STEM Camp Opens Eyes to Potential Careers 

Twenty-seven year 9 girls from across Central Queensland met recently at the Boyne Island Environmental Education Centre for its annual Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) Camp.  

Students from as far afield as Dysart and Mundubberra joined local students in the program.

The principal of the education centre, Dr David Kopelke said the program was in its eighth year with this year’s camp extending over 5 days. Dr Kopelke acknowledged the generous sponsorship of the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership that reduced the cost for the participants. “All the presenters spoke highly of the girl’s enthusiasm and expressed keenness to contribute again in 2019”

Students were kept busy with both day and evening programs. Important lessons were learnt in how to combat cyberbullying and how to protect themselves from the potential dangers of inappropriate use of social media. The technology was used to assist in an Astronomy session exploring the universe and a Plankton study uncovered the microscopic organisms in oceans and rivers. 

The girls participated in a number of workshops. These included a presentation from Dr Megan Ellis from Gladstone Ports Corporation who guided the girls through a study of turtles and sharks while Dr Emma Jackson from Central Queensland University took them on field work to look at the seagrasses in Gladstone’s harbour.  Central Queensland University’s Dr Linda Pfeiffer discussed potential careers in the field of STEM and under the watchful eye of Prof. Matt Dunbabin from the Queensland University of Technology, the students also coded underwater drones to explore the depths of Gladstone Harbour.

Boyne Island Environmental Education Centre staff led the girls in examining the effect of stress on the human body as they undertook the centre’s high ropes challenge course, used a GPS to navigate their way through the bush, and built hydraulic operated mechanical arms.

Somone Boston from Port Curtis Harbour Watch provided the girls with an opportunity to tackle world water issues. They were challenged to design and build a wetland to filter polluted water. Using their measured water quality factors, they calculated the effectiveness of their wetland system to ‘clean’ the water.  “I was impressed with the different ways the students designed systems to clean polluted water. We used data loggers to measure improvements in water quality” said Ms Boston.  

The girls acted as citizen scientists undertaking the University of Queensland’s CoralWatch program that monitors the bleaching of corals.

Throughout the week, the students also worked away on a technology project on the iPads to produce an iMovie delivering a message about the world of STEM and their experience at the Centre.

All presenters talked about the diverse pathways they followed in STEM that led them to their current positions; inspiring the girls’ to recognise their potential to find employment in fields that have been traditionally male-dominated.