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STEM conference puts teachers ahead of the game

One of the largest regional STEM education conferences in Australia was held this week in the Hunter Valley.

Sarah Mitchell talking from a lectern with large letters spelling STEM in front.

The Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell, addresses the 2019 Regional NSW Future Focused (STEM) Conference.

The 2019 Regional NSW Future Focused (STEM) Conference brought together 900 primary, secondary, tertiary, industry and agency representatives to share the expertise and skills needed to create and deliver world-class STEM education programs.

The conference was organised by the Department of Education and the 15 government schools in the Cessnock Community of Great Public Schools.

Conference convenor and STEM Industry School Partnership program leader, Dr Scott Sleap, said the conference was a unique opportunity for educators to learn about the latest trends in STEM and how they can be applied and taught in an age-appropriate way from primary to tertiary level.

“We had an unmatched collection of experience and quality in our keynote speakers and workshop leaders from the education, industry and regulatory sectors,” Dr Sleap said.

“The exponential growth in the reach and variety of STEM in our personal and professional lives is unprecedented, and our only chance of equipping students to cope with this and to benefit from it after full-time education is to ensure their teachers are ahead of the game.”

The keynote speakers included the NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell, the NSW Secretary for Education, Mark Scott, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, Alex Zelinsky, and Dr Tim Kitchen from Adobe.

The Question and Answer session moderated by Dr Adam Spencer provided lively debate within the audience. The topic of the need for diversity in STEM provided rich material for the stellar panel.

Practical workshops were delivered by STEM experts from the NSW Department of Education, the NSW Education Standards Authority, STEMshare, the University of Newcastle, TAFE NSW, Adobe, the Australian Computer Academy, Nuts N Bots, Modern Teaching Aids and Obelisk Systems.

Detailed workshops were delivered on Reimagining Mathematics (by Eddie Woo, Head Teacher, Cherrybrook High School and Leader of Mathematics Growth), Project-Based Learning, Maker Mindsets, Integrated STEM, Cyber Security, Biotechnology, GPS Cows, Anki Cars (smartphone-controlled programmable model racing cars), Robotic Systems, STEM Curriculum Writing, and Microbits (pocket-sized computers designed to support students in basic coding and programming skills).

The expo component included drones, robotics systems, 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics, green screen technologies and even a Formula 1 race car once driven by Lewis Hamilton (courtesy of Re Engineering Australia Foundation). It included STEM education displays from regional NSW, TAFE NSW, the University of Newcastle and the NSW Cyber Security Network.

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