Enjoy the ride: How In2science mentor, Julia Ogon encourages students to find their passion and never stop learning

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Julia Ogon, an In2science mentor from RMIT University wants high school students to know that choosing to study something you are passionate about is as important as being mindful of where it will take you. It is a stressful thing to consider as a young adult and is the main reason she chose to become an In2science mentor.

“I wish I had someone to give me advice and share their personal experience before deciding on schools and degrees”, Julia writes. By mentoring and helping in classes she wanted to show younger students that it was okay to not follow the most common path to your goals and “anything can be achieved if you just go for it, no matter your age.”

Julia combined her love for creativity and mechanical systems by pursuing a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design. Julia’s main drive in doing something multi-disciplinary was to make sure it was something that evoked passion and was useful in solving real-world problems.

Her studies took her to Spain last year where she completed an internship at an international research facility, focusing on Metal Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing in Barcelona. “It was one of the best years of my life”, she reflects, because in addition to practising mechanical engineering and design Julia immersed herself in a new culture. When Julia returned to Melbourne, she immediately signed up to In2science so she could share her experience with others.

Although it has been a rocky year, with a limited opportunity to mentor in classrooms, it hasn’t stopped Julia from thinking outside the box. Along with joining weekly virtual classrooms at Keysborough College, Julia has participated in the In2science content creation project, where mentors make short videos for teachers to share with students in their online classes. Her first video explores the endless possibilities of 3D printing.

When asked about her In2science experience and what advice to give to university students interested in joining, Julia says, “Mentoring is a lot of fun, very rewarding and does not take up a lot of your time. Being able to pass on experience and advice is an important step”, but more importantly “your contribution may inspire someone to realise what their future can be!”

If you are a university student interested in mentoring for In2science, click here.

 If you are a teacher, click here to host a mentor in your classroom.

Engaging students in STEM during COVID-19 – In2science online forum

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On the evening of Wednesday 5 August, Victorians braced themselves for a second lockdown period meaning that young people across the state would once again be separated from face-to-face learning, their peers and formative life experiences. It was an opportune time then for In2science, in partnership with Engineers Australia, to host a national panel of esteemed STEM experts to discuss how we support students in these unprecedented times.

The panel focused on innovative approaches to the discussion: In the COVID-19 environment, how do we engage students in STEM disciplines? Looking beyond the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we enlisted STEM experts and educators who have long standing experience working with students facing barriers to education. We were thrilled to have Australian Government Women in STEM Ambassador, Author, Astronomer and Broadcaster, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith as keynote speaker. Prof Harvey-Smith then joined our panel, which included CEO of Engineers Australia, Dr Bronwyn Evans, founder of Deadly Science, NSW Young Australian of the Year and Indigenous STEM champion, Mr Corey Tutt, and Junior School Principal at Melton Secondary College, STEM educator and former In2science mentor, Ms Kathryn Sobey. This panel discussion was moderated by In2science Chairman, the Honourable Professor John Brumby AO. 

Prof Harvey-Smith kicked off the event with an inspiring keynote address targeting the barriers facing young people progressing in STEM careers. Professor Harvey-Smith spoke about how holistic learning experiences are powerful tools to engage school students, particularly for young women. These include experiences which are drawn from real world connections between community and career outcomes rather than rote or content-based learning, “This will show our young people that it is possible for a STEM career to take them somewhere really special”.

An insightful discussion followed on the very tangible impact COVID-19 has on young people by Melton Secondary College Junior Principal Kathryn Sobey, the role that industry can play in creating partnership opportunities with schools and communities from Engineers Australia CEO Bronwyn Evans and novel ways we can create meaningful engagement with young people from rural and remote communities, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, from Deadly Science founder, Corey Tutt. The discourse and commentary was refreshing in a time when many Australians are navigating the anxiety of an uncertain future. More importantly, the event highlights that the current crisis creates an opportunity for positive collaboration to support our young people in their STEM journeys in a post-COVID-19 world.

“Science equals hope and education is freedom” – Corey Tutt, founder of Deadly Science, NSW  Young Australian of the Year and Indigenous STEM champion

Over 220 participants joined this live discussion and were able to ask questions in real time, sparking a renewed enthusiasm for tackling the challenging road ahead. To watch (or re-watch) this event, click here. Here you will also find the contact details and links to get in touch with our speakers, or you can contact the team at In2science directly [email protected].  Finally, In2science expresses its profound gratitude to Engineers Australia and our generous event sponsor, CMP Consulting Group’s Gems in STEM program.

In2science eMentoring program pilot at The University of Western Australia supports students in the Peel Region

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Seventeen students from four regional schools in Western Australia’s southern Peel region were encouraged to consider a career in STEM this year thanks to the launch of In2science’s eMentoring program by The University of Western Australia (UWA) with support from the Alcoa Foundation. Volunteer university mentors, through UWA’s Aspire program, connected weekly with Year 9 – 11 students online to build STEM aspirations and close the disadvantage gap between regional, outer metropolitan and metropolitan school students.

Bronwen Veale, UWA School Partnerships Coordinator, who oversaw this successful pilot reflected on the importance of peer mentoring, “Being able to connect online in this way means that high school students can still meet and learn from university students, despite living away from the Perth metropolitan area”.

In its first week, Bronwen observed enormous enthusiasm from the participating students of Pinjarra Senior High School, Harvey Senior High School, Gilmore College and Coondanup College.

The pilot, which ran for 5 weeks, concentrated on building rapport, outlining goals and increasing student participation and engagement in STEM by breaking down negative stereotypes, forming positive associations with students’ sense of personal identity and providing them with tangible examples that STEM is interesting, relevant and important.

Nine Aspire Ambassadors studying STEM degrees were chosen to mentor students who were carefully selected by their schools. Selected students demonstrated an interest in STEM and either had diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, were first-in-family to consider tertiary education or were facing financial disadvantage.

Mentor, Vish, who is studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, was excited to connect with students from his old school. When reflecting on his own student experience at Gilmore College, he said, “I graduated from a low socio-economic high school and so going to that high school I felt that I missed out on these university connections and opportunities because it was located so far away from university.”

Treasure, a mentor studying a Doctor of Medicine at UWA, expressed the importance of role models, saying, “Part of you having dreams and aspirations is keeping those dreams alive and sometimes when you don’t have those mentors in your lives it’s easy for those dreams to fade”.

“My mentees made my time really enjoyable as an eMentor. I could see that they all shined in their own way and developed more interest in entering university and the science field.” – An Qi, In2science eMentor and UWA Aspire Ambassador at Coodanup College

An Qi, a mentor studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science placed with Coodanup College said at the conclusion of the pilot, “It was definitely a great experience for me. I could see that both my student mentees and I have developed new skills throughout the program. I developed better organisational, communication and leadership skills. They gained awareness of pathways that are available to them, study tips and science careers. My mentees made my time really enjoyable as an eMentor. I could see that they all shined in their own way and developed more interest in entering university and the science field. I believe our positive interactions during the program really helped us achieve more than what we expected. We frequently communicated about high school experience and future aspirations. The bond we made definitely helped us open up and learn from each other.”

In2science is delighted that our highly trained mentors can spark enthusiasm for STEM study and careers in a growing number of secondary school students around the country. In2science is exceedingly grateful to the Aspire program team and the Alcoa Foundation for their outstanding execution of, and support for, this important initiative.

That’s a wrap! In2science celebrates Semester 1 with first online professional development session with Groupwork Centre

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To round off a very memorable semester, In2science wanted to celebrate the dedication, enthusiasm and resilience of our mentors through an uncertain and challenging semester. The move, en masse, to online modes of communication and collaboration presented a great opportunity for mentors from our partner universities all over Victoria to join us for a celebration and professional development workshop where they learned skills to use in the future as mentors and in their careers.

In2science collaborated with local Thornbury collective, Groupwork Centre to provide our mentors with a dynamic online session on effective engagement and facilitation skills in mentoring. Facilitators Liz Franzmann and Henry Fowkes designed the workshop to focus on the scientific perspective of how young people engage online and to further empower their mentees with emotional resilience. In learning about the SCARF model, mentors came away with a framework to facilitate meaningful conversations with mentees so participants feel safe and empowered to share ideas and opinions.

This was the first time In2science offered an online professional development session and it was Groupwork Centre’s largest group of attendees in an online training session. Over 50 In2science mentors attended with all partner universities, La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT University and Monash University well represented. There was a healthy mix of content delivery and application using smaller groups in breakout rooms, with many mentors commenting that 1.5 hours just flew by.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Over 90% of mentors agreed that they learned valuable new content and now had strategies they could confidently apply in their own mentoring. One mentor commented that, “just chatting with other people who have similar values in science education” was a highlight, and another said that the role-playing activity in small groups to illustrate communication micro-skills helped them “learn a lot…since it was a practical and real example of what could actually happen.”

It was a pleasure to host Groupwork Centre and provide In2science mentors with a valuable experience they can use when interacting with young people and others in future workplaces. We look forward to working with Groupwork Centre later in the year to expand the foundational skills presented in this initial workshop.

Problem-solving and curiosity is the heart of engineering, says In2science mentor Jacob Maynard

By | News, Profiles

 

Engineering is more than mathematical equations and building blocks. In2science mentor, Jacob Maynard has been debunking these stereotypes in his class at South Oakleigh College since he joined the program in 2019. For Jacob, who is studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) at Monash University, engineering is ultimately about curiosity and problem-solving.

Jacob specialises in “materials engineering” and chose to pursue this degree because “it is challenging, but so rewarding when you get your head around a new concept or figure out a way to solve a problem”. He joined In2science because he wanted to share his experiences with younger people. Practically, he got the opportunity to demonstrate this by leading a physics experiment about light and remembers this as being a significant highlight of his placement. He says, “It was really cool to be able to combine my scientific knowledge of the topic with the relationships I had built with the students over the semester”.

To take this passion for engineering further, Jacob wants to work in the sustainability and renewables sector. When asked why, Jacob elaborates, “Engineering provides you with a better understanding of how the things we take for granted in our everyday lives actually work and why they’ve been designed the way they have, but also encourages you to challenge those ideas and constantly search for ways to improve them”. This philosophy gives Jacob the motivation to develop materials that can decrease human impact on the environment. He is open to all the career pathways engineering allows and says, “as long as I am doing my part to arrest climate change and maintain our natural environment then I will be satisfied”.

“It was really cool to be able to combine my scientific knowledge of the topic with the relationships I had built with the students over the semester.” – Jacob Maynard, In2science mentor at South Oakleigh College

When reflecting on the In2science program, Jacob says that the experience is an amazing professional development opportunity for university students. In addition to networking within a dynamic and rich community of like-minded STEM enthusiasts and professionals, Jacob says that university students looking to get involved in In2science should, “Do it! Being able to share your experience with younger students to help them on their journey and extend their understanding of science is extremely rewarding”. After all, “curiosity if one of the most important ingredients of learning”.

If you are a university student interested in mentoring for In2science, click here.

 

 If you are a teacher, click here to host a mentor in your classroom.

KBR and In2science provide regional secondary students access to real-life engineering experiences

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The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have dramatically impacted our education sector, limiting opportunities for schools to provide extra-curricular STEM experiences for their students. Despite this, due to the hard work of the In2science eMentoring team and our valued partnership with KBR, who have enthusiastically supported program during these challenging times, we have been thrilled to be able to continue to offer our Meet an Engineer program this term.

Our Meet An Engineer with In2science x KBR was piloted in 2019 to great success and provided secondary school students an opportunity to connect with young STEM professionals. Regional schools are significantly disadvantaged by distance and a lack of role models and resources. Coupled with the lack of excursions and incursions due to COVID-19 restrictions, this initiative was vital to enrich their experience with In2science.

Six enthusiastic engineers joined our eMentoring sessions to share stories and experiences about their STEM journeys. These conversations specifically explored career pathways in engineering, the importance of engineering and its contribution to society, our environment and technology, and how STEM skills set students up for a rewarding future.

The feedback from these sessions were overwhelmingly positive. Mentor Daniel said that his student loved speaking to KBR engineer Shannon, saying, “The session was fantastic! (My eMentee) loved it and learnt a lot. It is the kind of job she may be interested in one day”. Engineer Ben made such a great impression with his eMentoring group that the eMentee requested he attended another session because he had so many questions!

One school student expressed to her mentor she was unsure of what to do when finishing high school. When this eMentee finally met with engineer Dev, some of her concerns eased when Dev shared her story of being in the same position at aged 15. From an eMentor’s perspective, Vishnu said the experience “was really great. I had an opportunity to learn more about real-world experience. Thank you for giving us this wonderful opportunity”. That session was rich with conversations about what subjects to do for VCE and pathways to higher education. Interactions like this are so important because it illustrates that it is okay to not have all the answers or a solid plan when in school. Feeling lost or being unsure does not prevent you from having an rewarding STEM career, and Dev was proof of that for this student.

The magic that these KBR engineers provide for these students are that their stories are useful, and most importantly, relatable. Students could speak with professionals doing what they love. This is extremely meaningful for female students who were matched to female engineers, showing that engineering is an attainable, relevant and desirable career choice.

If you are interested in becoming an industry partner with In2science, email In2science Director Dr Alison Every ([email protected])

If you are interested in joining the In2science eMentoring program, Click here!

 

In2science mentors enrich the online classroom experience for Lalor North College students

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Term 2 began in front of a computer screen at home for most school students in Victoria. In2science partner schools recognize the importance of university mentors and teachers have been incredibly proactive to include them in their virtual classrooms.

One of these teachers is Carolyn Drenen, teacher of Chemistry, Science and Mathematics from Lalor North College who invited her mentors Karina Rice and Maree Patsouras to join her classes using WebEx. When asked about her experience with our mentors, Carolyn said,

“Both Karina and Maree have been enthusiastic, professional helpers when they were on our school campus (before the COVID -19 school closures) and during my remote classes, as we have all had to adjust pretty quickly to these new learning environments. I am very lucky to have their expertise and support during this time.”

Before the first class, Carolyn sent briefings to Karina and Maree. Carolyn explained the structure of the lesson and how to best use their expertise to enrich the learning experience of her students. Karina, who is studying Bachelor of Science in Biomedicine at La Trobe University, was asked to share her experience in how scientific models are used at university to illustrate concepts. The theme in Maree’s lesson were the uses and major discoveries using electromagnetic waves. Maree, an honours student in Bachelor of Psychology at La Trobe University, was asked to share her knowledge on how electromagnetic waves contributed to breakthroughs in psychological testing and research.

In the first week of online mentoring, Karina sat and observed the lesson which helped her arrange something interactive for the next lesson. After two weeks of online mentoring, Maree gave students practical examples of how the topic is applied in psychology, noting that giving real life examples worked well to engage the students. Later, Maree said, “I had a really productive lesson and felt like I really contributed. It was an adjustment to online classes for me, but I am feeling more confident about my role in the classroom”.

Overall, Carolyn is thrilled with how her classes are progressing, despite the dramatic shift in teaching and learning from the classroom to online over the last month. Carolyn praised our mentors, saying, “I am extremely lucky to have two enthusiastic In2Science mentors (in Karina and Maree) and they are both doing a fantastic job in this challenging on-line learning environment”.

This is just one example of how In2science is assisting school students so they can maintain their enthusiasm for studies through this unprecedented time. If you’d like to know more about our tailored online mentoring options during remote learning, click here.

 

In2science upskills mentors to join remote learning across Victorian secondary schools during the COVID-19 pandemic

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When the COVID-19 pandemic forced all Victorian schools continue classes at home, In2science spurred into action. As teachers were preparing the mammoth task of delivering all classes remotely, In2science Coordinators from The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, RMIT and Swinburne University of Technology were upskilling their mentors to facilitate quality mentoring online.

In2science mentors support students from low socioeconomic backgrounds who face significant educational disadvantage. Normally, mentors would join science and maths classes at these schools and work with teachers to help students relate schoolwork to real-world examples, share their STEM experiences and motivations for studying at university. With the inability to interact with kids in person, In2science faced the challenge of virtually connecting with disadvantaged groups of students—who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM—in a way that would maintain students’ engagement in STEM subjects during significant disruptions to their educational and family lives.

In2science already has an online mentoring stream (eMentoring) for regional and rural secondary students. Leveraging our expertise in online mentoring and training techniques, In2science built a framework to upskill in-class mentors for diverse online learning environments. Ninety-four mentors were trained to facilitate quality conversations online, maintain safety and professional boundaries, and how to approach and share mental health resources should the conversation arise.

Current and past eMentors, Stephanie Lynch (La Trobe University), Zach Wingrave (RMIT), Poojan Agrawal (Swinburne University of Technology) and Vivek Gupta (Swinburne University of Technology) attended to share their eMentoring experience and wisdom on how to successfully engage young people over an online platform.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. University of Melbourne Coordinator Hayden Dalton said, “I’m buzzing! I found it really fun and it was great to see all the smiling faces again”. When asked what they were most looking forward to, La Trobe University mentors said, “demystifying science together” and “to see the students!”. University of Melbourne mentors were thrilled that they could do more to help with many saying they were excited to begin.

Each school will deliver the curriculum in unique ways and In2science mentors are now trained to work flexibly with each school’s preferred online collaboration platform. In2science has since prepared tailored online mentoring options for teachers to best support the individual needs of each cohort. These include one-on-one or small group online mentoring, a mentor joining a scheduled online class, and a weekly mentor call or text over a safe platform for vulnerable students. Teachers are already requesting our university peer-mentors join them remotely, and placements are set to recommence imminently.

The importance of keeping young people engaged in education and STEM subjects cannot be overstated. In2science remains committed to supporting these students and their teachers during this challenging time. Read more about our tailored online mentoring options here.

Students, mentors and teachers are reaping the benefits of In2science mentoring

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As schools, teachers, students and their families navigate the new world of remote learning, we are reflecting on the impact that In2science mentors have on students’ confidence and attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). At In2science, we are leveraging the knowledge and lessons learned in over 15 years of mentoring to support students as they continue their education through remote learning.

In 2019, In2science continued to expand its reach and 5,882 Victorian high school students studying STEM at 58 schools reaped the benefits of interacting with In2science mentors. In2science recruited 318 mentors from our partner universities – La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University. These mentors connected with students over a total of 20 weeks to help build students’ enthusiasm for STEM and encourage them to consider studying science and maths into VCE and beyond.

The In2science peer mentoring model remains a powerful mechanism for improving students’ attitudes towards STEM study. The most dramatic improvement in attitudes occurred when students had regular and direct interactions with their mentor over the 10-week placement period.

The impact of In2science mentoring on girls is particularly empowering. Girls who regularly interacted with their mentor were significantly more likely to report that they would like to go to university. Moreover, girls who did not regularly interact with their mentor were significantly less likely to report positive attitudes towards STEM study and careers than boys with minimal interaction. However, not only did attitudes significantly improve when boys and girls regularly interacted with their mentor, any difference in attitudes between the genders disappeared. This feedback confirms the effectiveness of In2science peer mentoring for increasing participation for groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM.

“Sameera answered all of my questions in depth. She also organised a trip to Monash University for us to have a look, and to learn more about science pathways in the future. She was also a very approachable person, and I really enjoyed interacting with her.” – Yr 7 student, South Oakleigh Secondary College

As we prepare to support In2science partner schools and their students’ online, it is also timely to reflect on the outstanding outcomes of eMentoring for regional and rural students. The regular interactions with their eMentor via weekly online meetings has a particularly profound impact on students from regional and rural areas. More than 91% of eMentees agreed that after regular interactions with their mentor, they:

(i) have more confidence doing science;

(ii) feel that studying science or maths in VCE in achievable;

(iii) have a better understanding of how many jobs rely on science; and

(iv) would like to go to university.

The topics regional and rural students liked to discuss with their mentors also reflects their curiosity and excitement about pathways leading to higher education.  All eMentees report that they enjoy talking about life at university and 90% enjoy discussions about future studies after school.

“We have seen an increase in student confidence and enthusiasm, and students have indicated that the eMentoring experience has changed the way they feel about pursuing further education. The eMentors have exceeded our expectations with students reporting that sessions are filled with exciting debates, support with school projects, and virtual tours through the university laboratory and beyond.”  – Bretton New, Principal, Virtual School Victoria

Teachers also report outstanding outcomes for their students: 86% notice that certain students engage more in the lesson with a mentor present, with 95% agreeing that the mentor is a good role model for students. Importantly, when teachers are asked if they would recommend In2science to their colleagues they are enormously enthusiastic. This feedback is reflected in a net promoter score of 72.9. This places In2science firmly in the world-class category and is testament to the enthusiasm and commitment of mentors and the support they receive from the program.

Importantly, our outstanding mentors, while having an impressive  impact on Victorian school students, also experience numerous benefits by volunteering with In2science, with 94% agreeing that participation in In2science developed skills they will use in the future. Moreover, 92% of mentors felt they had a positive impact during their placement.

“A memorable moment was when a student, who was completely disengaged from science, was able to single-handedly complete an experiment before anyone else in the class. She said to me that she was able to do it because of my motivation and encouragement!” –  Jordan, mentor at Footscray City College

Evidently, the connections the mentors forge with their mentees can have an important positive impact on students’ attitudes towards STEM and STEM careers. In2science remains committed to supporting schools and students as they navigate this new world of remote learning, building upon the knowledge gained over 15 years of mentoring.

Find out more about our response to COVID-19 and how to host a mentor.

In2science response to COVID-19

By | News

 

The In2science team is keen to reassure all our partner schools, mentors, mentees and other stakeholders that we remain committed to delivering high quality mentoring to encourage secondary school students to study STEM and pursue STEM careers. The health, safety and well-being of teachers, students and mentors remains our top priority and in some instances, mentors will be unable to attend class in person.
To enable In2science mentors to maintain connections with their mentees, we are working with schools to arrange alternative mentoring models, including offering the program online.

Plans are well underway to provide additional training for our mentors, which will enable them to facilitate conversations online in a safe and effective manner. We are incredibly proud of these passionate and committed young people who all volunteer their time to help lift STEM educational outcomes. That commitment remains as strong as ever!

For more information about In2science and its response to COVID-19, please contact In2science Program Director, Dr Alison Every.