On a balmy November evening, more than 100 guests from universities, schools, government and industry gathered to celebrate the achievements of university student mentors, secondary teachers and their students in STEM engagement. The 2017 In2science Awards, hosted at Melbourne Museum, highlighted the achievements of university student mentors, secondary teachers and students in connecting science and maths in the classroom to the real world and highlight pathways university courses.
The evening commenced with a welcome form In2science Director Megan Mundy and a special preview of a video looking at the placement of Yianna Phaedonos at Copperfield College.
Advisory Board Chairman, The Hon. Professor John Brumby AO welcomed attendees and distinguished guests, including the Honourable Judith Graley, Parliamentary Secretary for Education. He spoke of the achievements of the In2science program in 2017, from the time generously given by university students in classrooms and the teachers who support them. He highlighted sheer number of people who have been involved since the beginning of the program in 2004, with 140 schools involved, nearly 2000 mentors, supporting more than 59,000 students. Professor Brumby also made mention of the positive findings of the independent evaluation undertaken by ACER earlier in the year.
Professor Brumby presented the Mentor Support Award to Loan Luong-Nguyen of Westall Secondary College her exceptional support of the several mentors she hosted. The School Engagement Award was given to Galen Catholic College. The Outstanding Mentee Award went to year 9 maths student Jack Esho at Roxburgh College.
eMentoring mentee and award finalist, Jake Aronleigh, a student of the Distance Education Centre Victoria, delivered a delightful reflection on his experiences with his Swinburne University of Technology eMentor Wael Farah, recounting all of the exciting things he had learned about astrophysics and his inspiration to pursue his interest in STEM further.
The Mentoring awards followed, with Hasti Zamanian of La Trobe University winning the Role Model Award for her support of students at Templestowe College by sharing her experiences of university life and encouraging them to begin imagining their future education pathways. The winner of the Impact Award was Reza Aliakbari from RMIT University, who developed a great rapport with his mentees at Brunswick Secondary College and contributed significantly to the learning environment.
Anna Drayton from the University of Melbourne was presented with the Dedication Award for not only being an excellent mentor to her year 9 science class at Hume Central Secondary College, but also volunteering to assist the school’s lunchtime robotics club despite no prior experience with coding or robotics. The winner of the Above and Beyond Award award went to Margaret Ngugi from Swinburne University of Technology, who showed exemplary initiative for taking on numerous professional development opportunities offered by the In2science program, and for acquiring new skills in robotics and coding to support her mentees learning with Nao robots at Bayswater Secondary College. The eMentoring award went to Sarah Hegarty of Swinburne University of Technology, who was specifically selected for her three mentees who had a particular interest in astrophysics.
Anna Drayton returned to the stage to speak about her experiences as a mentor, during which she described sparking the student’s curiosity for her chosen study of neuroscience as ‘lighting a fire in them’, as she was met with a barrage of questions during a practical lesson involving sheep brain dissection. She was also able to share with students the sensation of being unfamiliar with a new area of knowledge and helping the students deal with the initial discomfort of developing new knowledge when she joined the lunchtime robotics class. Anna reflected on her opportunities to chat to students about what being a university student is like, and the amazing array of career possibilities opened up at univeristy that the students may not yet be aware of in secondary school.
Following the formal proceedings, the attendees enjoyed time to socialise and network together. The event highlighted the wonderful impact in STEM engagement achieved by mentors during the year with the support of the excellent teachers that hosted them. All of the team at In2science is grateful of the commitment of everyone involved, and the achievements of 2017 set the scene for an even greater 2018.