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Regional students participate in Virtual STEM Academy trial


A select group of Year 6 students from three primary schools across Griffith recently completed the Australia New Zealand STEM Education Alliance (ANZSEA) Virtual STEM Academy International Pilot, the first of its kind anywhere or in the Southern Hemisphere.

Twenty-one students from across Australia and New Zealand were chosen to participate in the innovative trial, which engaged and challenged students with innovative, real-time STEM learning delivered through a state-of-the-art virtual platform (iSee).

For the past six weeks, five students from Griffith North, Lake Wyangan and Tharbogang Primary Schools have attended weekly ‘virtual’ classes as part of the STEM Skills Builder course where they learnt to solve a range of challenging science, technology, engineering and maths problems.

Designed to strengthen critical thinking and problem-solving strategies as well as collaboration skills students were involved in a number of STEM programs including navigating the iSee platform, science investigation skills, 3D modelling and presenting/pitching to an audience.

The five NSW students recently came together for the first time for a session hosted at Murrumbidgee Regional NSW, which has been chosen to host the NSW version of the Virtual STEM Academy for the SISP Program due to kick off in 2021.

As part of the program, students were set up with laptops, headsets and microphones so they could ‘walk’ and talk with other students near them in the game inspired virtual learning environment while solving density related problems.

According to Director of Education in Griffith, David Lamb generating interest in the Virtual STEM Academy was a major aim of the program.

“The business community in this region are such innovators with technology be it the wine industry or the fruit industry. They’re calling out for students to be skilled in STEM and we’re producing them,” he said. Virtual STEM Academy Manager, Ian Preston said plans were already in motion to expand the local STEM program in NSW.

“Next year we’ll be running another trial in conjunction with this one which will be purely for students in NSW and Queensland. With that, we’ll be targeting students from Year 5 to Year 10 from both Murrumbidgee Regional High and its feeder primary schools,” he said.

“We then hope to expand the program to other STEM in School Partnerships regions from mid-2021,” he concluded. 

The Virtual STEM Academy aims to inspire a passion and aspiration for STEM through innovative and enriching opportunities while providing disadvantaged students in regional, rural and remote areas with equal access to STEM learning.