In June 2021, thirteen EWB volunteers from West Australian Chapters took a four-car convoy for a week-long trip, ‘regioneering’ their way through the state’s south-west. EWB’s Regioneering program aims to inspire students in remote areas to explore engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and imagine the possibilities of career pathways. The loosening of COVID-19 restrictions finally allowed for this program to recommence in WA.
Over the course of the trip, 17 primary and secondary schools in the region were visited, with 63 workshops facilitated, engaging 1472 students. 46% of these students were female. As an underrepresented cohort in the engineering sector, this program has a particular focus on engaging with female students as just one way to encourage and inspire future female engineers.
Educators noted that the workshops sparked many students’ future career ambitions in engineering and STEM. Students were recognising how such careers can meaningfully benefit the lives of others.
“Engineering is important. Engineers are problem solvers. Our school strives to instill STEM and engineering processes throughout our Training & Education programs,” on teacher said. “I like how you are teaching engineering to benefit society and improve the lives of the less fortunate. Planting seeds in young minds.”
Among high school students, interest in pursuing a career in engineering increased by 8.2% (10.1% for students identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander) on completion of the workshop. For primary school students, interest in science or engineering as a career increased by 5.1% overall.
Hands-on wins hands-down
The hands-on activity stood out for both primary and high-school students, with almost half of all students finding the creation and design of sustainability-based engineering ideas as the most enjoyable aspect of the workshop. The creation and construction of ideas demonstrated the differing roles engineers play in everyday life.
“The workshop was a fantastic opportunity for less advantaged students to be made aware of different types of engineers and what they do. I liked how the presenters were enthusiastic, friendly, helpful, and hands-on. They developed a rapport with the students in this limited time,” one teacher emphasised.
“The strong link between engineering, sustainability and helping solve problems all over the world is greatly beneficial for students to identify engineering in this way. I would promote these workshops as great for schools.”
Alongside the hands-on work, students learnt about the role of EWB Australia in supporting community engineering projects in developing countries.
“I know several students were talking about engineering and how exciting a career in that area would be,” one teacher noted.
Within this social emphasis, the inclusive workshops ensured all students, including those with special needs, were able to participate in the activities.
Alongside the success of the program, EWB volunteers identified several areas of improvement for future trips. Both teachers and volunteers emphasised more time available for each workshop would improve the experience for students.
“Fabulous and informative, I liked the balance of theory and practice. Maybe just a little more time needed,” suggested one teacher.
Kurt Charlton, EWB’s WA Outreach Coordinator, shared his experience.
“This program was something we have been planning for years in WA and it more than lived up to our expectations. It was a great opportunity for new volunteers to build up their presenting experience and confidence, while more experienced volunteers got a chance to learn some new tricks and really focus on providing impact to students. It was great to spend so much time with a such a bright, passionate, and talented group of engineering students that were all driven to provide the school students with great experiences. We wanted to provide opportunities for students in regional areas who don’t get access to hands-on STEM incursions or excursions like this, and make sure it was a positive experience for them. It was really rewarding to see the students respond so well to the workshops, and retrospectively to see the overwhelmingly positive comments from teachers, students and volunteers involved makes it worth the effort,” said Kurt.
A Regioneering Future
EWB aims to continue to inspire Australian school students towards a career in engineering and STEM. With workshops lasting around an hour, the engagement among students prompted meaningful results in a short period of time. Regular exposure to ideas related to engineering and STEM through the program and general curriculum continues to be a meaningful approach to promote exciting career paths for students.
“The students had a fabulous time and would love to be involved again next year. Thanks again to all of your fabulous presenters,” commented one teacher.
EWB will continue to grow the program over the coming years to inspire Australia’s future generation in engineering and STEM, to support society and improve the lives of others.
The trip was made possible through the support of an Inspiring Australia WA grant.
The team of volunteers delivering this Regioneering trip were: Kurt Charlton, Kimberly Bernal, Taylah Karran, Evan Tabigue, Emersyn Johnson, Abby Ouwendyk, Jo Weston, Emily Roberts, Milan Marocchi, Tiffany Wheatley, Anton Rieutskyi, Graeme Roger, Audrey-Anne Morin.