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Fostering STEM Excellence in Schools

Northern Mallee Local Learning and Employment Network (NMLLEN) has been at the forefront of promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in secondary schools, exemplified by our multifaceted initiatives.

2018-2019: STEM4Sunraysia Triumphs

In 2018, Northern Mallee LLEN, in collaboration with SuniTAFE, Skills and Jobs Centre, Mildura Regional Development (MRD), and Regional Development Australia Loddon Mallee, launched STEM4Sunraysia. The initiative saw over 150 Year 9 students engage in the program, marking the beginning of a successful endeavour. The positive response led to a repeat in 2019, solidifying STEM4Sunraysia as a pivotal program.

STEM4Sunraysia 2019 video clip by SuniTAFE

2021: Adapting to Challenges with STEM4Sunraysia Hybrid Model

Despite COVID-19-related challenges in 2021, STEM4Sunraysia persisted. To adapt, a hybrid model was adopted, featuring local businesses such as Cooke Industries, Christie Centre Inc., SuniTAFE Smart Farm, and Mildura Paddle Steamers. These businesses presented real-world problems, and students, guided by mentors, used STEM technology to propose innovative solutions.

The virtual event on November 10, 2021, was facilitated by Leighton Wells and Paul Dillion from Regional Rising. 65 students from 6 secondary schools engaged and watched the 3-minute industry videos featuring industry problems/ scenarios. Students asked relevant questions to gain knowledge of the four problems before watching the guest presenters Rebecca Tapp and Melissa Neighbour from Future Crunch deliver on the topic of ADAPTABILITY Quotient. Between November 11 and November 28, students continued to work in groups with support from their teachers and through mentorship sessions facilitated by Northern Mallee LLEN.

Pic Above L to R: Melissa Neighbour and Rebecca Tapp from Future Crunch. Paul Dillion and Leighton Wells from Regional Rising.

The mentor panel included:

  • Cr. Jason Modica (MRCC), Shane Hatchard, CEO- (Redstar Media),
  • Jeremy Gidding- Regional Manager Irrigation – Mallee, Biosecurity and Agriculture Service, (Agriculture Victoria, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions)
  • Dean Matulick, Managing Director (DMW Engineering).

The students prepared their pitch presentations in a 6-minute video that was presented to the judging panel prior to the virtual awards presentation on December 1, 2021. The judging committee comprised of :

  • Nicole Byrnes (Project Leader, Horticulture Innovation, SuniTAFE Smart Farm),
  • Justin Nicholas, General Manager (Cooke Industries),
  • Samantha Jetson, Business Development Officer, (Christie Centre Inc.),
  • Ashton McKenzie, Marketing Manager (Mildura Paddle Steamers)
  • Vanessa Hall-Smart Cities Project Officer (MRCC)
  •  Brett Millington, CEO, (Mildura Regional Development).

Regional Rising returned to facilitate the STEM4Sunraysia once again. Final presentations were submitted by Irymple Secondary College, Red Cliffs Secondary College, Chaffey Secondary College and St. Joseph’s College.

The competition culminated in a virtual awards presentation on December 1, 2021, where Chaffey Secondary College emerged as the winner.

Pic above: Year 9 2021 STEM4Sunraysia participants from Chaffey Secondary College presented the winning solution for Mildura Paddle Steamers- Image Credit: Chaffey Secondary College

Left- Red Cliffs Secondary College presented a very impressive solution for Cooke Industries.

Right- St. Joseph’s Secondary College presented a very impressive solution for SuniTAFE SmartFARM 

2022-2023: Expanding Horizons with STEM Idols

Building on the success of STEM4Sunraysia, NMLLEN introduced STEM Idols in 2022. This event, aimed at Year 9 girls, addressed the gender gap in STEM education. The inaugural event in 2022 featured talks by accomplished women in STEM, including Anne Mansell, Rebecca Wells, Dr. Zelmari Coetzee, Dr. Alison Walker, Dr. Nicole Byrnes, Vanessa Hall, and Sanam Chhusyabaga. Students received insights into diverse STEM career pathways and interacted with the speakers in a speed dating format.

A VR desk facilitated by SuniTAFE allowed students to experience the world of augmented reality and virtual Industry tour. The STEM Idols event in 2022 witnessed the convergence of 80 Year 9 girls from six secondary schools in the Sunraysia region.

In 2023, STEM Idols continued its transformative impact. Collaboration with Agriculture Victoria added a practical dimension, with students constructing digital moisture sensors and exploring the link between agriculture and STEM. The event attracted 60 Year 9 girls, 10 science teachers, and 5 Industry Guest Presenters. Additionally, a Get into AgSTEM workshop at Robinvale College, facilitated by NMLLEN, further extended the program’s reach.

Watch the STEM Idols 2022 preview here:

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