from specific industries with interested students online — an innovative means of providing new opportunities for both children and potential mentors in Australia.

LifeJourney has already secured the support of more than a dozen companies, including the likes of La Trobe University, Telstra, Westpac, Twitter, CISCO and others, to provide their top leaders as STEM mentors.

STEM activities offer authentic challenges to young people, and their success can often be attributed to the personal connection that a mentor provides. AARNet staff are proud to join many other volunteer mentors who sponsor, support and guide young people in the pursuit of an enriching STEM career —It’s all about inspiring kids to love science and technology, and helping to equip them with the problem-solving and critical-reasoning skills to capitalise on the jobs of the future.

Watch this TEDtalk for more on the inspiring role of mentors:

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