Toyota funding facilitates meaningful career discussions for mentors and students

By | News

This year, funding from the Toyota Community Trust impacted more than 800 In2science secondary school students, building their enthusiasm for STEM and encouraging the pursuit of STEM careers, by placing 37 mentors in six schools in the western suburbs of Melbourne. 

The Toyota Community Trust was established in 2017 to honour the legacy of Toyota car manufacturing in Australia which concluded that year in Altona, Melbourne. The Trust was endowed with $32 million of which the interest every year goes towards STEM education initiatives in the west of Melbourne. 

At the recent In2science Annual Awards ceremony, Toyota Community Trust Board Director, Mr Damien Bayard remarked that In2science stood out to the Board of directors of the Trust as it delivers a three-way benefit –  to high school students, teachers and university students.

In addition to helping In2science extend its reach through more mentor placements in 2019, funding was also used to provide training to mentors, which enabled them to carry out career conversations with small groups of school students in the classroom. Mentors who participated in this pilot reported that facilitating these conversations was something they had always  wanted to do, however they had not had the training or found a mechanism to do it.

Seeking to equip mentors with the toolkit and mechanism to facilitate conversations about STEM careers, In2science selected and trained three mentors to participate in this pilot. Mentors liaised with the classroom teachers to select groups of students to participate and then guided them through a range of activities including:

  • reflecting on their interests/skills and understand how science and maths relate to these
  • identifying role models in their own life and how science and maths relate to those careers
  • identifying study options that relate to their current interests/skills
  • identifying the VCE subjects necessary to pursue the above courses
  • gaining a clearer picture of jobs, careers and study pathways through ‘Accessing their Allies’, and
  • identifying their networks.

The ‘STEM career sessions’ were piloted in Year 7 – 9 classrooms with 17 students (up to eight students per group) at Footscray City College, Laverton P-12 College, Bayside P-12 College. The impact on students’ knowledge and attitudes towards STEM careers was profoundly positive. One year 7 student noted, “I didn’t realise that science skills could be used in almost every job”. Another said, “There are so many more job options available I had never thought of before.” Despite the STEM focus, students also gained an appreciation for the breadth of courses available in higher education with one student quipping, “Wow, you can do arts and dance through university?”

As with all In2science’s STEM outreach activities, the aim is to provide maximum benefit to students, mentors and teachers. This initiative was no exception. Students experienced numerous benefits including: gaining confidence in planning and striving for a STEM-based career, acquiring practical advice on preparing resumes and identifying people within their networks that may be able to provide advice and assistance on career planning.

Mentors were challenged, but ultimately felt empowered to facilitate career discussions and thrived on the deeper connections they build with the students who participated.

Teachers appreciated the mentors’ input into career education and were grateful that mentors were able to introduce these ideas in such an informal and fun way. Importantly, mentors were also able to build upon the discussions about jobs in STEM that had already taken place in the classroom.

The great success of this pilot has encouraged In2science to roll out ‘STEM career sessions’ more broadly across more In2science schools. For more information about ‘STEM career sessions’ or In2science in general, please contact In2science Program Manager, Robyn Gamble.

In2science is grateful for the generous support of Toyota Community Trust.

In2science Annual Awards and celebrating 15 years of peer mentoring in Victoria

By | Events, News

The sun was bright and warm on the evening of the 2019 In2science Annual Awards when 140 friends and supporters of the peer mentoring program gathered at the Melbourne Museum. It is the most highly anticipated event on the In2science calendar because it is our opportunity to formally recognize the achievements of exceptional mentors, schools, teachers and students in 2019.

This year was made more special as In2science celebrates 15 years of significantly impacting secondary school students’ attitudes towards STEM and its career pathways through positive mentoring relationships. Since its inception in 2004, In2science has successfully mentored more than 69,000 students in 184 partner schools across Victoria. Indeed, the program continues to expand its reach; this year alone, In2science mentors reached 5,822 students in 58 partner schools, across 320 mentor placements.

In2science Program Director, Dr. Alison Every opened the event with a video that showcases eMentoring, an online mentoring program that benefits secondary students across regional, rural and remote Victoria. Dr Every also acknowledged the generous support of this year’s Awards sponsors, Toyota Community Trust, CSL and Bosch.

Dr. Every reflected on the highlights of 2019, which saw In2science build upon nascent industry partnerships for a greater alignment between industry and education, including: (i) a successful pilot with KBR Inc. where graduate employees particpated in “Meet An Engineer” sessions with regional eMentees, (ii) in collaboration with Engineers Australia, In2science hosted a STEM Partnerships Forum with Australia’s Chief Scientist and In2science Patron, Dr. Alan Finkel delivering the keynote speech (iii) engaged Campus Consultancy to deliver professional development workshops for mentors, and (iv) with support from the Toyota Community Foundation, engaged six schools in Melbourne’s West. Finally, 2019 finished on a high as In2science received news that Victoria’s Department of Education and Training will support our initiatives to engage regional, rural and remote students through eMentoring until 2023.

The Honourable Professor John Brumby AO, Chair of the In2science Advisory Board gave his keynote speech, first acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land, the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung people. Professor Brumby spoke eloquently of the importance of turning the large challenges Australia currently faces into opportunities through nurturing and developing the STEM skills in our schools, paying tribute to all who make In2science a success, from teachers, mentors and students to In2science staff, government and philanthropic funding partners and In2science’s five partner universities, La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University.

The Mentor Support Award was awarded to teachers Steve Kuruc of South Oakleigh College, who successfully introduced In2science to his school this year, ensuring its immediate success by providing a welcoming, inclusive environment for mentors and Ben McKenzie from Emmanuel College, Warrnambool who hosted 4 mentors for student groups participating in CSIRO’s Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) program.

Preston High School’s Principal, Sean Butler, then stepped up to the podium to accept the Engagement School Award. Having accommodated several In2science mentors across all areas of their STEM courses, Preston High School’s teachers are enthusiastic and are collectively driven to enhancing their students’ experience in STEM subjects. This year, In2science were fortunate to partner with Toyota Community Trust to engage students in Melbourne’s West. Toyota Community Trust’s, Mr Damien Bayard acknowledged the benefits that are experienced by secondary school students, teachers and university student mentors alike, “A win-win-win relationship”, before presenting Outstanding Mentee Student Award, which was given to joint winners, Jemima Healy from Virtual School Victoria Huy Nguyen from Mount Alexander College.

Annabel Martinac, a year 10 student from Galen Catholic College in Wangaratta, was invited to speak about her experience with In2science and her mentor, Erin Cameron. She spoke about the instant connection she made with Erin and how easy it was to communicate with someone closer in age. At each session they brought a piece of science to share and learned new things each week. Erin gave her guidance and insight to what the future could hold, and soon Annabel felt comfortable and excited to pursue VCE and the opportunities beyond it. Annabel said, “I never thought I’d be sad to have my Monday lunch free and be able to go outside with my school friends. This experience has been more valuable than I could have ever imagined. I would definitely recommend it to any high school student”.

This year In2science was fortunate to receive support from Bosch Australia and CSL to sponsor some mentor awards, showing that employers are taking notice of the important work In2science does for the next generation of STEM graduates.

Ms Amy Kaa from Bosch Australia presented the Impact Award to Nicholas Robinson from Swinburne University, awarded to a university mentor who has made a significant positive impact in engaging students in science and maths. Alistair Grevis-James from CSL, also an In2science alumnus, presented the Regional Engagement Award to winner, Zach Wingrave, from RMIT University, an inspirational university mentor in the online eMentoring program.

Vivian Tran from La Trobe University was recognized for her outstanding contribution to In2science as a winner of the Role Model Award. Throughout the year, Vivian was driven to empower high school students in breaking down negative stereotypes. The Dedication Award was given to Rachael Hart from the University of Melbourne, for her outstanding commitment to the program, her mentees and the mentor community. Sameera Tadikonda from Monash University won the Above & Beyond Award for the exceptional initiative she displayed in engaging students in science or maths. Sameera was solely responsible for planning an excursion and campus tour for her mentees to connect with STEM faculties and labs at Monash University.

Finally, In2science mentor Dionne Argyropoulos from The University of Melbourne was invited to speak about her experience in the program over the last few years. Dionne elaborated on the privilege of working with students and witnessing the spark in curiosity and joy when they resonate with STEM topics.

The sun finally set as the official proceedings ended, and all those who had been involved with In2science reflected on a wonderfully positive year. This success has been reflected through the hard work and support from the In2science team, its Advisory Board, our industry partners, the schools, teachers, mentors and mentees. In2science would like to thank all who have been involved over the last 15 years to make this peer mentoring program impactful and hugely important in improving STEM attitudes and careers of secondary school students in Victoria.

In2science would like to thank Awards sponsors, Toyota Community Trust, CSL and Bosch for the generous support.

Click here to read more about the 2019 Annual Awards
Click here to see a photo gallery of the 2019 In2science Annual Awards

 

In2science builds bridges between KBR engineers and high school students

By | News

Imagine if you were faced with a 14-year-old who asked, quite simply, “If you could go back and start university again, would you have done things differently?”. That’s exactly what KBR engineers had to grapple with when they sat down to talk with keen-eyed, enthusiastic high school students and their In2science mentors last month. At first, there was silence. And then, something amazing happened.

Earlier this year, global engineering firm, KBR, who is currently responsible for the removal of a number of railroad crossings in Melbourne, approached In2science because they wanted to be involved in the important work we are doing for high school students across Victoria. This presented an outstanding opportunity for our eMentoring program, as it involves regional students who are often significantly disadvantaged by distance, a lack of role models and a lack of resources.

And so, “Meet An Engineer with In2science” came to be, where early-career engineers could meet with our eMentees and talk about their engineering journeys. After a careful selection of student-mentor groups that we knew would be interested in the opportunities the world of engineering offered, the pilot was ready to launch.

Among the challenges the engineering industry faces, a major one is the lack of female engineers. Currently, women make up approximately 13% of the engineering workforce and only about  16% of students graduating with a university engineering degree are female. This year, Alesha Printz, General Manager, Victoria Division at Engineers Australia told the panel at In2science’s STEM Partnerships Forum that there is a “huge marketing issue for women” when it comes to pursuing a career in engineering. A lack of visible role models is a huge problem across all STEM education and career paths; this pilot afforded the ideal opportunity for female and regional high school students to talk to real engineers.

The brief was simple, get students curious and excited about the diverse world of engineering. Over the course of two weeks, six KBR engineers joined an eMentoring session to let mentors and students glimpse what it’s like to be an engineer. As with many first encounters there was some initial shyness to overcome, but within minutes the awkwardness dissipated, and the stories and questions began to flow.

Relating Minecraft and Lego to bridge building and world-making was a big hit, and students were especially excited when engineers shared projects they were working on because students are not necessarily aware of how many people with specialised skills are needed to construct things in an urban world. One group focused on moving long distances for work and the challenges you face when finishing university in search of employment, while another spent half an hour on the aesthetics of wind turbines and community engagement.

So, if you could go back and start university again, would you have done things differently? Every single session had a question like this one, and in each instance, there was silence at first. Even the mentors were stumped for a few seconds, as the question applied to them as well. It’s a good question. It’s a hard question, and the answer is never simple. However, students were not looking for the correct answer, they were looking for an honest answer, and all the KBR engineers and mentors gave them that. Life journeys change, and almost everyone did not follow the paths they started on at university. However, they all kept doing something that interested them, that made them excited. Each student loved this, and it removed much of the anxiety of choosing the right subjects for VCE or the right university course. It wasn’t about making the right decision for the rest of your life, it was about making a decision that opens doors.

The “Meet An Engineer with In2science” pilot provided high school students with a rare opportunity to speak to professionals on an even playing field and to receive reinforcement that even if life is challenging, if you do something that gets you excited, you are travelling on the right path. More so, our female students could speak to female engineers doing what they loved, showing that engineering is a relevant, attainable and highly desirable career path.

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!

 

Passion can be contagious: Changing mindsets in the classroom for the better

By | News, Profiles

“I’ve always had a passion for science, and I know that given the right environment this passion can be contagious.”

Vivian began her In2science journey in late 2018 when her PhD supervisor told her about the program. “I discovered that In2science’s goal to build positive mindsets towards STEM subjects really resonated with me”. For Vivian, mentors not only empower high school students, but “break down negative stereotypes, such as the idea of science being ‘boring’ or ‘nerdy’”.

One way Vivian has done that in the classroom is to get her hands dirty… literally. “There have been two memorable experiences that stand out most from my placement… first where we conducted a sheep heart dissection, and the second was in my final session for the term was when I was lucky enough to be able to run my own class and give the students an ‘Introduction to Chemistry’ and show how it relates to the real world”.

In 10 short weeks Vivian has “seen a big change in the students’ mindset towards science…Even students who initially did not see a point in doing science as a school subject were able to realise that STEM has a role in each of our lives”. Like most mentors, Vivian says that the students are the best part of In2science. “Each class is different and being able to spend time with each student and talk to them about their future career goals is such a rewarding experience. It is great to see the students open up over time and be able to build trusting relationships”.

Personally, Vivian says that In2science has helped her refine her science communication skills and the ability to think on her feet, especially when asked so many challenging and insightful questions. These skills will help her in the future, as she is aiming to combine her passion for scientific research with promoting educational equity in schools. For now, Vivian is enjoying her postgraduate studies and mentoring for In2science. “I can’t wait for the next term to start,” she writes, “(and) to see if my class has continued with this positive mindset!”

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

Mentor David helps students tackle real-life community STEM problems

By | News, Profiles

Often In2science mentors give their students unique opportunities to participate in real life STEM applications. Mentor David from The University of Melbourne is one of them. This year, David presented several workshops to high school students in the Hobson’s Bay City Council through the Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Techology (CREST) program run by the CSIRO.

In these workshops, David focused on applying scientific method to real challenges currently facing their community. David said the most enriching part was giving “them a chance to think about and question how they could use STEM to manipulate the world around them”.

David Gavaghan joined In2science in 2018 while completing his Bachelor of Science, majoring in Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne. He became a mentor because he wanted an opportunity to give back, “I believe that the education I received and the influences I had during my high school experience played a large role in where I am today…I wanted the opportunity to pay that forward and help to improve the outcomes of those students from less represented areas”.

According to David, “getting to experience the growth of the relationships you build with the students over a 10-week period” is the best part of In2science. This is David’s favourite part because over time “their curiosity and desire to engage with you and ask questions increases and you start to witness the true importance of your presence in their class”. When asked about challenges David says that coming in as a stranger is always the most daunting, but “it also provides a really great opportunity to apply your creativity and problem-solving skills to think of ways to get students excited about science as someone they relate to”.

This experience with In2science has also prompted David to pursue a postgraduate degree in Secondary Education. “In2science has helped me cement my passion for education and my desire to address the educational disparities that are currently being experienced within Australia. I want to continue to be the mentor and science communicator that In2science has allowed me to be”.

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

 

 

Industry and STEM education partnerships highlighted in latest forum

By | Events, News

A sellout crowd gathered at Engineers Australia on May 22nd to participate in the In2science STEM Partnerships Forum. This year, participants focused on the question, “What can we do better together?” to improve current collaborations across the industry and education sectors. This provided a unique platform for industry, school and STEM outreach program representatives to openly discuss challenges and devise strategies to maximise the impact of current STEM programs.

Three messages Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel wants all employers to share with students:

1. Don’t drop English and Maths
2. Your degree is not the end of your education, it’s what opens doors
3. Give students real life problems, not job titles 

Dr. Alan Finkel AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist and In2science patron delivered the opening address, emphasising the need for developing STEM skill sets in young Australians so they can “thrive in a world where there are no guarantees.” He stressed that school and industry partnerships are invaluable because a STEM qualification is a doorway to opportunities that may not yet exist. His advice to students were three-fold: 1. Don’t drop English and Maths; 2. your degree is not the end of your education, and 3. STEM education addresses real world problems, not specific job titles.

In2science Advisory Board Chair and La Trobe University Chancellor, The Hon Prof John Brumby AO, moderated the discussion panel that followed, fielding questions that encompassed the current challenges facing STEM programs. When asked how to get more students to study science, Jess Sartori, Assistant Principal of Preston High School, said that having programs like In2science is encouraging and refreshing because students can talk honestly to university mentors about their job prospects. Gavin Smith, President and Chairman of the local subsidiary Robert Bosch Australia, agreed saying that, “we as a multinational will need so many STEM-qualified people within 10-20 years. We think the figure is about 90% of all the jobs in our company will require STEM skills.”

To address the issue of poor participation rates in female students, Sartori emphasised the importance of having female role models, and to challenge students to solve real-life problems. Alesha Printz, the General Manager, Victoria Division of Engineers Australia, highlighted an industry problem saying, “The percentage of female engineers tend to hover around 13% of the profession…There is a huge marketing issue for women. I think it’s around shifting the message that we’re giving to young girls and giving them the confidence that they can be good at this.” Brenda Frisk, Director of Wyndham Tech School, agreed saying, “One of the main areas that we’re focused on is leadership in women…I think it’s about giving girls the permission. We still don’t do that. It’s about giving them the voice to be able to speak.”

One of the areas we’re focused on is leadership in women…I think it’s about giving girls the permission. we still don’t do that. It’s about giving them the voice to be able to speak.” – Brenda Frisk, Director of Wyndham Tech School

Frisk also emphasised the importance of alignment between industry and education in their investment. Printz highlighted that spaces like the In2science STEM Partnerships Forum are what bridges the gaps between industry and education, stating, “if we can actually understand each other’s perspectives [we can] support each other to help solve this problem.” Smith agreed, saying that industry often puts the blame on universities for not providing job-ready graduates, but “industry has to provide the input, no question” to what is actually needed from graduates to solve problems.

In closing, Sartori praised the In2science program saying, “[In2science] makes it easy for me. It has a lot of value. I can see the impact that it has on the students. I know it’s powerful because I had my gorgeous Year 12s graduate, go into science degrees, join In2science and come back to the school and give back”.

Additional questions from the floor sparked more robust discussion, which continued well into the evening as panellists and attendees mingled over canapes and drinks. Events such as these, which promote partnerships and collaboration between schools, universities, industry and outreach programs are invaluable for catering to the growing interest and need for STEM outreach programs. In2science would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Engineers Australia for providing the exceptional venue and to Dr Finkel, our esteemed panellists and all attendees for an inspiring and successful evening.

I know [In2science] is powerful because I had my gorgeous Year 12s graduate, go into science degrees, join In2science and come back to the school and give back.” – Jess Sartori, Assistant Principal of Preston High School

Follow and continue the conversation with #in2partnerships on Twitter and the VicSTEM Alliance Linkedin Group. For more information about STEM outreach programs, search the STARportal. Click here and here for the Twitter recording of the event.

Toyota funds 30 new In2science mentors

By | News

Students at Copperfield College

This April, In2science was thrilled to receive funding from the Toyota Community Foundation to reach even more western Melbourne students in 2019. Last year, In2science placed 291 mentors in Victorian schools and engaged almost 4500 high school students in STEM-related subjects. Thanks to Toyota Australia, we are now able to support 30 new mentors for six schools and support up to 300 Year 7-10 students in Melbourne’s West.

In addition to opening more mentorship spots within Victorian schools, this grant also enables us to develop additional training tools to support our mentors. By training mentors in more specific ways, students can benefit from deeper and more meaningful conversations about future study and career-planning in STEM related fields. These kinds of interactions are crucial to address barriers that prevent students from pursuing STEM-related studies while simultaneously enriching their STEM learning experiences in high school.

In2science is one of seven organisations to have received funding in 2019 to encourage young people in Melbourne’s West to pursue STEM-related study and careers. The Toyota Community Foundation STEM grants forms an ongoing legacy since the closing of manufacturing operations in Australia.

Meet A Mentor: Mabel Chen

By | News, Profiles

 

Mabel Chen is an In2science mentor at Preston High School and studying a BSc (Mathematics) at RMIT University.

You know that feeling of not knowing what you want to do, but wanting to do and be everything? That is what In2science mentor Mabel Chen says still hasn’t gone away years after graduating high school.

Mabel was a “pretty stock standard” student who achieved good grades until she stopped engaging, her school attendance dropped and her dream of becoming a mathematician was almost crushed.

Not one to give up on her ambition, however, that 14-year-old girl grew up to study mathematics at RMIT University and mentor students at Preston High School with In2science. When asked what Mabel loves about maths, she says it’s how extensive it is. In fact, trying to pin down something specific was difficult, “I love literally EVERYTHING about maths! It’s huge and all-reaching”.

Studying maths isn’t all about geometry and calculus, though. Mabel credits RMIT University for teaching her coding, one of the most valuable skills she has acquired this year. Coding is everywhere, “not just in the selection criteria of new jobs, but it even pops up in the casual conversations at weekend parties (or at least at mine!)”.

For Mabel, maths feeds the “innate curiosity that we’re all born with” and that feeling of wanting to do and be everything? The most important advice Mabel has is that if you feed that curiosity and “go with it…good things will happen”.

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

In2science’s Impact in 2018

By | News

In semester 2, 2018, 146 In2science mentors from La Trobe University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and The University of Melbourne spent nearly 1500 hours working with over 2500 students in 46 schools. The valuable feedback we received from students, mentors and teachers confirmed that In2science is an effective, impactful program that can dramatically improve students’ attitudes towards STEM and STEM career pathways.

In week one of the semester 2 placement period, 57% of students reported that they were confident in understanding maths concepts; at the conclusion of the 10-week placement, this figure increased to 72% – a powerful demonstration of an In2science mentor’s capacity to improve students’ attitudes towards STEM. Moreover, students who interacted directly with the mentor experienced a dramatic increase in their attitudes towards STEM (see below).

The mentor was really approachable and didn’t make it difficult to ask questions, which helped me engage with class discussions more”. – Yr 10 student, Essendon East Keilor District College

Teachers continue to see the value and reap the rewards of hosting an engaged and enthusiastic In2science mentor with 90% of teachers agreeing that the mentor was a good role model for students. As a strong indication of the high regard in which this program as held, 100% of survey respondents indicating that they would like a mentor in the future.

“Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the high calibre of my In2science mentor his professionalism and his earnestness… and how well he was able to communicate with all stakeholders such as young teenage students, teacher aides and teachers”. – Eleni Lambropoulos, St Albans Secondary College

The In2science experience continues to provide ample opportunity for mentors to give back to the community, with 100% of mentors reporting that they spoke about their own pathways, thereby demonstrating to secondary school students that studying STEM and pursuing STEM career pathways is accessible to all.

“I remember being younger and having a set image of what someone in STEM should look like… I am keen to break down those stereotypes and have students understand that STEM is for anyone and everyone”. – Thea Mucas, RMIT University student at Laverton P-12 College

The benefits experienced through participation in In2science are not limited to students and teachers though, with 99% of mentors reporting that they developed skills they will use in the future.

Our sincere thanks to the students, mentors and teachers who took the time to provide their feedback, which enables us to deliver a highly effective program and increase student STEM engagement.

In2science Mentor Training 101

By | News

Exploring the science of slime with University of Melbourne mentors.

Did you know that last year, In2science mentors received more than 800 hours of training? This semester, 175 keen young STEM university students from our partner universities, La Trobe UniversityThe University of MelbourneRMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University attended pre-placement training to equip them with the tools to connect with, and inspire, the next generation of STEM enthusiasts at our partner schools. In2science staff are routinely blown away by our mentors’ commitment, enthusiasm and creativity.

It’s not all serious, however, as mentors tried their hand at leading the group in a number of STEM activities, like slime production. We are excited to see what adventures are to be had for schools, students and mentors in semester 1, 2019 – all the very best of luck to our wonderful mentors!

 

RMIT University mentors ready for training.

 

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!