The government bodies, industry executives and teachers who have expressed concern over the falling number of students who choose to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects can take heart.
Michaela Curry is among the next generation of young women who is considering an engineering career. The Year 12 student at Domremy College Five Dock joined 29 like-minded peers at a Women in Engineering camp held at the University of New South Wales earlier this year.
They took part in five days of lectures, workshops and hands-on activities that gave them an insight into fields including civil, chemical, biomedical, aeronautical, petroleum, and electrical engineering.
“I was looking for something to do for my Duke of Ed residential project but I was also thinking about a career that I would want to be in,” she said.
“Engineering was a thought I had, so it was two opportunities for me in one.
I really enjoy the explanations of Maths concepts that happen in Physics and I think engineering is how you can transfer that knowledge into a career.
“I had a great time and I met a lot of really nice people. You could tell that everyone there were motivated to take part in Maths and Science. Also the staff at UNSW really gave the impression that they wanted to boost female enrolments in engineering and other Science and Maths related degrees.”
Michaela said the group visited UNSW facilities including their bionic eye institute and the Red Cross Blood Processing Centre for an introduction to biomedical engineering, and the Powerhouse Museum where they drove a model of the Mars Rover. Participants also built an electric dice and climbed the Harbour Bridge at night to hear about its features and construction.
“The highlight was definitely doing the Harbour Bridge climb at night,” she said.
“It was for the civil part. They talked about the mechanisms and how they built the bridge.”
“Another one of the highlights was that, at the end of the week, UNSW students brought down their projects that they had been doing in the semester. One of the projects was an Ikea lounge that had been motorised. You attach an Xbox and can direct it forward backwards and round in circles, so it became a Segway, which we got to try.”
Michaela studies Physics and 3 Unit Mathematics. She said there were not as many girls electing to take part in senior science subjects at her school as there could be.
“There is no doubt that Physics and Extension Maths are hard subjects, so I think that’s one thing that doesn’t really entice people to the field of engineering,” she said.
“I was thinking of civil engineering but when I did the camp I learned more about petroleum engineering and that was really interesting. Biomedical engineering is interesting as well.
“I really enjoy the explanations of Maths concepts that happen in Physics and I think engineering is how you can transfer that knowledge into a career. The camp opened my eyes up to the different fields.”