STEM 2023

STEM 2023 is an event that focuses on Mathematics and its role in empowering STEM learning in the classroom.

A collection of keynotes, workshops, and deep dives on all STEM subjects from K–12.

STEM 2023 showcase

Highlight reel showcasing STEM 2023.

STEM 2023 conference highlights

(Duration: 2 minutes 47 Seconds)


Eddie Woo

I'm here today in the Hunter at the STEM 2023 conference, and it is an absolute thrill seeing all these educators together.

Adam Spencer

I've been a numbers nerd from the youngest of ages, so maths was always the most natural of all the languages I encountered.

Catherine Ball

STEM is fundamental to everything that we do and every way that we live.

Peter Liljedahl

How can we enact our education system in a way that meets the 21st century goals.


We're exploring some of the applications of mathematics in surveying. And what that really ties in to is aspects of trigonometry in a big way and trilateration. And we were using that to be able to find the location of a theoretically missing person using some points of reference.

[End of transcript]

Keynote interviews

Short interviews with keynote speakers who share their ideas about real-world applications of STEM.

Day 1

Watch 'Eddie Woo' (5:22)

Keynote presenter – Eddie Woo

Duration: 5 minutes 22 seconds


Eddie Woo

The thing I love most about STEM is that it flips upside down the learning paradigm for students, especially in something like mathematics. We often have students answering questions that have been posed to them by the teacher or the textbook. However, STEM reverses that and actually has students themselves generating questions that mean something to them because they've got a problem that they want to solve.

And so they themselves are the ones coming to me saying, Sir, we're trying to solve this problem. How do we do it? And I'll say, I know exactly a tool for it, and then I can introduce the maths. One of the things that's most profound and powerful about mathematics is the universality and the timelessness of the things that we know and we can prove in maths.

For example, Pythagoras Theorem is all about the relationships between the sides of a right angle triangle. Now, Pythagoras theorem was true thousands of years ago and it will be true thousands of years from now, long after any human beings are around to know about it. And that's because it's about something deep and timeless and it's not dependent on culture or our context.

It's something which we can say to anyone around the world and they can say, Yeah, I agree with that. And I think in our world today, those kinds of things are in short supply. So it's a wonderful, unifying theme to be able to experience and see mathematical truths together and to actually agree upon them. In terms of making mathematics meaningful and connecting it to the lives of our students.

I think one of the most important things to recognize is that mathematics looks on the surface like it's about symbols and algebra and things like that, formulas that maybe a student might say, When am I ever going to use this in everyday life? But actually, mathematics is really about helping students think in a deductive and a formal and a logical way.

And it doesn't matter what problem you're encountering. Actually, all those things that we look at in algebra and geometry and trigonometry, they're just examples that give students kind of a practical context to say, how can you create something that really proves to me in a watertight way, in a convincing way? I'm persuaded that this has to be true.

A lot of the ideas that we encounter, a lot the skills that I want to teach students in mathematics, they take a lot of effort and work and they overload your working memory, they’re hard work. I don't shy away from that. One of the things that's really important there obviously, therefore, is student motivation. A student's going to care enough about wanting to solve this problem that they'll put in the time and the effort to develop those skills.

And I think when we give students a situation where there's a genuine problem they have to solve patch, it's local to their community. It's something they encounter every single day. And we can say, you know what? There's maths, there’s scientific knowledge. There is technology solutions that can help us do something about this problem that means something to you, that matters to you.

And often that's the key. Having it connects them in a personal way that I really love because maths can be so abstract. Sometimes it can feel like solving a bunch of problems that I don't care about, so why would I bother and put the effort in? So giving them a reason to care I think is really essential. There's these core skills that run across all of the different parts of maths that are meaningful to you, whoever you are and what have you interested in doing in life.

Now we must call these working mathematically. They are the skills, they're the qualities that we employ every time we solve a math problem. The things like communicating, understanding, problem solving, reasoning and fluency, these are things that matter every single day. Whether you're going to go into something super mathematical in your career, like, say, engineering or finance. But they're also there.

If you're an artist, if you're trying to write a compelling legal argument, there are points where those mathematical principles and skills are meaningful to you, whatever sphere of life that you're in. So I think focusing on those working mathematically outcomes are really the best way to help a wide variety of students connect to mathematics. As educators and people who work with young people, we really have a responsibility and the privilege of helping our students see all the wonderful contexts and practical applications for mathematics.

And it's really important that we show our students this so that they recognize that they're not just doing maths because we tell them because it's homework, because they have a test. But actually it helps us solve problems that really matter and it enriches our understanding of the world. I'll give you an example. Calculus isn't just about following a bunch of rules and formulas to get some answers out of manipulating symbols.

It's actually about the mathematics of change, whether that's temperature that fluctuates or population that goes up and down, or the position of the moon in the sky. All these things can be understood and articulated using calculus. So if we can show our students a context that means something to them, whether it's about trying to fight a global pandemic or trying to work out what's the way to minimize the amount of plastic waste that we have.

Mathematics provides us the tools for solving problems in all of those contexts. So we really need to labour to show our students those different kinds of things and to be thinking hard as we look out into the everyday world. Where does mathematics connect in ways that perhaps we wouldn't expect and that our students need to encounter in the school context?

[End of transcript]

Watch 'Dr Scott Sleap' (5:02)

Keynote presenter – Dr Scott Sleap

Duration: 5 minutes 02 seconds


Dr Scott Sleap

Someone told me once that we all are born with an interest in space and dinosaurs and we grow out of our interest in dinosaurs, but we never grow out of our interest in space. And that's certainly been true for me.

If we want to develop the future leaders, we need to develop those skill sets. Complex problem solving, creativity, teamwork. The type of skill sets that we need to solve problems in space. These are the skill sets that have been identified by the World Economic Forum as a skill sets that young people are going to need now and into the future.

So throughout our curriculum, we need to develop those skills within a STEM platform. It doesn't matter if you're actually in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics classroom. STEM skills are important in all faculty areas because the skill sets that we're looking at underpin the future jobs and our future prosperity in Australia. I grew up in the the age of the space shuttle.

My parents grew up in the age of the Apollo missions. This generation is going to grow up in the age of Artemis, where we're going to send a person back onto the moon. Also, if we're going to go into space, we're going to be looking back on Earth. So the big problems that we have on Earth space is where some of those solutions are going to come from.

Problems like climate change, for instance.

If you want to engage young people, you have to do it in a way in which the work is real. So what's better to do than working in a program where you're putting experiments that you've designed yourself using a design process and putting them into space? New South Wales Department of Education is now working with a large number of different groups to do integrated STEM based learning in space.

We're currently working with a powerhouse museum and a company called Magnitude IO to design a mission that will go on to the International Space Station where students from around the country will then be able to tap into that experience. So that is a first for New South Wales public schools. So in terms of inquiry based learning, project based learning, this is one of the ultimate programs that you can do.

New South Wales Department of ED develop the STEM curriculum. I STEM is the subject in which this particular program is being developed. We're also working with the Older and Family Foundation to develop programs with their maps that will be in New South Wales schools. So we're working with space agencies such as NASA in the Australian Space Agency, to get programs into our schools.

These are using curriculums that have been developed by the Curriculum Secondary Learners team to be able to inspire young people.

So we're looking at particular geographical areas around Australia and what are the particular skill sets and industries that are required. So we've designed ISTEM to be looking at programs like Space of course, but also aero, cybersecurity and a whole range of other areas that relate to the type of industries we're going to see in the future. Being a regional and rural program as well, Agritech is one of the most popular areas that we're looking at, which is going to underpin what we're going to need as our populations grow and be able to feed generations into the future.

When we developed the ISTEM program, we worked with industry particularly to look at what are the skill sets in and industry that are going to be future focused. The skill sets that are required for these future jobs is why this syllabus exists.

It's really important that we bring the outside world into our classrooms. If we bring experts in, then our young people have a broader knowledge of what is available. And also there's an ever changing environment out there of what's happening with work. So industry is our tapping in point for that. So if you want to get involved with industry, there's many different ways to do it.

Engineers Australia have a directory which you can connect into to get people to come into your school. The CSIRO have a STEM Professionals in Schools program. You can reach out to and get people into your school. But I still think the best way is to connect with your local community, go to your local councils, your local business chambers and the parents.

The parents are often the people in the school that are working in the industries that are important to your region. So connect, get them in, utilize their skill sets and work together to solve problems in STEM.

[End of transcript]

Watch 'Lily Serna' (3:26)

Keynote presenter – Lily Serna

Duration: 3 minutes 26 seconds


Lily Serna

What I love about STEM and in particular mathematics, is that it's our best tool to being able to understand the world around us, and it helps us get out of our own biases, our own thinking, and helps us understand the world in an objective, logical, precise way.

Mathematics is a universal language because it's simple. It's the same for every single person on this earth today as it was 20 years ago, as it will be 2000 years in the future.

This is a good question because we all know that confidence, particularly for girls, about mathematics, is a big problem and it's a complex issue and obviously has a lot of complexities in being able to solve for this. But I believe that there is a really simple and very effective thing that we can do as teachers, as parents, as a society, not just the girls, but for all students.

And that is to be able to shield kids, especially when they're young from any preconceived notions about what mathematics is. Often people say, I'm not a maths person, I don't like mathematics. If we pass on that judgment, that assessment to children, then they take it on board and they internalize that. So if we sealed it for them, just as my family did for me, and provide a sanctuary for them to explore it on their own, and maybe they will like it, and maybe they weren't.

But the idea is to not impose those preconceived notions on them and let them explore it on their own.

I think mathematics and scientific literacy is so important, especially in today's day and age, because it trains the mind to think in a critical and objective way. So often students and young people say to me, which I'm sure that they would say to you as well, When will I ever use this again? When will I ever use Pythagoras Theorem again?

In fact, someone forwarded me this Twitter account and this lady periodically posts It's been X number of days and I haven't used Pythagoras theorem, which is hilarious. But it's also a bit sad because it misses the point about mathematics, which is it's training the mind to be able to problem solve. And this is why it's critical that we teach kids STEM so particular scientific literacy and mathematical literacy.

[End of transcript]

Day 2

Watch 'Adam Spencer' (5:39)

Keynote presenter – Adam Spencer

Duration: 5 minutes 39 seconds


Adam Spencer

I've been a numbers nerd from the youngest of ages so maths was always the most natural of all the languages I encountered. And the further we go into this digital century, the more maths and your basic STEM skills are gonna be the ones that build the years out in front of us.

I think AI is gonna change education as much as it changes any industry. It's gonna change everything about it. The way students learn, you'll have a personal tutor that stays with you for life, from primary through high school, TAFE University, then through your professional career, it'll know how you learn, what you need to know, the best way to teach it, and students will use these things more and more, hopefully not to avoid critical thinking or just cheat but to turbocharge the capacity their critical thinking skills give them to interact with the world.

From my days of mathematics, the old idea of have an exam, five simple questions, five medium questions, five hard questions, then the five questions I used to love doing at the end, the really tough ones. Well, if a student gets the first three easy questions wrong, there's no point going to the medium and the hard stuff, let's stay there and work out what they really do and don't know, where are the blockages. If someone hits the first three easy questions out of the park for six in two seconds each, do they really need to do the medium stuff? No, let's dig down here and see how good they are. Deep, rich feedback on individual students.

The days where everyone in this class is doing the same level of geography because you're all between 14 years, three months and 15 years, nine months old, that makes no sense at all, in an age of truly interactive large language models and things like that, it's gonna change in ways that we've never seen before.

You have to push back against this, let's just ban it, let's just keep it away, we have to embrace it from the earliest possible stages. Kids should be using these things at home, not to cheat and do the work for them, but to explain, in a preliminary sense, something before they're engaging with the harder aspect of it.

My daughter's just started at university, she's doing politics. She finds politics really hard, she's never studied it before. So she said to the lecturer "Should I go to your lecture first, then do the readings 'cause I'm finding the readings tough, and then do the tute, or should I do the readings first before the lecture?" Lecturer said, "Come to my lecture, then do the readings." What she does now is loads the reading into ChatGPT, says, "Can you explain this to me as though I'm a smart 16 year old who knows nothing about the subject area in a thousand words, please?" It gives her a little primer as to what the reading's about. Then you go to the lecture, then you do the full strength reading, and then you're hitting it, you're absolutely ready to go.

So you use these things to distil and summarise information for you and pitch it back in a way you'll understand. Now she's cheating if she just hands that in as an essay or if she doesn't then do the full readings, but as an introduction, as a way in, it's totally changed the subject for her. The way you ask the question affects what you get back from a large language model. If you ask the question a few times, you'll get a different, hopefully better answer.

And you have to be careful and check things 'cause they do make mistakes. If we bed that into kids from the start, the earlier we get them using these things, the better, because they're all gonna go into high school and universities and they're gonna go into careers where these things are being used. The idea that you'd say to a law student at uni at the moment, "You can't use ChatGPT," if I was that law student, I'd say, "Dude, in two years, I'm clearly gonna be using it at the law firm I'm at."

The mobile phone revolution didn't happen instantly. It was a few generations in when you could download video en mass and that sort of stuff, where we realised, wow, this is totally game changing. Whereas large language models, when you went from GPT-3.5 to 4, there was an instant giant step change in the amount of grunt these things had and what they could do.

Everyone's talking about it right now because the magnitude of that jump, that's both exciting because, for once, you've got a generation of kids who are switched onto a technology and wanna know more about it and wanna learn about it. It's daunting because, with the greatest of respect, education doesn't always move rapidly as an institution and as a portfolio. And the challenge is now to do so because the kids are gonna get it. And if schools take five years to catch up to the fact that kids are realising, well, hold up, this thing could pass the US Olympiad biology exam if it wanted to. And if we let the kids get ahead and just be really good at using GPT and we lose a generation of students from critical thinking and analysis and forming their own ideas and expressing 'em, that's a generation lost. So it's a tremendous opportunity but also a real challenge for education to keep up.

Students have to realise the potential of STEM subjects right now is that more and more careers are gonna explode in those places. Some jobs and types of jobs and careers that don't even exist yet, but the STEM fields are just gonna continue to open up. The most important challenge for education at the moment, I think, is to get teachers who are passionate and qualified to teach those subjects. Telling the message that this is where jobs are gonna come from, this is where wealth's gonna come from, this is where nations are gonna be built. It's a STEM future.

[End of transcript]

Watch 'Dr Peter Liljedahl' (3:31)

Keynote presenter – Dr Peter Liljedahl

Duration: 3 minutes 31 seconds


Dr Peter Liljedahl

STEM is not a spectator sport, neither is learning. We need students to be actively engaged in meaning making not meaning made. The need to work collaboratively to find their way forward, to think to reason, and to learn.

To find their way forward, to think to reason, and to learn. Building thinking classrooms is a reaction to a recognised reality that the majority of our students in our classrooms are passively engaging in their learning, not thinking. Building thinking classrooms is based on 15 years of research on how we can transform these non-thinking spaces into thinking spaces, by changing the way we do the things that we do every day. By and large, the routines we see in classrooms today are a holdover from the 19th century post-Industrial Revolution model of education that were designed for the purpose of creating conformity and compliance. Our goals for education are well beyond that. Now we're talking about 21st Century learning skills. We're talking about critical and creative thinking. We're talking about equity. We're trying to achieve different goals. We need to use different practices.

So, in order to build a thinking classroom, we have to think about how we transform every aspect of teaching and learning in the classroom. So, there are 14 different core routines that we engage in the teaching practice. No matter what kind of a teacher we are. We all use tasks. We all create groups to some extent. We all answer questions. We have students work somewhere on a workspace. We launch tasks, we consolidate learning. We give homework. We have students write notes. We do formative and summative assessment. These are core routines that every teacher does. If we want students to think, we have to reimagine, we have to revisit how we enact each of those core routines.

How can we enact them so that we maximise student thinking? And it turns out my research has found these things and some of them are radical departures from what we're used to. We're used to having students sitting down, in a thinking classroom they're standing up. We're used to having students writing on paper, in a thinking classroom, they're writing on a whiteboard. We're used to having students either be strategically group or self-selected into groups. We're randomly grouping them. They're used to us answering their questions. We're trying to redirect their questions. They're used to us using accountability measures to ensure that they do their notes and their homework and their assessment. And we're trying to shift this more to a responsibility way of thinking.

So, where do we start if we want to build a thinking classroom? Well, the first place to go to is the research. And the research is conveniently bundled in a book "Building Thinking Classrooms." Beyond that, is to tap into the rich resources that exist in community of teachers already building thinking classrooms. My favourite go-to for that is the Building Thinking Classroom Facebook groups. There are over 35 of them. They are the main one has almost 50,000 teachers in it. Incredibly nurturing environments of teachers who are supporting each other as they're trying to enact these 14 practices to build a thinking classroom.

[End of transcript]

Watch 'Lisa Harvey-Smith' (16:28)

Keynote presenter – Lisa Harvey-Smith

Duration: 16 minutes 28 seconds


Lisa Harvey Smith

Good morning, everyone, it's terrific to join you once again, it's STEM 2023, I'm just so delighted to be with you, zooming in from beautiful power country where I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and pay my respects to their elders past and present. Look, good morning. I've spoken to STEM conferences before here in New South Wales, just wonderful to be back.

I've got something new for you this time, I've got something very exciting, because I wanna share with you a terrific project that my team's working on to try and create an environment where kids know that STEM is for everyone and where teachers and educators know that they can receive curriculum linked and aligned resources that are trusted, that are proven, and that can help you to help young people understand career paths, 'cause this is a very complex type of thing to do. So what I'm gonna do today is share Future You Australia with you.

Look, who am I? Adam just gave me a quick whizz there, but I just wanted to introduce myself as well. So I've worked for more than 20 years in academia, in research, and in building giant telescopes. That's me top left with the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, this gigantic just the beginning of a huge global telescope network, which is gonna help us uncover billions of years of cosmic history from the Big Bang to the present day, what were the first stars and galaxies that formed in space?

How did they form, how did dark matter, which is this mysterious substance that pervades space, influence the creation of the galaxies and stars that we see today in the universe? All of this probing through radio astronomy, which looks at invisible radio waves that come from deep space and helps us to understand that history. And it's really a cosmic time machine because we can see distant radio waves that have travelled through space at the speed of light for literally billions of years, and we can see into the past in that way.

As Adam said, I've done a lot of presenting, I love sharing science, I love sharing STEM and working with people like Brian Cox and Julia Zemiro on Stargazing Live and working with astronauts like Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke, and Buzz Aldrin, who have actually travelled to the moon in the 1960s and 70s, walked on the surface of the moon, feats that haven't been achieved since. But hopefully soon, we'll see new people walking on the moon. And that will really be a catalyst to inspire the next generation.

And in my work involved as the advisory board to the Australian Space Agency, we're seeing a new Australian astronaut candidate training now in Europe, so this is a very exciting time for young people to think about not only space but other areas of STEM that can help them develop. I also write children's books. In fact, I've got six so far come out and got a new one out this week, the bottom right one there, Universal Guide to the Night Sky, and these books help young people understand the glory of the night sky and then, and really connect to that, so I try and inspire young people in a number of ways.

But currently, my role is Australia's Women is STEM Ambassador. So I work with the government to try and boost Australia's STEM sector. This doesn't just mean scientists and mathematicians, it means people who use those skills and technology and engineering skills in their careers, even though it may not be a STEM career, so this is really important to break down structural barriers to participation that particular groups, especially young women, might feel through the traditional ways that our society has viewed the types of jobs that men do and the types of jobs that women do.

And we've still got a cultural hangover from all of this. So my team does a great deal of research. We create tools, we create things for workplaces and for educators to try to break down those barriers to do with gender. And we run an education programme called Future You, and it's all about STEM careers and helping educators with free resources.

I'll tell you about that in just a sec, here's the boring stats bit, sorry, Adam, it's not boring, sorry, Eddie, sorry, Lily, it's not boring, it's wonderful because this statistics, this mathematics piece helps us understand where the problem lies, we can't solve a problem if we don't measure it. We cannot look at a problem like gender inequity from only a social lens, you have to look at it also through a data lens. So every year, the government brings out this STEM Equity Monitor, which is a website which has all the stats on it.

Who's participating in STEM, at what ages do their attitudes change, what are educators and parents' attitudes about STEM, and what are the barriers in workplaces? So this one stat that we're gonna look at is year 12 subjects. So who is enrolling in year 12 in these different STEM subjects, we've got science, technology, engineering, and maths all separated here and we've got girls and boys. Unfortunately, other genders are not captured because of small number statistics and privacy concerns, but that's currently being looked at.

Now, look, in science and maths, you can see that it's basically equal between girls and boys, participation 42, sorry, 48/52, that's basically equal within the . So science and maths is pretty much a parity in year 12, so well done you, this is great, we've been trying to achieve this for a long time, and collectively, I think that's a great achievement.

You can see the stats are very skewed though for technology and engineering. When we talk about technology, that can mean IT, coding, digital technologies, robotics, lots of different areas of technology. And engineering is one of the really tricky ones where there are huge gender biases still and huge inequities in the workforce.

So those two subjects where we really have to focus our efforts and, of course, not let up our efforts in science and maths too if we're thinking about the participation of everyone in STEM. Now, what are some of the problems? Why do young people maybe not see themselves working in STEM, well, we've done this experiment, scientists have done this experiment over the last, I don't know, 70 years or so, since the 1960s, to draw a scientist, you say to kids, here's a piece of paper, here's a bunch of crayons, good old-fashioned fun, draw a scientist for me. Now, in 1966, when this experiment was done, more than 99% of students drew a man, normally in a lab coat.

So pretty much everyone saw a scientist as a man. It hasn't improved a great deal, it's still over 70% the last time this was done about five years ago. So you know what, we still got a little way to go in terms of what young people associate with science. And of course, that would apply for the other STEM subjects too. So when we actually look and ask questions to young people and say, well, why wouldn't you study STEM in the future? And here are on the right-hand side these little bar charts showing what percentage of students agreed with these statements, girls in purple, boys in green. A lot of students say, I'm not really interested in STEM subjects, it's not related to the career I want. I'm not very good at maths or science, I'm not very smart, I'm not smart enough.

So this really teaches us a lot about what students think about STEM, they think you have to be super smart, they think you have to be a lone genius and be like the people in the Big Bang Theory, which is a funny show, but it actually has a lot of problems because it reinforces those stereotypes, and it's funny because it's stereotyped, but also we don't want those stereotypes perpetuating too much because it actually harms kids' interest in STEM and their feeling that they belong in STEM.

So, in the classroom, it's all about challenging those perceptions, you know, creating young minds who are confident to learn, who are confident to fail, try, fail, try, fail, and try again. And that's what these subjects are about, and I know you know that as educators, but it's really interesting to see these perception surveys and really understand the root causes. You'd be pleased to see the very lowest reason for not studying STEM is around teachers not being very good. So that's means you are very good, so that's a great piece of news for you. Now, our programme, which is funded by the federal government, is called Future You.

Now, this is about challenging stereotypes in STEM and showing young people that future careers in STEM are for everyone and STEM skills are for everyone. But also, that there are a diverse range of pathways into STEM, it's not about being a genius, it's not about being super academic. You can work with your hands, you can be from a regional or remote community. It doesn't matter what your gender is, it doesn't matter what your cultural background is or disability, you have a place in STEM and you can solve problems using STEM skills. So it's a really exciting way to help teachers and young people and parents to understand STEM career pathways, and it provides curriculum aligned resources for that.

Now, it's free, completely free, it's paid for by the Commonwealth government, so you can jump on the website and explore after this. And as Adam says, after the sessions, hopefully. Now, I wanted to just show you the website so we can do a little bit of exploring. So it's

But I'll tell you that lots of times, we've got curriculum aligned resources and we've got wonderful features, now, the series I'm gonna show you first is called Pathfinders. Now, these are the STEM role models and they've got STEM skills, they've come to STEM in a number of different ways.

We've got a number of Pathfinders at the moment, but we're gonna add some more. You'll notice that most of them are women at the moment, but we're gonna add people of different genders so that everyone's got people that they can maybe connect with. This is Mikaela, who is a Cabrogal woman, who is an entrepreneur, she has a wonderful background in STEM, and she is using STEM to tell traditional stories. And it's just a wonderful video that we made with a professional filmmaker, it's about four or five minutes long, and it really tells the story of Mikaela's life, why she caress deeply about what she does, and how her STEM skills are connected to what she contributes to society. It also goes through what people feel they're good at and what they feel they're not good at, so it demystifies people who work in STEM and shows that they're not these nerdy geniuses with, you know, wacky haircuts and holding test tubes, it's just not all about that.

So we're breaking down stereotypes and we've got a bunch of different resources for teachers, for the students, and for parents if they're using this at home. We've got different types of role models, so this is Louise, she's a heavy vehicle mechanic, so she grew up on a farm surrounded by motorbikes and tractors, and she taught herself to look at engines and then she did an apprenticeship through vocational pathways.

So again, showing that there isn't just one pathway into STEM, there are many, many routes. And she ended up being a teacher, so someone who teaches heavy vehicle fixing to other people, I don't know the terminology.

So this is great, this is really exciting, because it shows a lot of different pathways. You can be in IT, you can solve problems, or you can pretty much fix the world. You can tell cultural stories, you can invent new ways of creating foods that are environmentally sustainable. You can save animal species. It's just so much to explore.

So here are some of the teachers' resources, just having a little closer look. We've got wonderful posters for the classroom, so you can show these role models and students can peruse them every day as they go through the classroom or through the school, talking about what each role model is good at, what they can't do, and what their vision is, what challenges they faced in their career, and then what they're expert in.

So it really builds that kind of idea of whole person around the role model. Now, the teachers' resources support the curriculum in different ways, from the English curriculum, literacy, numeracy, to very different sort of general capabilities and comprehension, things like that, so it supports a number of curriculum areas. And I should have said at the start, but this is mainly aimed at approximately the age range 8-years-old to 12-years-old, sort of middle grade and upper primary. But you may find that there's some variability in that, and I think there's a lot of different good stuff that you can pick out.

So I wanted to show you another part of the campaign, that was the Pathfinders, the role models with wonderful films. The next part I wanted to show you was Imagining the Future. So we got some professional STEM fiction writers, some top Australian STEM fiction writers for young people, to write us some stories, fiction stories set in the future, set in space, in fact. So these wonderful stories we've created, we've had them illustrated, and they all come from very different perspectives, stories set in the future in space, and the protagonists are very diverse people. They're solving problems that they face in their journeys through space. And there are a number of different ways to access these stories, you can read them or even watch them, listen to them as podcasts. So the team have created this terrific sort of way of watching, which is text on a screen, and there's some wonderful music in the background as well. And you can go through the stories in this format.

This is called The Callistan Cycle, Callisto is one of the moons of Jupiter. And as I say, people in the stories are travelling from Earth into outposts on Callisto. And it's really interesting because all the different authors come from different backgrounds and different imaginations of the same concept.

They've all created exciting stories with, you know, hooks and mysteries or things that are challenging, things that are maybe precarious, and the protagonists solve these problems, so it's really showing young people that using STEM, you can solve problems.

You may not know how to do it at first, but with a bit of help from your friends, a bit of problem-solving, you can solve important problems. We've created the books, as I say, in this booklet format as well, you can read on a screen, you can print them out if you want and have them in the library.

We've actually partnered with a charity called Deadly Science, printed out hundreds of these to send to First Nations community schools across Australia, and that's a very exciting part of this. Future You has got a lot for everyone, it's got careers quizzes, it's got resources for teachers, students, parents, when you have time, visit, thanks very much.

[End of transcript]

Watch 'Dr Catherine Ball' (5:45)

Keynote presenter – Dr Catherine Ball

Duration: 5 minutes 45 seconds


Dr Catherine Ball

STEM is fundamental to everything that we do and every way that we live. Science, technology, engineering, and maths are incredibly creative, they imbue the human spirit in the way we advance, how we live, work, and play, from the use of antibiotics in humans, to the development of Wi-Fi, to the invention of cochlear, all of these great Australian inventions that often get forgotten, we need to not only teach STEM in schools, we need to celebrate STEM the way we celebrate sports. And I'm really looking forward to seeing that cultural shift and cultural change in Australia over the next few years.

The future is already here, it's peaking through in so many ways, everywhere around the world, but it's just not scaled yet. And so some of the emerging technologies that we are seeing that I think are gonna be fundamental in the next decade are scaling now at speeds which are catching us completely unawares. Generative AI is a really obvious, easy case study for me to mention here. Artificial intelligence, other than the fact that it's not artificial and it's not intelligent, we just put that to one side, has been around for nearly 100 years, and it's actually a lot more scary than Arnold Schwarzenegger in a "Terminator" movie, it's maths, it's all maths. So, if you really wanna scare people, you just say, you know, "maths is controlling the world", right? And can we also just get rid of that stigma around maths? This is really exciting. Maths is gonna be the reason we are gonna be on Mars by 2040, you know? So, some of the projects I'm working on now are looking at how we get to Mars on these new nuclear powered, deep space ships that will take six weeks to get from Earth to Mars. Can you imagine? I'm gonna go on a four month holiday, just gonna pop to Mars.

In terms of the human body, we are gonna see some amazing advances in terms of personalised medicine. I thoroughly believe we are on a pathway and an exponential trajectory to end cancer probably in the next 10 to 20 years. When we look at how we are working out how the stars work, we are also spending a lot of time working how our stars work, how do our cells work? DNA to RNA and protein function, we're going to be building digital twins of ourselves, biologically. So, you'll actually have a digital doppelganger, which will be a representative of you, you'll be able to grow your own organs, you'll be able to replace things that are broken. And stem cell research is just gonna change everything. Great person to follow around some of this thought leadership is Pete Diamandis who's of the XPRIZE and also Singularity University. And there's a great Australian scientist working in the eastern seaboard of the US called David Sinclair, and he's working on ageing and how we should really treat ageing as a disease. So, our children that are under 10 now will probably live to 120, 130. But the key here is they will be good years, they will be 120 or 130 healthy, good years.

Teachers literally hold the brains of the future in their hands, they are the people that are preparing the next generations to do all the things, they are the first futurists really, when you think about it. They're looking to see what skills, what projects, how they're gonna develop curricular, how they're gonna teach, how they're gonna work with new technologies to teach. So you really are, I'm afraid teachers, you are already futurists you're already thinking like futurists. And in fact, if I've seen anyone manage a class of 26 different personalities, you are actually already incredibly good systems engineers. So the key here is project based learning, the key here is staying in touch with some of the really exciting lighthouse type projects. For example, having humans living on Mars by 2040, have you done a Mars hab project yet? What could that possibly look like? Most of the kids that you teach might have been on Minecraft, how would you use a piece of software like that to build a Mars hab in that software for example, or a similar software or however you work? And then how do you physically build one in your playground and have a Mars hab? I mean, what would that look like?

So, if I was approaching a student these days I wouldn't say, so what do you want to be when you grow up? I would say, what problem do you really wanna solve? What thing really bakes your noodle? What really grinds your gears? What really upsets you? Or you wanna change or you feel passionate about? Because it's gonna be guaranteed for you that there's gonna be a pathway for you to be able to affect that problem from a number of different directions. You could be into the arts, you could be into languages, you could be into global geopolitics, you could be into ocean science, you could be into maths, please be into maths, you could be into physics, you could actually not know what you are into. But if you recognise the problem that bothers you, you are already on a pathway to fixing it. Project-based learning is the way teachers can really help kids find the areas that they love most. And also, all Nobel prizes now are won by teams, all great big leaps are now run by teams. Everyone, whenever we talk about it from NASA, through to resources companies, through to ocean research, billionaires, all of these people put together really interesting teams. So if you can teach your students how to be part of a team, how to learn where they fit in their niche inside that team, you are giving them a golden ticket to opportunities and opportunities, time and time again, through their 20s and 30s and 40s. And they'll always remember you for it and they'll always be grateful for it. So, to find your inner Yoda, you do or you do not, there is no try.

[End of transcript]


Panel discussions and workshop presentations with curriculum aligned resources for teachers to use in their classroom.

Engaging girls in STEM

Panel discussion about engaging girls in STEM.

Image: Nikyetta Pencheff – STEM Project Officer

View 'Engaging girls in STEM' workshop

STEM Space programs

Panel discussion about STEM space programs.

Image: Shane Dryden – STEM Project Officer

View 'STEM Space programs' workshop

Establishing effective STEM Learning Communities

Panel discussion about establishing effective STEM learning communities.

Image: Nikyetta Pencheff – STEM Project Officer
Intro to ProtoSat unit - focus on digitech systems

Workshop on the department’s ProtoSat unit.

Image: Andrew O’Brien – STEM Curriculum Advisor 7–12
Integrating technology into science lessons

Workshop on how to integrate technology into science lessons.

Image: Lewanna Kenton – Science Curriculum Implementation Officer
Mathematical tools and representations

Workshop on specific mathematical tools and representations highlighted in the Mathematics K-10 syllabus.

Image: Phil Hollins – Curriculum Support Teaching and Learning Advisor, K–6
Using public data in Stage 3 and 4

Workshop on how to describe and interpret data using publicly available data sets.

Image: Stephen Clayton – TAS 7–12 Consultant
Mathematics in Surveying

Deep dive into ways to enhance learning through integrating industry skills of surveying into the classroom.

Image: Matthew Fitzsimmons – Mathematics Curriculum Implementation Officer 7-12

View 'Mathematics in Surveying' workshop

Analysing Data with technology: Thrills, skills and spills

Workshop on the features and functionality available in spreadsheets, to enhance teaching and learning.

Image: Thomas Pollard – Trainer Mathematics Growth Team


  • Aerospace
  • Digital technology
  • Engineering
  • Geospatial
  • Mathematics
  • STEM
  • STEM careers
  • Science
  • Sustainability
  • TAS
  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
  • Educational Standards
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