Over the next two weeks, 116 outstanding female students will attend a face-to-face enrichment camp to further their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), travelling to either Canberra or Adelaide. It is the first face-to-face camp since 2019, following a pivot to digital delivery in the pandemic.
For the past six months, the Year 9 and 10 students have participated in an invitation-only six-month program that immerses underrepresented girls in six months of extension learning and mentoring in STEM.
The program culminates in a four-day camp where students will meet and take part in hands-on STEM activities, facilitated through partners The Australian National University and The University of Adelaide.
Curious Minds gives participants access to STEM role models by matching students with female mentors working in traditionally male-dominated careers. This year’s mentors include a diverse mix of engineers, physicists, mathematicians, research and medical scientists, medical practitioners, chemists, geologists and environmental scientists. Students complete a research project in partnership with their mentor, and present their findings to their peers during the camp.
Now in its eighth year, Curious Minds aims to increase girls’ confidence and interest in STEM subjects during a point in their education where, due to various factors, interest declines.
“Face-to-face camps provide an unparalleled opportunity to engage with tutors, make new friends with students who are as passionate as they are, and take advantage of the world-class facilities offered through our partner universities,” said Dr Kelsie Dadd, Program Director of Curious Minds.
“We know that Year 9 and 10 is a critical time where girls may turn away from STEM as they consider subjects in Year 11 and 12. Curious Minds shows girls what’s possible in STEM, and what it looks like outside the classroom.”
Since 2015, over 600 girls from regional, rural and low socio-economic areas have taken part in Curious Minds. A 2022 report revealed students involved in Curious Minds were 35% more likely to study male-dominated fields such physics and IT at University, with 77% indicating they would study STEM at University.
The Curious Minds initiative is funded by the Department of Education, and jointly delivered by Australian Maths Trust and Australian Science Innovations. The Australian National University and The University of Adelaide are the University partners of Curious Minds.
Applications for students and STEM Coaches the 2023-24 Curious Minds program will open in August. All interested parties are encouraged to express their interest.