Geelong GALS on track to become leaders in STEM
School-aged girls in Geelong have discovered how science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) can be used to fix real-world problems in a Deakin University-led project.
The grade 5 to year 8 students from nine local primary and secondary schools used STEM to tackle issues in the playground and beyond.
Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin will address the cohort at a launch held from 4pm on June 23 at the Geelong Performing Arts Centre.
Students from all participating schools will attend and give a short presentation on their projects.
Project lead and School of Education Associate Professor Linda Hobbs, a member of the Centre for Research for Educational Impact, said the Girls as Leaders in STEM (GALS) program introduced girls to the world of STEM so they might one day consider careers in the traditionally male-dominated sector.
The program is funded by The Invergowrie Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that funds women’s education and has taken a particular interest in increasing girls’ participation in STEM.
“GALS gives girls with all kinds of interests, strengths and backgrounds the chance to succeed,” Associate Professor Hobbs said.
“It shows girls that they are part of a future where girls can be STEM leaders. Being a STEM leader means having something important to say. GALS gives girls the chance to create solutions to important problems facing society and industry and a platform to say it.”
Associate Professor Hobbs said she was blown away by this year’s GALS cohort, comprised of 52 students who went above and beyond to bring their projects to life. Earlier GALS programs held at schools in Geelong in 2020 and 2021, and Warrnambool and Mildura last year were also a resounding success.
The program will be run in Warrnambool and Mildura later this year, and the Deakin team are hoping to expand the program further by visiting other parts of Victoria in the future. A website that houses online STEM learning activities is also being developed.
“Research shows that solutions to the world’s problems need to be created by people from all genders and backgrounds. Complex problems require complex solutions. GALS gives these girls a voice and a moment in time to shine, and permission to think outside of the square and be solution creators,” Associate Professor Hobbs said.
“A great by-product of this program is we often find girls are more inclined to identify issues in their local community and seek to solve them for the benefit of everyone using STEM processes. They often have a community-focused and sustainability approach.”
Included in the GALS program is advice for teachers on ways STEM can be incorporated into classroom learning activities.
Women who currently work in STEM also give talks to the students and workshops are held so students can get hands on experience putting the STEM skills they learned into practice.
“This year, solutions focused on waste, such as edible cutlery and waste in the fashion industry. Other groups are creating assistive solutions for their friends, such as a device to support a friend in a wheelchair sit comfortably on a couch, and a device to help another friend with autism cope with loud noises. Other groups are tackling the issue of microfibres in our waterways. One is doing an education campaign to raise peoples’ attention to bee habitat destruction,” Associate Professor Hobbs said.
Participating schools in this year’s program are Holy Spirit Catholic School, Belmont High School, Saint Ignatius College, Grovedale West Primary School, Newtown Primary School, Belmont Primary School and Ashby Primary School.