The #STEM4Sunraysia event held at SuniTAFE in Mildura over two days in October 2018, engaged high school students from across the region demonstrating an activation similar to a Tech School context, making connections with employers and industry, real world problem solving, and the future of jobs, skills and work.  Partners included SuniTAFE, Northern Mallee LLEN and Workforce BluePrint with the two days MC’d by Jess Perry from Career BluePrint.

The objective was to engage high school students focussed on solving real world problems for local businesses, startups and organisations, with a focus on STEM and entrepreneurship, linking the activities to STEM subjects and connecting school life to the world around them.  Featured Industries included:

  • Agriculture and Horticulture – Lower Murray Water & Nu-Edge
  • Community Services and Health – Monash Rural Medical
  • Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation – MRD
  • Transport and Logistics – GTS Freight Management

Sixty students helped local businesses and organisations to leap forward in terms of addressing their problems, developing new or improving products/services, building digital capability, with a pitch competition at the end of the two days judged by industry representatives.

The event began with a keynote on the Future of Work presented by Melissa from Future Crunch before problem pitches by business and industry.  The ‘hustle’ saw students pick the problem that they were most interested in working on with a key message of creating the future that we want to see.  A get out of the building tour meant that students visit the businesses that pitched their problems to get more of an understanding of what they needed to design as solutions.

From a student’s point of view, the immersive experience provided an innovative challenge, new connections and the opportunity to demonstrate and develop 21st Century Capabilities – stimulating an interest in STEM related studies and challenging the traditional perceptions of Maths and Science.  Teams focused on relevant areas of business and customer development, validating their ideas, practicing lean startup and growth hacking methodologies, rapidly changing and improving the problems/programs/products/services.  Massive growth hack sessions saw validation face to face and via phone with potential customers and partners which student didn’t think they could do!

A welcome to day 2 by Jess, then an update from Ron at Northern Mallee LLEN was followed by pitching tips from Wendy, MD at Workforce BluePrint.  Students learnt techniques to start a pitch, get audience participation and use facts and figures.

Prep for pitches on day two was followed by a BBQ lunch and then the judges arrived to watch four teams show off the solutions they came up with over #STEM4Sunraysia at 2.00 pm.

The first team pitched solutions for improving water use, reducing wastage, from paddock to plate with education, hardware, software where they validated via Lower Murray Water speaking to delegates at Growers Conference held at SuniTAFE.

Addressing internet connectivity with a dual solution via NBN and Monash Rural Health plus VR applied to medical training, a suggestion that the problem poser will explore, was pitched by team #2.

Pitching a working prototype that Aidan coded overnight with James leading from IREDDY scavenger hunt to attract more tourists to Mildura, especially younger people with their #ExperienceBetter campaign was the third pitch.

Final pitch was a smart cool room solution for a transport company in Mildura and another challenge to reduce energy use across the facility from team TTT.

Happy winners from IREDDY with their prizes of robots saw collaboration across a number of schools in this team so all about making new friends, real world problem solving, team work and surprising the judges, teachers and students too!

If you’d like to run something like #STEM4Sunraysia in your region in 2019 please get in touch via wendy@workforceblueprint.com.au so we can design an innovative experience for young people and businesses.