Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australia's Women in STEM Ambassador, is inspiring careers in STEM through the Future You online program for students.

Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, introduces you to Future You, an innovative, accessible and inclusive online program to spark and nurture an interest among primary & early secondary students in pursuing careers in STEM. Future You includes short documentary films, new STEM-inspired fiction, dramatized readings, jokes, careers advice, competitions, teaching plans, and a suite of beautifully designed collaterals for use in schools and in the home with the aim of helping you to inspire Australia’s children to imagine the future and their future in STEM.

Watch 'Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith' (17:43)

Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith

(Duration: 17 minutes 43 seconds)


[Red and blue logo revealed reading ‘STEM On demand’.]

[Screen reads ‘Future You’. Screen shows a series of shots of Renee Wootton checking the engine of a small aircraft and using a pump to fill it with fuel.]

Renee Wootton:
[Screen reads ‘Renee: highflyer’. Screen shows a series of shots of Renee inspecting the aircraft.]

It kind of started with this question around how do you get something so big up into the sky? How many systems have to come together or people or designs and creativity to make that possible? So for me, it's just I'm genuinely wowed every time I see an aircraft fly because I just think they're beautiful, but equally, they're so loud and just amazing and complex and it's really amazing to understand all of that.

[Screen shows Renee.]

Yeah, I never thought I'd be able to fly. So to have the skillset to just rock up at an airport now hire out a plane and say, "See you later, I'm going to fly over here."

[Screen shows a plane moving across a runway.]

It's a very cool feeling.

Lisa Harvey-Smith:

[Screen shows Lisa. Screen reads ‘Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith’. Behind Lisa is a banner with the Australian government logo reading ‘Women in STEM Ambassador’.]

Hello everyone, I'm Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australia's women in STEM Ambassador, and you've just been watching Renee Wootton, a proud, thorough woman, aerospace engineer and qualified pilot who now leads First Nation engagement at Qantas. Now the extract is from the High Flyer, one of four shorts documentary films featuring extraordinary Australian women who work in the STEM sector. And this makes up the Pathfinder series. Now, these films have been produced for the Future You Program, an Australian government initiative exploring the world of STEM careers, which I'm leading, and I'm here to talk to you about today.

[Screen reads ‘futureyouaustralia.com’.]

Now you can find out more about the program at futureyouaustralia.com.

[Screen shows the landing page of futureyouaustralia.com with illustrated versions of 4 women dressed in a rang of outfits representing STEM careers. Below this image it reads ‘See you in the future’. The screen shows a scroll down the page to reveal more of the website.]

The aim of Future You is to ask Australian kids to imagine themselves in the future and to find their Future You in the STEM sector. And we're doing this by presenting the stories of the Pathfinders,

[Screen shows Renee flying an aircraft.]

our high flyer Renee,

[Screen shows Phoebe holding an echidna.]

protector Phoebe,

[Screen shows Louise in a workshop.]

fixer Louise

[Screen shows Mikaela wearing animal skins and jewellery.]

and storyteller Mikaela,

[Screen stops scrolling through the webpage to zoom into a section titled ‘Imagining the future’ with a photograph of 5 people. Screen continues to scroll down the page.]

and also through our thrilling STEM drama podcast, Imagining the Future, five STEM inspired short stories written by Australia's leading writers for young people and read by some of the country's most exciting emerging actors. Here's a clip from episode one of Imagining the Future. To give you an idea.

Speaker 3:

[Screen reads ‘Far out! By Lili Wilkinson’. The following text is superimposed onto the screen as the speaker reads it. Screen shows an image of a nebula.]

I've heard about this part and I've watched heaps of videos and done VR Sims of it. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, and I've been on high speed planes before. I know that swooping sensation when a plane takes off where your stomach kind of feels like it's been left behind and your bum goes all tingly, this feels nothing like that. An olden days' astronaut once said that lift-off was essentially the same as getting strapped to an exploding bomb. He wasn't wrong. I feel like I've been punched by a giant fist and we're shooting up and up and up into the sky. The engines are so loud I can't hear anything else except for the very faint strains of galaxy vibes coming from Hatfield. The space plane is shaking and shuddering. I'm afraid it's going to break apart, and we're all going to plummet back down to the ground in bits. I glance over at Cosmo who has his eyes screwed shut. I feel so heavy like I'm being buried alive under wet sand. I can barely breathe.

Lisa Harvey-Smith:

[Screen shows Lisa.]

Okay, you can breathe again now. Now the Pathfinder films and the Imagining the Future stories have been developed together with some fantastic graphic arts jokes, competitions, music, and even dance to spark kids' curiosity, their excitement, engagement, and creativity in this exploration of STEM. By using the different media and art forms, we're inviting kids of all intelligence backgrounds and interests entry into this vital STEM conversation.

[Screen shows the futureyouaustralia.com website ‘Teachers’ section, showing a variety of learning resources available.]

At the same time, Future You has been devised specifically to support teachers, parents and families in helping children understand the wide range of careers available in the STEM sector and the many varied pathways there are to reach that goal. A suite of classroom and careers resources accompany the films and stories to make the job of inspiring kids with a dream of a STEM career all the easier.

[Screen shows Lisa.]

I come from a long family line of educators, so I know the crucial role that you play in shaping young people's lives and through them the future of Australia.

Now every day you support the understanding of the world and guide their aspirations, and I know how packed those days can be. But your role in nurturing children's interest in STEM has never ever been more important than it is today. Because our world is at a crossroads with conflicts, the COVID pandemic and Climate Change, we're creating a perfect storm with events like fires, floods, droughts, refugee crises, food, power and water shortages. All of this stuff's having a huge impact on our world.

So before we look at Future You in detail, let's reflect for a moment on the importance of STEM in addressing these global challenges. Now, during the pandemic, STEM has already saved an estimated 20 million lives each and every year through the COVID vaccine program, a staggering achievement for humanity. And it's people with STEM skills who are going to create the technologies that provide clean renewable energy and efficient electrical storage to take us to net zero.

It'll be people with STEM skills who will create the systems to capture and store carbon to prevent the acceleration of global heating. And it will definitely be people with STEM skills who provide accurate modelling of our global environment to guide future government policies. Now, young people in our schools are very much aware of these challenges and they're highly motivated to be part of the solutions. So how do we guide them towards careers that enable them to contribute to these world changing solutions? It's really important that we show them role models to inspire them to make a difference and provide great STEM learning experiences that are cross curricular, collaborative, and most importantly, relevant to young people's lives. There is a huge world of opportunity for every child in Australia, and it's vital that our children understand this now so that our future workforce is ready for the very serious challenges ahead.

As Australia's women in STEM Ambassador, I talk a lot about the importance of encouraging girls to consider STEM fields.

[Screen shows a photograph of a group of young women.]

Now women make up only 28% of the STEM workforce in Australia currently. And although we are increasing the numbers of women working in STEM year on year, this change has been very gradual. And at the current rate, it will take us many decades to reach parity, and that's not good enough. It's so important for us to consider the other barriers experienced by people with a disability, gender diverse children, and those with socioeconomic or language barriers.

[Screen shows a series of shots of women in high-vis vests and hard-hats reading ‘Western Sydney Airport’ and ‘Multiplex’, on a large construction site.]

Engineering, for example, is a field that's incredibly important to our society, but only 11% of engineers working in Australia are women. Engineers create new technologies, systems and infrastructure that shape our world. They secure our online banking systems, create transport and communication networks, and maintain our water services, dams and flood levies.

[Screen shows groups of people in protective clothing working on machinery. Screen then shows a series of shots of Louise repairing large engine parts.]

They're now creating the renewable power infrastructure that will help us to combat climate change. So why does Australia import more than 50% of our engineers from overseas? And why are young people in Australia not choosing a path in engineering, especially women? Recent research by Engineers Australia found that most young people have never considered engineering as a career because they're simply not familiar with it. Students don't understand the options available to them, nor are they familiar with the different types of engineering. Girls perceive engineering as male dominated and challenging and believe that they don't just have to be good at science and maths, but to excel in these subjects to succeed.

[Screen shows Lisa.]

But it's not just girls who feel that STEM is not the place for them. Damaging stereotypes, negative perceptions and other obstacles are holding many children back from following a career pathway into STEM. So what can schools do to support student understanding of relevant STEM pathways?

Well, we can help children to develop a growth mindset when learning STEM and motivate them with projects that produce clear benefits to society so they can see why STEM is important. School visits by STEM professionals from a range of backgrounds and experiences have a positive effect on a child's impression of STEM as a future career. And equally, the presentation of role models both real life and importantly through fiction, can have a significant positive impact on perceptions of the STEM sector and who has a place in it. And this is where Future You, the pathfinders and the stars of our Imagining the Future short stories come in. Now might be a good time to hit pause and jump onto our website at futureyouaustralia.com to get a feel for the project.

Renee Wootton:

[Screen reads ‘Pathfinders’. Screen shows Renee and reads ‘Renee Wootton, Aerospace Engineer’.]

When I was 15, I didn't really have much direction, and then I moved to a new town and I saw an advertisement to join the local Air Force Cadets program where you could go off and learn to become an aircraft mechanic or go and speak with and network with fighter pilots and engineers.

[Screen shows Renee operating an aircraft.]

And so all of a sudden I just got these incredible opportunities like meeting people that I really looked up to. It was exciting, it was rewarding. I learned a lot, and I just wanted to keep learning more.

Lisa Harvey-Smith:

[Screen shows Lisa.]

Pathfinders is an ongoing series of film portraits of people working in STEM, and we not only profile fascinating women working in STEM, but we also learn about the path they took to arrive at where they are today. The aim is to present relatable role models and provide practical advice to kids, families, and educators about how to nurture their interests. Now in each film you'll be finding out about how the pathfinders began their career journey, how they developed interests that led them to what they're doing today and how they found their passion. Then we provide advice on the practical steps you can take to develop and encourage that interest.

[Screen shows Mikaela wearing a VR headset and playing with a simulated bird. Screen then shows Mikaela in the bush.]

In Series one, along with Renee, you'll be meeting Mikaela who uses digital technology to tell traditional stories and whose CEO of her own company.

[Screen shows Phoebe in the zoo with a Bilby and looking out onto the surf at the beach. Screen shows a shark underwater.]

Phoebe, who works in conservation at Taronga Zoo and is one of the country's leading experts on sharks.

[Screen shows Louise opening the bonnet of a large truck. Screen shows two people on motorbikes. Screen also shows Mikaela walking amongst trees, Renee inside a cockpit, and Phoebe underwater in a diving suit.]

And you'll be meeting Louise, who's a heavy vehicle mechanic and trainer, but you'll also discover much more about them too. Like the fact that Louise loves to ride motorbikes and that Mikaela's love and understanding of country began with the planting of a tree. You'll find out what Renee can and can't do, and that Phoebe loves nothing better than swimming with sharks.

[Screen shows Lisa.]

So how can you use these films?

[Screen shows the futureyouaustralia.com ‘watch’ section. Screen then reads ‘Pathfinders’ and shows a series of shots of someone driving a car and walking on a beach.]

Well, the films come in two versions, which you can find on our website and YouTube channel, and it's really up to you which format you go for. Firstly, there's what we call the core film. This is just the film. Now, this can be watched or enjoyed for itself,

[Screen shows the website again but focuses on the teacher resources.]

but we've also produced a range of resources and activities to help you support the understanding of the film and to extend the conversation around its themes.

[Screen reads ‘Pathfinders, in depth’ and shows a split screen with the 4 women in STEM mentioned in the video. Screen also shows other videos available on the website and then shows 2 people with Future You shirts on, reading ‘Gen Papadopolous’ and ‘Callan Colley’.]

There's also the in-depth version, which is for individual learners, but also for teachers who may not have as much time in the school day for the range of activities the core film can involve. In the in-depth approach, the films are presented by our hosts, Gen Papadopoulos and Callan Colley, who introduce the subject and the STEM area and discuss some of the ideas the film will explore.

Gen Papadopoulos:

[Screen shows Gen and then cuts to Mikaela walking in the bush.]

We have an expert guide to help us along the way because today's Pathfinder, Mikaela, started her working life as a park ranger.

Lisa Harvey-Smith:

They then come back after the film to discuss the content and to present some questions for students to consider whilst also encouraging them to find out more.

[Screen shows Lisa.]

Then there are the Pathfinders challenges. This is a way to engage with Future You directly by responding to a range of creative challenges we set inspired by the content of the films.

[Screen shows a section on the website titled ‘Fixer Challenge’. Screen then cuts to a satellite image of the Earth and screen reads ‘Highflyer challenge.’]

These challenges can either be presented to the class using the film prompts featuring Gen and Callan on the site, or you can download the script and present the challenge yourself.

Callan Colley:

[Screen shows Callan.]

So imagine you are in the future and you are an engineer and you need to design a spacecraft, but this is a very special spacecraft because it's a spacecraft to tidy up space.

Lisa Harvey-Smith:

[Screen shows posters of jokes available on the website. Screen shows Gen and Callan.]

Finally, linked to the STEM sectors featured in the films are the Pathfinders funnies, downloadable posters featuring the best and the worst STEM jokes we can think of. And we're also happy to get more suggestions. And again, there are prizes to be won. Can you or your students do better than this?

Gen Papadopoulos:

What do you say if you want to start a fight in space? Come at me, bro.

Callan Colley:

Okay. Why wasn't the astronaut hungry as they left earth atmosphere? Because they'd already had a big launch.

Lisa Harvey-Smith:

Oh. So that's the pathfinders, and we are currently working on series two with our subjects, including an expert on edible bugs and one of Google's top IT architects who loves skateboarding.

[Screen reads ‘Imagining the future’.]

Imagining the Future is our new STEM fiction strand, which will take children into the future and out to the farthest reaches of space.

[Screen shows a photograph of 5 people who are transformed into an illustration, sitting inside an aircraft in space. Screen then shows these same people sitting at a table with laptops, talking with eachother.]

Lili Wilkinson, Rebecca Lim, Gary Lonesborough, Melissa Keel, and Alison Evans are five of Australia's leading writers of fiction for young people. And we are thrilled to have worked with them to develop Imagining the Future, a series of interlinked STEM inspired stories set in the future, which chart the development of humanity's first deep space outpost on Callisto, the second largest moon of Jupiter.

[Screen shows illustrations of people in space.]

The stories feature diverse young protagonists, grappling with future technological, ecological, and societal problems, and who use STEM thinking to come up with solutions. A rocket ship hit by space debris, a failing life support system, a crucial mineral shortage, an outbreak of sickness in a remote settlement, and a mysterious signal. These are the challenges that our fantastic young characters wrestle with and save the day through quick thinking, friendship and family ties. And with the help of a dancing robotic frog whose theme song is destined to echo through your school corridors and in your dreams.

[Screen shows resources on the website.]

These stories are available to download as texts, but also as podcasts read by brilliant young Australian actors with an incredible soundscape and a beautiful soundtrack with the irresistible galaxy vibes as part of that. And there's even a downloadable guide on how to dance it.

Again, just like Pathfinders, Imagining the Future is an accompanied by a range of downloadable resources which explore both the story and the STEM sector that features in the episode, be it space travel, robotics, mineral resources, recycling or communications.

[Screen shows Lisa.]

Imagining the Future shows how Future You takes cross-curricular approach to STEM with stories to appeal to multiple intelligences, whilst also allowing teachers to plan activities across subject areas and over semesters. We'd encourage you to talk to your literacy colleagues, your school principals and librarians about how these activities can be integrated to get your whole school imagining the future.

So that's Future You. We really hope you find these resources useful and that children everywhere are inspired by the role models and the stories we are introducing them to.

[Screen reads ‘futureyouaustralia.com’ and ‘See you in the future’.]

We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, so do get in touch via the Future You website and let us know how it's working for you. We can't wait to hear what you think of them and how your students respond, and I can't wait to see you in the future.

[Screen reads ‘Future you’, ‘An Australian Government Initiative’, ‘Women in STEM Ambassador’.]

[Video concludes by displaying the NSW Government logo.]   

[End of transcript.]

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