STEM

STEM ecosystem map for educators

This STEM ecosystem map shows the programs and activities across Victoria to encourage young people to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Launched in October 2018 by Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, the Connecting Victoria’s STEM Ecosystem map provides a navigational tool to enable connections across the system and increase participation in STEM in secondary schools.

The map provides an overview of teacher resources, distance education opportunities, mentoring and partnership programs, competitions and events, places to visit, university outreach programs and STEM focused schools.

While the map is for teachers, students and industry, ultimately, the project is about how to support teachers to do their work and get access to resources.

Please click on the map to enlarge.

Connecting Victoria’s STEM Ecosystem

Download a PDF version of the map, or visit the Connecting Victoria’s STEM Ecosystem web page to find out more details about each of these initiatives or organisations.

Local Educational Initiatives and Networks

Digital Technologies Advisory Committee

Created by STEM teachers and facilitators, the Digital Technologies Advisory Committee (DTAC) meets fortnightly in Wangaratta. Visit DTAC online to see which items are in its Digital Resource Library or to keep abreast of upcoming events and workshops.

Eco Inquire

Eco Inquire is a specialist education provider focusing on the development and delivery of programs addressing STEM and environmental sustainability. Their incursions give K–12 students opportunities to build STEM understandings with direct links to the curriculum and hands-on, inquiry-based experiences, and their STEM programs provide expert instruction and interactive activities in a wide range of STEM subjects such as programming, engineering and science.

Our Women Leading STEM

Our Women Leading STEM is a group of women coming together to ‘provide a network of diverse women, from all generations, to nurture and empower each other, and realise our full potential’ in the Albury-Wodonga area and surrounds. For more info, visit their Facebook page or contact 0406 943 436.

Regional STEM Centre

The Regional STEM Centre is an initiative of Wodonga Senior Secondary College and the Wodonga Federation of Government Schools, in partnership with Quantum Victoria. Read more about the creation of the centre and its vision to create a regional community invigorated by STEM in ‘Regional educators sharing STEM expertise‘, published in Teacher magazine on 27 February 2018.

Local Events

Regional Champions Program

An upcoming local training opportunity is the Regional Champions Program, a six-session course being held in Wangaratta between April and September 2019. This course will explore how existing iPads can be used to accelerate opportunities for creative engagement while allowing participants to establish lasting connections with other local educators in the group.

Girls in Physics Breakfast

Fri 24 May, 7.30 am–10 am
The Valleys Restaurant, Wodonga TAFE

As part of a series of Girls in Physics breakfasts being held across Victoria during May, a Girls in Physics breakfast will be held in Wodonga on 24 May 2019. Year 10, 11 and 12 students are invited to share breakfast with passionate women who have pursued or are pursuing a career in physics, science or engineering. This event will feature Dr Adelle Wright, from the Australian National University, who will speak on Nuclear Fusion: An Australian Perspective’. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions, find out what a career in physics has to offer, and participate in careers in STEM activities. Visit VicPhysics for more details, including flyers to promote the event to your students and how to book.

Metropolitan Opportunities

See the Connecting Victoria’s STEM Ecosystem map or web page for places to visit in and around Melbourne.

Connecting with Industry

Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, has said ‘one of the increasing priorities that we see is how can we better connect industry with schools’, according to an article, ‘Resources: A STEM ecosystem map for educators’, published online in Teacher magazine on 31 October 2018.

See the Connecting Victoria’s STEM Ecosystem map or web page for examples of industry connecting with schools such as with awards and competitions.

Below is additional information on how the Albury Wodonga Solar Car Challenge, the Apple Store and VEX Robotics can offer opportunities to students from our region.

Albury Wodonga Solar Car Challenge

Held over 14 years, the Albury Wodonga Solar Car Challenge is designed to provide opportunities for students, teachers and local industry to work together to design, construct and race a remote-controlled solar-powered car. In 2018 the challenge was launched in June when participating schools were presented with a solar panel to be used for their cars and various components. School teams then had 12 weeks to prepare for race day in October with a practice day being held in September. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Apple Store Sessions

Regional schools planning to visit a metropolitan area can schedule an Apple Field Trip for a group of students or teachers, or even your school’s e-learning class leaders. The sessions are free, equipment is provided, and the work created can complement existing classroom projects. For more info or to request a field trip, visit Apple Field Trip.

For those intending to visit a metropolitan area during weekends or school holidays, you can sign up for free creative sessions at your nearest Apple Store, with a number of sessions in the school holidays targeted towards children and young people. To locate your nearest Apple Store and to find out which sessions are coming up on the dates you’re available, visit Today at Apple.

Competitive Robotics FAQs

What is competitive robotics?

The study of competitive robotics not only encompasses all four pillars of STEM education, but also encourages important life skills like teamwork, communication, and project-based organisation. The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation brings competitive robotics experiences to students all over the world through the VEX IQ Challenge, VEX Robotics Competition, and VEX U. On this page we will focus on the competitive robotics divisions for primary and secondary students.

What is happening locally with competitive robotics?

A surging interest in competitive robotics in North East Victoria and on the Border over the past three years has led to significant success for our region’s teams on the national and international stage.

At the 2018 Australian VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) Nationals, held in Melbourne from 30 November to 2 December, teams from Wangaratta, Wodonga and Albury were so successful that they took out 15 of 39 awards, equivalent to 38% of the awards.

According to a TechDiversity Awards nomination submitted by Maree Timms, eLearning Co-ordinator at Galen College, North East Victoria is now the fastest growing region for VEX Robotics in the world, as noted by VEX Robotics leaders in both Australia and the USA.

Which local schools are leading the way?

The success of teams from Wodonga Middle Years College, St Anne’s Primary School in Albury and Galen Catholic College in Wangaratta at the 2018 Nationals means they will be competing at the 2019 VEX Robotics World Championships, to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, in April 2019.

Galen College will be making their second appearance at the World Championships after competing there for the first time in 2018, when they won one of six service awards for the most helpful, co-operative and friendly team from a field of 600 international high schools. It’s the first time Australia has won an award at ‘the Worlds’ in the high school division—see STEM spotlight: rural students win big at ‘Robotics Olympics’; also see VEX Robotics video: VEX Worlds Galen Team.

Why are teams from our region being so successful?

An increased representation by local teams at the VRC Nationals in the past three years has no doubt contributed to their success, along with an increase in our region’s share of teams.

Which local teachers are leading the way?

Outstanding contributions by local teachers were recognised at the 2018 Nationals with three of our region’s teachers being awarded the ‘VRC Teachers of the Year Award’ for their contribution to the field and dedication to their students—Michael Rogers, of Wodonga Middle Years College; and Maree Timms and Brett Webber, both of Galen College. In addition, Belinda Moran, of St Anne’s Primary School in Albury, won ‘VEX Mentor of the Year’ in recognition of her commitment and passion for the school’s VEX Robotics program.

Maree’s award follows on from her 2017 ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’ for all her work leading Galen students, giving them the opportunity to achieve; also for establishing VEX as a serious competition in North East Victoria. Maree was also involved with the facilitation of the 2016 and 2017 Nationals, both held in Wangaratta.

Who else is supporting the growth of competitive robotics in our region?

Another contributor to the growth of competitive robotics teams in the region has been the strong partnerships built between Galen Catholic College, Charles Sturt University (Wangaratta), the NE Tracks Local Learning and Employment Network, and GOTAFE (Wangaratta). This partnership between the local organisations is now called the Digital Technologies Advisory Committee (DTAC). Shortlisted at September’s TechDiversity Awards, DTAC was awarded the 2018 Victorian Innovation Minister’s Diversity Award (Highly Commended) for their innovation, courage and collaboration in helping increase awareness and interest in STEM.

For a detailed overview of the Galen VEX Robotics Program and how it evolved, and the teachers, key students and key partners who have been involved, read the TechDiversity Awards nomination submitted by Maree Timms.

The Ovens Murray Regional Partnership has also been a champion of the partnership between DTAC and Galen College, recently showcasing it as a national and international digital success story as a way of inspiring others in our region. Launched on 14 March 2019, the ‘From Wangaratta to Mars’ case study and summary video shows how Wangaratta’s DTAC and Galen College are working together and have had great success improving digital participation and building the skills of the next generation of innovators.

I work at a primary school, how can we get started in competitive robotics?

The VEX IQ Challenge provides primary and middle school students, from Grade 4 to Year 8, with open-ended robotics and research project challenges. Participants snap together VEX IQ parts and build a simple, powerful robot to explore open-ended challenges, which are designed to enhance their STEM skills.

Maree Timms advises that this ‘elementary’ section is perfect for primary schools, and believes the local primary school competition side will expand reasonably quickly with several regional primary schools either coming on board with VEX or showing interest. One local primary school already involved is St Anne’s Primary School in Albury, which fielded two teams of Grade 5 students in the 2018 Nationals. Both teams progressed to the finals, and one of the teams has now been given the opportunity to represent Australia at this year’s World Championships.

You don’t have to be an engineer or have technical skills to start and organize a VEX IQ Challenge team. To help your team begin, view How to Start and Organize a VEX IQ Challenge Team, which will guide you to online resources and step you through getting started; equipment your team will need; developing your team; designing, building and programming the robot; and getting ready for an event.

Maree gives a hot tip that, as of February–March 2019, a base VEX IQ kit is being sold half-price via the Australian Geographic shop. Maree says it is very similar to a VEX IQ Competition kit—minus a few sensors, the plastic storage tub/and rechargeable batteries and charger. To become competition ready, you would have to upgrade these—about an extra $50 per kit—via the VEX Shop.

According to the VEX Robotics website, VEX IQ serves as a great springboard into the VEX EDR platform as students grow older.

I work with middle school and high school students, how can we get started in competitive robotics?

One option is for Year 7 and 8 students to become involved in the VEX IQ Challenge, a competition for junior high school students (see above).

Another option is for students, from Grade 6 to Year 12, to become involved in the VEX Robotics Competition, the world’s largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics program. Each year it presents students with an engineering challenge in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build innovative robots and compete year-round.

To help your team begin, view How to Start and Organize a VEX Robotics Competition Team, which will guide you to online resources and step you through getting started; developing your team; equipment your team will need; designing, building and programming the robot; and getting ready for competition.

In this division, aluminum and steel parts are used, and the robots are built using the VEX EDR platform. To browse VEX EDR products, visit the VEX shop.

What are some options for schools becoming involved?

Options for schools becoming involved include developing an extracurricular activity/program, or integrating VEX Robotics into Year 8 and/or Year 9 robotics courses. Wodonga Middle Years College has developed a 12-month course for Year 8 students. The robotics students learn the fundamentals of robotics in the first half of the year, then use the second half of the year to build a competition-ready robot, which they use to compete in a series of competitions.

As found at Galen College, an advantage of retaining an extracurricular program is it allows students of different year levels to work together, enabling older students to mentor younger students. The college has also found that offering robotics and coding holiday programs for Grade 5 and 6 students can be an opportunity for team members to mentor and inspire younger students as well as develop their leadership, teamwork and communication skills.

What are some options for venues?

As happened at Galen Catholic College, your students might start out working/sharing in a science lab. As your school’s program grows, you may need to establish a dedicated VEX Room.

Who can hold robotics competitions in our region?

Michael Rogers, Maree Timms and Brett Webber have all been trained as Event Partners by VEX Australia, providing them with the skills and training required to hold regional competitions in the local region.

Where can I find some resources?

Maree Timms has kindly agreed to share digital resources—these VEX resources are accessible via her Google Drive.

Who can I contact locally for more information?

With student teams from Wodonga Middle Years College, Galen College and St Anne’s Primary School all heading to VEX Worlds, Maree Timms says that the three schools have plenty of experience and ideas between them, and that they all work closely together. Maree says she is happy to connect with any local STEM teachers who are considering getting their schools involved and is willing to answer any questions.

For teachers who are interested in getting their school involved, and want to explore this with local educators already using VEX Robotics, you may want to contact the following teachers:

  • Maree Timms and Brett Webber—Maree has been the driving force behind the VEX program at Galen Catholic College, and partners with Brett in all things VEX at the college
    Email Maree.Timms@galen.vic.edu.au
  • Michael Rogers, Wodonga Middle Years College—the ‘VEX extraordinaire’ at Wodonga
    Email mrogers@wmyc.vic.edu.au
  • Belinda Moran, St Anne’s Primary School, Albury
    Email moranb@ww.catholic.edu.au