Selected year nine students from low-decile schools in Canterbury are being invited to attend a three-day engineering workshop at Canterbury University next month.
The opportunity has come about after the university’s engineering department received a $30,000 grant from a government fund, Unlocking Curious Minds.
Engineering academics Dr Don Clucas and Dr Stefanie Gutschmidt are using the grant to run workshops for 60 year nine students and ten teachers from local schools. They hope that in doing so they will increase diversity among future engineering students.
“We know from our statistics that certain ethnic and social groups, especially from lower decile schools, and females, are significantly under-represented in our engineering intake,” says Dr Clucas. “We know that ability-wise there is no fundamental reason why these people should not be able to succeed in achieving a tertiary degree.”
“Innovation through stirred curiosity and thinking is so important to our future economy and society that we need to give more encouragement and guidance to the next generation of potential engineers,” says Dr Gutschmidt. “With this small workshop we are reaching out to pupils that may not have either the facilities that higher decile schools have or the family, peer or community support needed to successfully take on the challenge of tertiary education.”
During the workshops, students will gain first-hand experience using state-of-the-art 3D printing and 3D scanning equipment, learn about new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D scanning and laser cutting – all from local engineering experts.
The mechanical engineering academics say the ultimate aim is to inspire and guide the young students and demonstrate that there is no fundamental reason why they cannot succeed at university, providing they prepare themselves at secondary school by studying science and maths, and keep their natural curiosity alive.
“We’re not aiming at the top achieving or older students who have likely already decided their path. We want to inspire the students who are showing good promise with science, maths and technology, and could benefit from a bit of encouragement,” says Dr Gutschmidt. “At this stage of their studies, year nine students still have the chance to choose their subjects wisely and part of our goal is to give them some direction.”
Dr Clucas says the decision to also include ten teachers is so that knowledge and inspiration can be shared back at school. “We want to sustain the momentum and motivation gained from these few days. This way we capture a far greater pool of potential engineers.”
Unlocking Curious Minds is cross-agency programme of work led by the Ministry of Education and the office of the prime minister’s chief science advisor.