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A roller coaster ride into STEM

 

 

Over 1400 schoolgirls and 80 teachers headed to Melbourne’s iconic Luna Park on 22 November 2018 to participate in the inaugural AIR4 initiative, which aims to encourage young women to see the value in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

Currently, women only represent 16% of STEM graduates in Australia. Established in 2018, the AIR4 initiative is a four-year program committed to increasing the number of students undertaking STEM subjects to encourage gender diversity in STEM-based careers. It is funded by Defence Science and Technology and the Royal Australian Air Force.

From designing energy-efficient carousels, learning about driverless cars to bringing ghost trains into the 21st century, AIR4 Life – the first event of the initiative – enabled students to use the rides at the historic theme park to better understand how STEM can lead to exciting career options in aviation through to fashion.

AIR4 founder and director Professor Regina Crameri said the AIR4 program was an opportunity for schoolgirls aged 10 to 16 to challenge the perceptions of male-dominated careers and explore the endless opportunities available.

“At every stage of the education system, Australia loses female talent in the fields of Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology, despite no innate cognitive gender differences,” Professor Crameri said.

She points to research from the Office of the Chief Scientist, which shows that the achievement and retention of women is directly linked with engagement, confidence and bias around these subjects – often embedded in their minds from a young age.

“AIR4 Life will bring together 115 female mentors from Defence Science and Technology, Royal Australian Air Force, as well as industry bodies and leading education organisations such as RMIT University and the Defence Science Institute, to discuss the avenues for young women to better understand how STEM plays an essential role in their everyday life,” Professor Crameri added.

The event included the launch of Jasper; an award-winning animation created by Animal Logic Academy and Air Force to spark girls interest in aviation.

As part of AIR4 Life, Air Combat Officer Jacqueline Killian, the voice of Jasper, shared her personal story, career achievements and participation in developing the Jasper animation.

“Squadron Leader Killian’s story highlights how one young person’s dream to fly became a reality through a solid mix of science, determination and courage,” said Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Turnbull.

“Today’s schoolgirls are our future. We may have the next aerospace inventor, satellite engineer, or a future fast jet pilot at this event. For these girls, we see their future as limitless, and we would like them to see it that way too.”

The next AIR4 event will be AIR4 Aerospace, which will be held at the Australian International Aerospace & Defence Exposition in Avalon from 26 February to 3 March 2019.