While government, schools and industry debate how society can empower women, UTS has been taking action. The Hatchery, based in UTS’s Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Creative Intelligence Unit, has teamed up with female high school students to start a new counterculture revolution – teaching young women how to take charge of their careers and lead innovation in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). It’s a program called STEAMpunk Girls and it launches this month.
November 2016: The basement of building 15 is overflowing with young women. There’s foil, cellophane and cardboard everywhere. Not to mention Post-it Notes; lots of Post-it Notes. A group of Year 10 students are in the Hatchery building prototypes for the ‘universities of the future’, and their ideas and laughter fill the concrete-lined space.
UTS integrated product design and international studies student Kate Paterson played witness to the creative chaos. Paterson, alongside four other student coaches - Alex Hiller, Julia Down, Laurence Presland and Joanna Griffiths - spent two days as a coach for UTS’s STEAMpunk Girls.
While the workshop wasn’t exactly how she pictured spending her summer break, it’s an experience Paterson would never trade. “It was really good to be able to learn about what's going on in other industries,” explains the young designer.
“Learning about the ways that collaboration is helping things like science, which can seem so insular, is really great. It’s a reminder that no matter what level your skills are at or what you're working on, you should always be sharing with other people.”
STEAMpunk Girls is an education program that introduces young women in high school (aged 12 to 16) to entrepreneurship and the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics industries. It promotes a transdisciplinary approach to problem solving and aims to empower young women.
“Introducing young women to STEAM and entrepreneurship will help support them to participate in the innovation conversation,” says UTS Hatchery Program Manager Tida Tippapart.
Tippapart, who helped manage and design the workshops, adds, “It’s also about enabling young women to create their own counterculture where they can carve out their own transdisciplinary study and career pathways, have a voice in society, and disrupt expectations about the role and place of women in Australia.”
Tippapart says, “Graduates of STEAMpunk Girls will be creative, lateral and critical thinkers who are able to approach problems and opportunities with an entrepreneurial mindset. Even if they don’t move into STEM fields, they’ll be aware of their impact and be able to incorporate elements of the STEM industries in other areas where they work.”
“We need young women to be equipped with STEM skills and entrepreneurial mindsets so they can help innovate and improve Australia”
The program was co-designed by female Sydney high school students and their teachers who came to UTS for two days last November.
The first day was an introduction to STEAM, transdisciplinary problem solving and interviewing skills. The young women then headed back to their schools to interview other students and gather information about how they want to learn more about STEAM and what barriers might be blocking their understanding.
The second day, held at UTS one-and-a-half weeks later, saw the high school students unpack their interviews and findings using ideation and the design thinking process.
“My favourite part of the workshops was ideating,” enthuses Paterson. “I think high school can encourage a lot of wrong and right thinking. It was exciting to see young people shake that all off and just have fun while thinking about a real-world problem.
“It may not seem like a bunch of Post-it Notes and a lot of laughing can result in anything productive, but they were really switched on about how to tackle the opportunity space.”
Paterson says this distinct co-design process was the key to empowerment. “We don't listen to young people enough, especially young girls. So when you give them the chance to be heard, they will make the most of it.”
Tippapart agrees. “The co-design process was an important way for us to give the high schools girls the authority to tell us what issues were affecting them and what type of content resonated with young women. In many respects, the young women are the subject matter experts and the insight they gave us has been the cornerstones of how we approach the design of the program.”
The key themes and ideas that came out of the co-design workshops have been used to design the program’s official pilot which kicks off this month. The program, which runs until August, will involve over 60 girls from four Sydney high schools.
Using the theme ‘Future Earth’, the young women will identify a problem area to work on and develop a project that can solve it. It will culminate in a showcase event where they will pitch their solutions and present the prototypes they’ve developed.
STEAMpunk Girls is also an opportunity to highlight the amazing STEAM projects and role models at UTS. Tippapart is working to bring together UTS researchers and external partners to design unique content that will excite the participants about STEAM study and career paths.
“UTS has some world-class researchers and facilities that are all right at our door step. The aim of the program is to expose the students to as many different ways of thinking and working, which is the core of STEAM education.”
The STEAMpunk Girls pilot will also be supported by ongoing research with the students, their teachers and parents. By testing what effectively engages young women with STEAM, entrepreneurship and project-based learning, UTS will then be able to design scalable educational interventions to help engage all Australian high school girls with STEAM.
Says Tippapart, “We need young women to be equipped with STEM skills and entrepreneurial mindsets so they can help innovate and improve Australia. In the 2017 National Science Statement, participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in Australian schools is declining. If this decline in participation and performance continues, Australia may be unable to supply the skills required for the future workforce. ”
Find out more about STEAMpunk Girls at uts.ac/2nFnDkl