University of Newcastle and ARTC on track to boost STEM participation in regional communities

Thursday, 26 November 2020

More than 7500 high school students in regional areas are set to benefit from a unique STEM partnership announced today between the Inland Rail Skills Academy and the University of Newcastle.

The STEM on Track partnership was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Michael McCormack MP via video message to students, teachers and industry professionals in Wagga Wagga, NSW.

A $700,000 investment made by Australian Rail and Track Corporation (ARTC)/Inland Rails Skills Academy for STEM on Track will support the University of Newcastle to deliver 35 Science and Engineering Challenge events and four 10-day Science, Mathematics and Real Technology (SMART) tours in regional communities between Brisbane and Albury.

Designed to raise awareness of STEM and build capability and aspirations in regional communities, the STEM on Track partnership will reach communities along the Inland Rail alignment – a 1,700 kilometre freight rail line that will connect Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky said the partnership was an important example of the University’s commitment to equity.

“It’s important to us that every student, regardless of where they grow up, has a chance to go after the career of their dreams,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“We’re delighted that the STEM on Track partnership will help support young people in regional areas to be able to pursue STEM careers and be part of a critical field in the country’s future workforce. This is an important way for us to give back to our communities and support the next generation of STEM professionals.”

Inland Rail Director of Engagement, Environment & Property, Rebecca Pickering, said the partnership highlighted how STEM programs were a key component of ARTC’s Social Investment Program and the Inland Rail Skills Academy.

“The STEM on Track partnership is a brilliant way to showcase potential career opportunities in STEM, including the rail sector, to primary and secondary students along the Inland Rail alignment,” Ms Pickering said.

“We are committed to supporting the wellbeing and prosperity of the community along the Inland Rail alignment and this partnership with the University of Newcastle allows us to ensure students in regional communities benefit from these programs.”

Helping school students to unearth career possibilities

STEM on Track will leverage the University of Newcastle’s existing SMART program – an innovative outreach program presenting interactive science shows and STEM workshops. The program will expand to deliver a new ‘Force and Motion’ Science Show and an engaging workshop series highlighting future STEM career paths.

The partnership also enables the University of Newcastle’s Science and Engineering Challenge to reach more schools so more students in regional communities can participate.

From designing an earthquake-proof tower to building a hovercraft, the Challenge helps students to extend their learning outside the classroom and unearth career possibilities in STEM.

Building STEM teaching skills to educate the next generation

The STEM on Track initiative endeavours to build confidence and skills of teachers in delivering STEM subjects to educate the next generation.

More than 200 teachers across Wagga Wagga, Brisbane South, Toowoomba, Narrabri, Dubbo and Albury will reap the benefits of the STEM on Track partnership with six new teacher professional development days rolled out as part of the expanded Science and Engineering Challenge.

In conjunction with the SMART tours in New South Wales and southern Queensland, more than 100 teachers will further develop their STEM teaching skills in an effort to boost their confidence when delivering STEM lessons.

Full steam ahead: STEM on Track launch

STEM on Track was officially launched today to an audience of students, teachers, industry professionals and industry representatives at an event at Wagga Wagga RSL Club.

Teams of school students challenged STEM industry professionals to design, build and test an earthquake-proof tower, water-efficient turbine and a weight-bearing bridge.

The first event in the Science and Engineering Challenge series made possible by the STEM on Track partnership was also held today in Brisbane South.

Students STEM on Track

Students with their model group of students and teachers at launch


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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.