Video: Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Some of the Curious Minds students learn about drones from Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla. Image: SBS
Friday, 10 February, 2017
Deborah Smith

As part of its commitment to encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects, UNSW Science is host of Curious Minds – a six month program of hands-on extension and mentoring for year 8, 9 and 10 girls from across Australia.

The first of two residential camps was held at UNSW in December, where more than 50 students undertook a range of science activities and met with some of UNSW's leading scientists, including Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla.

Fun activities included learning to operate a drone and carry out 3D printing.

The aim of the program is for the girls to grow in confidence, expand their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and their scientific networks.

The residential camp received extensive media coverage. Program director, Associate Professor Kelsie Dadd told SBS TV that a lack of role models could be to blame for the lack of young women in STEM fields.

"Most of the academics, if they go to university, will be male. A lot of the other people that they'll be going through with in university are male. It makes it that little bit more difficult for the young women to come though and think that, 'Yes, this is a field for me’", she said.

Student Catelyn Turner says in the UNSW video (below) that she joined the program to learn more about different STEM subjects. “And also, so I can see future job prospects in those areas.”

Curious Minds is jointly administered by the Australian Mathematics Trust and Australian Science Innovations. It is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training through the Restoring the Focus on STEM program, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Students are invited to participate based on their performance in a range of competitions and matched with female mentors recruited from a variety of STEM backgrounds. The program also targets indigenous students and those who are disadvantaged or who live in rural or remote areas.