Research

More than 400,000 students have been involved in the Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC) since the program began at the University of Newcastle in 2000.

In 2021, Reed et al.1 published an article entitled 'STEM Outreach: Are We Making a Difference? A Case Study Evaluating the Science and Engineering Challenge Program' based on student survey data collected over a 10 year period. 

From 2006 to 2015, 5,210 high school and 2,445 first-year university students were surveyed to assess whether the SEC influenced their decision to pursue STEM studies. Of the high school physics students, 51.9% reported that the SEC influenced their decision to study physics. A smaller yet significant impact was reported by chemistry (35.2%) and mathematics (32.0%) students. Further, 30.9% of university students indicated that the SEC influenced their decision to pursue a STEM degree.

In 2019, the national program involved more than 30,000 students from over 1,000 schools across Australia. More than half were in rural or remote regions of the country; 10% were from non-English speaking backgrounds, and 5% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Of the SEC participants surveyed in 2019:

  • 91% found the overall experience rewarding
  • 87% gained an appreciation of science and engineering courses.

The graph below shows the percentage of students who decided to study science and mathematics courses in Year 11 as a result of participating in a Science and Engineering Challenge event:

Bar graph depicting the percentage of students surveyed who were influenced by the Science and Engineering Challenge to study Physics (males 45%; females 47%), Chemistry (males 24%; females 48%), and Mathematics (males 32%; females 43%).

The feedback from teachers is also very encouraging with 100% of survey respondents indicating that they would bring their students again and encourage other schools to participate.

1. Reed, S., Prieto, E., Burns, T. and O'Connor, J., 2021. STEM Outreach: Are We Making a Difference? A Case Study Evaluating the Science and Engineering Challenge Program. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement25(2).

Feedback

This is an excellent program, which has a very positive reputation within our school. We attended this years ago and were delighted to see its return.


We at Uralla Central value being able to bring our students to UNE so that they experience what a university campus is like. This can help them to aspire to go to university.


Please, please, please continue to offer this wonderful opportunity for students (and teachers). Our particular thanks to the many volunteers who make the challenge possible.


Keep on doing a fantastic job. Students can be seriously motivated to pursue science careers by these activities.


What did you take away from the challenge?


That students can really enjoy challenging problem solving situations with sufficient time to think!


Hands on approach to learning is very important.


A renewal of my desire to include more stem activities in my teaching.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.