If renowned burns specialist Professor Fiona Wood AM listened to all those who told her “girls don’t do science” she would never have invented the world’s first spray-on skin.
“I was always bemused by the concept of ‘girls don’t do that’,” she says.
“You have two ways of going forward, you either listen or you don’t – and I chose not to listen.”
Speaking at the inaugural STEM Innovation Expo in Perth today, Professor Wood’s desire to instil a love of all things science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as STEM – in today’s students, especially girls, is powerful.
Joining with some of Australia’s leading STEM experts, she was involved in filming a video for younger females stressing the importance of learning essential STEM skills for their future job prospects.
She wants the video to drive and motivate tomorrow’s leaders.
“To connect, you have to have an understanding of science literacy right from the start. You can’t divorce science and technology from your daily life and – if we are to have a planet we are proud of – being involved in STEM is fundamental,” she says.
With 75 per cent of all future jobs requiring skills in STEM, the gathering of top industry experts and public school teachers at the Expo was crucial for collaboration, innovation and discussion.
Those attending learnt from teachers in schools that are leading STEM education and watched visual demonstrations of new and exciting ways to get students involved in STEM.
Southern River College runs an after-school program for local primary students using the STELR kit, an interactive STEM resource.
STELR presents students with a variety of modern-day problems. They explore, work together and solve them using hands-on techniques and online mechanisms.
Science program leader Mike Erith says students are involved in learning how renewable energy can be used.
“Students design and build a wind turbine, then mechanically program it to work and measure the output of energy,” he says.
“From this, they investigate how to make it better, save energy and ensure the world is a more sustainable place to live.”
Southern River College was just one of many schools showcasing innovations at today’s expo.
From next year, it’s compulsory for all schools to teach the new Western Australian Curriculum: Technologies, with its two components of Digital Technologies, and Design and Technologies.
Professor Wood has a clear message for young people about the power of education and how it can open doors.
“Education gives you choices,” she says.
“We’re moving into a space where, unless your education has a solid STEM component, your choices will be limited.
“It’s your choice, your life and your curiosity – so, to keep the doors open, STEM is essential.”