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 response to COVID-19

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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.

12 hours with In2science’s eMentoring Coordinator: Bendigo Road Trip Edition

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In2science team members Will, Audrey and Shobie visit the RMIT University Flight Training School

By Dr Audrey Bester

Each year In2science coordinators travel all around Victoria to deliver STEM roadshows and other outreach activities with our partner universities, including Science Delivery from The University of Melbourne and The RMIT Regional Roadshow. For my first road trip with In2science, I travelled to Bendigo with La Trobe University (LTU) Coordinator, Shobie Dorai Singam, and RMIT University Coordinator, Dr Will Sullivan, to visit LTU’s Bendigo campus, tour RMIT’s flight training school and visit Eaglehawk Secondary College. Here’s how the day unfolded…

6:30am: The sun finally started to rise. It was an early start for me. Before leaving to meet Shobie, I checked our itinerary, replied to some last-minute emails and made sure I had packed everything we needed. Of course, priority was given to road trip snacks and organising a robust, energizing playlist for Shobie and I to drink our morning coffee to as we zoomed up the Calder Freeway.

8:00am: Finally, on the road! The smell of burnt coffee from a drive-through is nostalgic for me and I bury the flavour with sugar. We spend approximately 45 minutes trying to get out of the chaos that is Melbourne rush hour.

10:20am: We arrive at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus. First on our agenda is a meeting with Dr Rodrigo Rico Bini, a Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at the La Trobe Rural Health School. He’s enthusiastic about the program and believes that several physiology students may be interested in volunteering.

11:00am: We meet with Lecturer, Dr Sabine Wilkens, and Senior Coordinator, Ms. Siobhan Downing. Dr Sabine has been promoting In2science at LTU Bendigo to her Pharmacy students for several years and we discussed the logistics of providing training on site at LTU’s regional campuses, something In2science would love to do. Siobhan expressed that Bachelor of Biomedical Science students are keen to apply to be mentors. We are thrilled to hear this and welcome applications from all students studying STEM and to provide in-class mentors from regional campuses to local schools!

12:00pm: After saying goodbye to the LTU Bendigo Campus, we drove to the RMIT Flight Centre to meet with In2science’s RMIT University Coordinator, Dr Will Sullivan. He introduces us to aviation engagement coordinator, Dr Patrick (Pat) Griffiths who takes Shobie and I on a tour of the new flight school. RMIT’s Bendigo Flight Training site is brand new and has been in operation since mid-2019. It is an impressive facility!

We spent some time in the hangar and observed planes landing and taking off. Then, we made our way to a room with enormous screens and seating to simulate a cockpit. The simulation allows students to practise flying from any airport in the world. I resist the urge to ask Pat for a demonstration but make a mental note to do it next time. Pat informs us that In2science mentors and mentees are always welcome to organise an excursion to the flight centre for a tour, and possibly get into the air for a ride!

1:00pm: Will, Shobie and I take a short break for lunch, but we had to be quick. Students were gathering back at LTU Bendigo Campus for a pre-orientation session at which we were speaking!

1:20pm: We speak with students at the Early Connections Course Welcome event at LTU Bendigo. This event is a pre-orientation for students starting a degree at the College of Science, Health and Engineering. Most of them are starting their university journeys so are interested in applying as a mentor for In2science next year. However, there are some Honours students keen to support high school STEM students, locally, in 2020.

3:00pm: We are joined by Will and Pat Griffiths again and visit Eaglehawk Secondary College, a valued partner school and long-term supporter of In2science. The Maths Faculty were gathering for a meeting, and we joined them for an icebreaker game of Spot It! We present the In2science partner school certificate to teacher, Michelle Nevins, and her colleagues, Casey, Rebecca and Jason, who have hosted many In2science mentors over the years. One of these mentors now works at Eaglehawk SC!

The In2science team presents partnership certificate to Eaglehawk Secondary College’s, Michelle Nevins and colleagues.

Eaglehawk SC is unique because it qualifies as a regional school but is also near the LTU Bendigo campus. Consequently, they can request eMentors to support their students online and host in-class mentors to join their STEM classrooms.

4:00pm: We say our goodbyes to the teachers and Eaglehawk with promises to return and commence the drive back home to Melbourne in Olwen the Toyota Yaris.

6:30pm: Melbourne rush hour strikes again! We finally arrive back at La Trobe University, Melbourne campus. Despite the long day Shobie and I enjoyed it immensely and are feeling energised about the year ahead. It was a real privilege to meet and engage with some of the people who help facilitate, and experience benefit from, the In2science program. This certainly won’t be my last regional visit for the year, but it was a great one to start with. Spirits are high as we begin training new In2science mentor applicants in preparation for placement with secondary school students all over the state.

For more information about the In2science program Click Here.
If you would like to host a mentor as a regional school, Click Here or contact Dr Audrey Bester, eMentoring Coordinator.



In2science’s Impact in 2018

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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

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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!

Meet In2science alumna, Natalie Rode

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Natalie Rode volunteered as an In2science STEM mentor in a Year 8 Science class at Rowville Secondary College in 2016, while studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical) (Honours) at Swinburne University of Technology. Now an alumna working for global medical technology firm Draeger, Natalie caught up with In2science to share with us how In2science mentoring helped to shape her graduate career and where she aspires to head next.

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