Scholarship boost for STEM enrichment

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Scholarship funding supports young girls in STEM education pathways.

Almost 300 Year nine schoolgirls from across the Northern Territory and South Australia gained access to fresh insights into science, technology, engineering and math at this year’s Flinders University STEM Enrichment Academy workshops – thanks to a new scholarship program aimed at supporting regional students.

The funding support enabled students from as far as Alice Springs and Darwin to Adelaide for ‘hands-on’ STEM experiences aimed at inspiring deeper connections to STEM subjects.

The interstate excursions were made possible with the scholarship assistance of $65,000, awarded to a range of NT and SA regional schools as part of the Flinders University Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship goal of introducing a further 1000 high school students and their teachers to high-tech, engineering and other pathways.

Now in its fifth year, the annual Flinders University STEM conference (18-21 June 2024) provides Year 9 students with new understanding of STEM education and workplace options before they make their subject selection at senior secondary school level, says STEM Enrichment Academy director and Professor of physics Maria Parappilly.

- Advertisement -

Professor Parappilly is chief investigator of the Australian Government’s Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WiSE) grant program at Flinders University. The initiative – now in its second stage – is targeting a further 1000 SA and NT schoolgirls from regional and remote areas to engage in the Flinders STEM enrichment program by 2025.

“Already, since May last year, we have ‘enriched’ 500 schoolgirls as part of the Phase II targets and are delighted to be inundated with applications from rural and remote schools alongside strong interest from metropolitan schools to support our growing program,” says Professor Parappilly.

“Several of our NT applications state the students are interested in enrolling to study engineering, hoping to use this experience to start their STEM studies to find a career in areas of high demand and high pay.”

Engineering currently has one of the lowest female representations of all STEM professions, with women comprising around 16 per cent of Australian engineering graduates and only 13 per cent of the Australian engineering work force.

- Advertisement -

Following three days of workshops (18-20 June), an additional 80 students from St Dominic Priory College travelled to Flinders’ Bedford Park campus for the STEM experience on 21 June, with 140 schoolgirls from another metropolitan school due to attend upcoming enrichment days in August.

Darwin Middle School students who attended this year’s STEM Enrichment Academy at Flinders University.

As well as 50 NT students, there were 80 SA regional students, including from Port Lincoln, Millicent and Kadina, as well as 13 Indigenous students from the SA country areas, Kaurna Plains Schools and the NT.

Darwin Middle School principal Ben McCasker says the trip to Adelaide helped unleash “possibilities to our students, as they immerse themselves in a truly rich experience”.

The WiSE grant scheme is run by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

Previous STEM enrichment groups, from the first phase of the Flinders program, reached hundreds of schoolgirls who were encouraged to increase STEM subject enrolment and outcomes in senior secondary school, and then through to university and tertiary level.

- Advertisement -

“The 15 young women selected to attend the three-day workshop (at Flinders) have been ecstatic about the life-changing opportunity that will facilitate their growth and development in STEM fields,” says Darwin Middle School teacher Prue Rathborne.

“As an educator, it has been inspiring to witness how an opportunity can positively shape the confidence and attitudes of young women towards their futures in STEM disciplines.”

Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]