Engaging students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics can be a challenge, but Digital Fabrication Laboratories make STEM more fun for students, Lauriston Girls’ School Principal, Ms Susan Just, explains …
Society plays a role in discouraging women to pursue a career in science because people think science lacks the human element that females are drawn to. Yet many scientists would argue this isn’t true. At Lauriston, our particular interest lies in engaging girls in scientific thinking from an early age.
Last month Lauriston ran , the first ‘digital fabrication in education’ conference in Australia. The focus was on engaging students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). More than 80 educators came from across Australia, because they know that STEM skills are the key to in Australia.
There is a significant need to improve the currently low numbers of students (both male and female) completing STEM-based subjects in the senior years of school, and also improving the number of students completing STEM-based tertiary courses.
, an analytical chemist in America points out: ‘Science is about facts and people. Science is done by people and it is often done to serve the interests of people. We do laboratory tests, field experiments and computer simulations so that we can understand the world around us and ourselves.’
At Lauriston our particular interest lies in engaging our girls from an early age to enjoy STEM-based activities through all subjects they study in their curriculum. We have recently installed a (Fabrication Laboratory) in the science building that allows teachers to combine technology, creativity and hands-on construction into their teaching.
The girls and teachers are enjoying the new experience of the FabLab. They are designing, testing, trialling and learning together. They are using a range of software, 3D printers and laser cutters to make and learn in a number of different ways.
Through the FabLab, students are gaining deeper insight into their subjects; for example, a recent STEM class designed a sustainable house. The students designed their model using computer-aided design (CAD), cut it out on the laser printer and then programmed a sensor to open windows in the structure once a certain temperature had been reached.
This project brings together disciplines of design, trigonometry and programming. Some girls focused more on the shape and design, while others programmed extra features such as doorbells. Not one house was the same.
That is the kind of result we were looking for: free thought and deeper exploration of the task at hand.
There are boundless opportunities to engage in science and technology. We all (educators, parents, society, industry) need to give girls the confidence to explore STEM further.