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Culture

Smart ideas for a smart future

Meet the students using STEM skills to turn their ideas into reality with the help of Samsung Electronics Australia.

When it comes to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the opportunities for practical learning are endless.

STEM education empowers teachers and students through hands-on STEM engagement opportunities, allowing them to step out from the classroom and put all their knowledge into practice.

This practicality is vital for students. By helping young Australian's see a direct connection between STEM coursework and their dream jobs of the future, students can stay engaged with the lessons, reducing the chance of falling behind when it comes to taking advantage of future opportunities.

Skills on display

To address this, Samsung and Questacon ran the "This is a STEM Job" national innovation competition. It was designed to show students how some of the most exciting and creative jobs rely on STEM skills – including the jobs of the future, jobs that may not yet even exist.

Michaela Ripper is Smart Skills Facilitator with Questacon and she says that making practical applications of STEM skills visible to students is invaluable.

"I think it's important to help young people realise that STEM is more than just a science or maths class," she says. "It opens possibilities in almost any field -- it would almost be impossible to name an industry that doesn't use STEM!"

Hands-on projects and competitions like This is a STEM Job help young people visualise careers that they may not have even considered.

"The effect on young people is often surprise and inspiration," says Ripper. "They're seeing possibilities they think existed before.

"When students see these real and relatable people using STEM, they can see themselves in their shoes going on to use the same skills in imaginative ways in the future."

Samsung worked with three renowned STEM creators to create three unique design briefs to challenge young Australians to engage in STEM. Participants could choose to create a piece of music; design the surfboard of the future; or design a piece of eco-friendly fashion. The results were nothing short of remarkable.

Meet the winners

Hailing from Chatswood, Sydney, 18-year-old Olivia Okely won the fashion brief. Her design was a 1950s silhouette dress made of 3D-printed eucalyptus leaves using an algae filament.

"The algae filament is actually biodegradable which allows for fast fashion to be eco-friendly," says Olivia of her design. "The dress will actually break down after the season. Not only that, while the algae is growing to be turned into a filament for 3D printing it absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen when photosynthesising."

The base fabric for the dress is Ecospun fibre made out of 100% certified recycled plastic PET bottles.

"Ecospun is also environmentally friendly," she says. "By reusing the plastic bottles in there is the potential to keep billions of plastic PET bottles out of the world's landfills. For every one billion plastic bottles created, 18 tons of harmful air emissions are produced, and 2.5 million barrels of oil are used, contributing to acid rain, global warming and smog."

"I'm currently studying Fashion Design at UTS and plan to one day start my own fashion label. STEM is important in fashion, from the maths used when creating the pattern for a garment to the geometry that allows us to create unique shapes in garments. Technology is also an integral part of production in the fashion industry now as there are many machines to do specialised functions or to created garments at mass scale." 

Aastha Kumar, from Ascot Park, South Australia won the music category at just 14 years of age. Aastha's short instrumental piece, called "Heartbeats", bases itself on the neurological and psychological effects music has on the listener.

"Music is a way to express emotions but also receive criticism, feedback and reaction through it," explained Aastha. "I researched the scientific effect of a sound's pitch, tempo, beat on the listener, as well as the differences from the types of instruments used."

Aastha found the fast tempo and high notes to be very lively, giving listeners positive reactions, while a slower tempo tended to give a calmer feeling.

"Overall music is what forms from an understanding of the composer's intent and the listener's reaction. With this project I wanted to make the statement that in the future, using STEM skills, music could be used to fight psychological medical concerns such as depression, anxiety and even something as serious as post-traumatic stress disorder."

Theo Marlow, meanwhile, is from Galston, NSW which isn't exactly a surfing suburb, but that didn't stop the 15-year-old from being the surfboard innovation winner. Marlow's surfboard contains a filter which can sift micro-plastics out of the ocean and also upload information about the location of ocean rubbish.

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"STEM has always been a subject of interest for me, I love to innovate and create, skills that are very needed for tomorrows society. When I found the Samsung This is a STEM Job, I was excited to think of new ideas to submit, that could solve, or mitigate current-world problems. One such problem was plastic pollution in the ocean. With this in mind I designed a surfboard using Fusion 360, a3D modelling application, which contained a filter that could remove microplastics from the ocean. The Samsung "This is a STEM job", allowed me to see my future in STEM and in innovative type jobs."

In keeping with the theme of STEM in practice, the winners scored an incredible prize: all three got to spend a one-day internship with their respective STEM Creator to experience what they do on a day-to-day basis and see first-hand how they use STEM skills every day.

Olivia said, "I really enjoyed the internship with Dr Mark Liu at UTS. It was really interesting to see all of the 3D printers that they have in the Protolab and all of the different functions they can do. I had to the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the ATN Solar Car Team where they were presented with the initial design ideas for their uniform."

Josh Grace, CMO at Samsung Electronics Australia, said that projects like the This is a STEM Job competition gives students the opportunity to inspire them and show how STEM can  be connected to their future career aspirations.

"Australia's STEM skill gap has been a national priority for some time now," says Grace. "A key reason is many young Australians are unable to make a clear connection between STEM subjects and relevant, inspiring careers. As a result, they become disengaged from STEM as early as primary school. Through 'This is a STEM Job' we wanted to show young Aussies that STEM jobs are not just for people who wear white lab coats. STEM plays a massive role in some of the most exciting and creative jobs out there, including music, surfing and fashion."

By focusing on the practical learning, and by helping students meet career leaders, this is a STEM Job paints a clear picture of how STEM skills can lead to a dream career.

To learn more about about how Samsung is working toward a better future for the generations to come click here.