"How might we…?" They're the three words that kickstarted the entrepreneurial thinking process for 64 female high school students from across Sydney, who, after taking part in the UTS pilot program, have now earned their stripes as STEAMpunk Girls.
The STEAMpunk Girls have spent the past three months identifying and exploring real-world problems across cultural awareness, sustainability, health and poverty. They've broken out of a traditional education model to learn in a new interdisciplinary way across science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
They have also learnt how to be equipped for the workforce of the future through critical and innovative thinking, inter and intrapersonal skills, global citizenship and media and information literacy.
They took to the stage at the STEAMpunk Girls Showcase at UTS as part of this month's Sydney Science Week to present their solutions as projects. These included addressing gender inequality in high school through a themed podcast, creating a cleaner school environment through a robotic smart bin and promoting environmental interaction through outdoor learning spaces.
UTS will now select the most passionate young women from each school and help them bring their projects to life, further developing entrepreneurial thinking through industry collaboration.
The students' presentations followed an address from NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott.
"The skills that you're learning here are going to be invaluable when you start your careers. Whilst it's hard to know what jobs will be around in the future, we do know the kind of skills that you will need in that world," he said.
Special guest Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who in 2015 was named in the Top 100 Most Influential Engineers in Australia, inspired the students with her statement, "Never underestimate your capacity to change the world around you."
Liverpool Girls' High School year 11 student Amal Al-najam, who was involved in co-designing the program, commented, "STEAMpunk Girls opens up the thinking that there are more pathways you can take that aren't gender-based. You learn to break the stereotype of the 'traditional' profession which can stick with you.
"The skills you learn, such as communication and empathy, are skills to build on throughout your life."
The next phase of STEAMpunk Girls includes launching a teacher learning and support program to encourage a new wave of educators to get on board.
The next wave begins in May 2018, with participating schools and students still to be confirmed. The program aims to empower even more young women, hoping to scale up across Sydney and into regional NSW with the support of industry and government.
UTS Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Creative Intelligence Unit Acting Director Monique Potts, said, "With the future of work and increasing gender equity in STEM being two key focus areas for UTS, the launch of STEAMpunk Girls aimed to help answer two crucial questions: are we doing enough to properly equip graduates for the changing work environment, and how can we better understand what is engaging for young women in STEM?
"Now that our pilot has come to a close, we're ready to take key learnings forward to help make a real change for education and for young people.
"Through STEAMpunk Girls we aim to create pathways for young women through high school, university and into industry where they can bring their talents in technology, science and maths, as well as their creativity, empathy and lateral thinking to their study and work. At UTS, we are committed to playing our part to prepare young people for the future of work, today."
If you'd like to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for more information on the program.