Program opens ‘curious minds’ to a world of STEM possibilities and career opportunities

curious minds

ACT students at the launch of the 2022/2023 Curious Minds program. Photo: Alyssa Weirman.

An in-school mentoring program is changing the future face of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industry by introducing young girls into what was once a male-dominated field. And it’s already making a difference.

Since 2014, the six-month program – Curious Minds – has sought to break down the barriers of male-dominated areas and give 9th and 10th grade girls who live outside of big cities and do not have the same access to facilities or opportunities as others a chance give experience life in MINT.

Australian Science Innovations (ASI) chief executive Alyssa Weirman said STEM has not always been viewed as a career for women to enter.

“The idea is to help girls build their confidence and see themselves in a STEM career,” she said.

“By matching girls with female mentors studying or working in STEM, and providing first-hand advice on the diverse opportunities available to them, Curious Minds is helping to change perceptions and to create equal conditions for girls who might otherwise miss out on worthwhile careers STENGEL.

“We’ve had a really positive response from the students who have participated in the Curious Minds program. It’s really wonderful to see you make such a positive impact on girls’ lives or direction, how they see themselves and to see them expand their perspectives of what’s possible.”

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Since 2015, 33 students from ACT schools alone have participated in Curious Minds, and 520 students have participated since the program began in 2014.

The results are impressive: 78 percent of the participants stated that they were aiming for a STEM career.

The initiative was developed by the Department of Education, Australian Science Innovations and the Australian Maths Trust with support from the Australian National University (ANU).

Sofia, a 10th grade student, began her Curious Minds journey while taking the Computational and Algorithmic Thinking (CAT) test at school.

“Last October, my math coordinator informed me that I had been identified as one of the top performers in the CAT competition, so Curious Minds invited me to join their program.

“I applied and got a job. I had my first camp in December and the second in June this year.”

The 15-year-old said Curious Minds is about covering every aspect of STEM and exposing students to as many different areas as possible while pairing them with a successful woman or mentor for the next six months.

Sofia was paired with a geoscientist mentor and they met every three weeks via Zoom.

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“Throughout the program, you’ll also have the opportunity to work on a STEM project on any topic you can think of,” Sofia said.

“Your coach will then help you brainstorm ideas and give a presentation at the end of the six-month program.

“They also give tips on possible career paths.”

curious minds

Curious Minds students at camp with their mentors. Photo: Alyssa Weirman.

Sofia said her experience with Curious Minds was amazing, but the most outstanding was the coaching program.

“My coach was just such a lovely person. She taught me so much,” she said.

“Curious Minds has given me so much more confidence in my abilities, and I’m grateful that I now know there’s a whole world of STEM and career opportunities out there.”

curious minds

Students involved in the STEM program. Photo: Alyssa Weirman.

Another student who was invited to participate in the Curious Minds program in December after doing well in the CAT competition is 10th grade student Emily.

The 15-year-old girl said she had never heard of the program before being asked to take part.

“I always liked math and science in school, so I thought I’d try Curious Minds,” Emily said.

“I really liked it because it was very different from liking STEM at school as we got to delve deeper into STEM and I gained a lot more knowledge overall.

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“[Curious Minds] opened up a whole new world of jobs for me that I didn’t really know existed before. It has given me a better understanding of what is out there.”

Emily said she feels lucky to be part of the program.

“I would definitely suggest that others apply for it. It’s great to connect with other girls with similar interests and learn about everyone else’s projects,” she said.

“When I got into the program, I knew I liked math more, and I ended up liking science more.

“For me, math has always been easy; it’s either right or wrong. Regarding science, this program helped me to discover that science is really interesting, especially when it comes to understanding the world. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Like Sofia, the program opened Emily’s eyes to a life in STEM.

Ms. Weirman said in the current call for applications they are looking for applications from “students and mentors with an interest in physics, IT, mathematics, engineering and computer science – subjects with particularly low participation by women”.

“We would also like to see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and mentors benefit from the programme,” she said.

Registrations for the 2022-2023 Curious Minds recording for 9th and 10th grade girls are now open. Application deadline is September 30th. Here you can sign up. To learn more, visit Curious Minds.

Original article published by Evelyn Karatzas on Riotact.

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