Female students dominate Australia's largest STEM event Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Female high school students took centre stage at the largest STEM event ever held in Australia: the combined National Finals of the F1inSchools Technology Challenge, Subs in Schools Technology Challenge and Land Rover 4X4 in Schools Technology Challenge.

The inaugural Subs in Schools competition was won by an all-girl team 'Athena' from St. Peters Girls School in Adelaide. The second and third placed teams in the 'rookie' (Development) class of the F1 competition were all-girls. When the three top teams stood on the podium to receive their trophies there were nine girl students and four male students.

To add to this statistic, the winning rookie F1 team and the winners of the Land Rover 4x4 Technology Challenge were managed by female students. As was the third placed F1 team in the Professional class of the F1 challenge.

One team which attracted attention was 'Golden Diversity' from Tasmania. The group of five girls finished a close second in the F1 rookie class. They took out awards for Best Team Marketing, Best Graphic Design, Best Team Portfolio and Fastest Reaction Time of just 0.158 seconds in launching their car down the race track. The girls originate from Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Malaysia and India and were on a mission in Sydney to promote diversity.

The large number of female students at this peak level came as no surprise to the host of this event, Dr Michael Myers OAM, the founder of not-for-profit Re-Engineering Australia Foundation (REA) and President of the Sydney chapter of Engineers Australia.

Since the early days of REA, Dr Myers has encouraged girls to embrace STEM. He conducted extensive research into identifying the differences between young males and females – including a study of psychological triggers and behavioural patterns as well as the ways in which they determine their future career paths. These findings were collated into a considerable white paper and form a large part of the structure of REA’s applied learning programs – hence their popularity to both genders.

When REA sent their very first team to the F1inSchools World Finals in 2004 it included a girl. The following year the same girl returned at the head of an all-female team 'Brisk In Pink' which went on to score 5th best in the world.

When 'Pentagliders' from a school in Tasmania were crowned world champions of the same competition in 2011, their team was led by a female team manager and the following year when Adelaide team 'Cold Fusion' came 1st in the world, their team included two girls.

Australia has gone on to become the most successful nation in the world at the F1inSchools competition which has Bernie Ecclestone and all of the Formula One teams as its patrons. Australia has won the World Finals against more than 40 nations on four occasions, including three in a row, and been runners-up five times.

Dr Myers brought the F1 program to Australia in 2003 and then the 4x4 challenge a couple of years ago. Subs in Schools was developed by him to provide F1inSchools teams with a more complex challenge involving new engineering disciplines.

It coincided with the elevated interest in underwater technology brought on by the publicity surrounding the Federal Government’s Future Submarine program. It involves designing and making a realistic scale model of a submarine complete with electronics, radio controlled hydroplanes and working ballast tanks.

In REA’s programs, students as young as 10 have to master 3D technology such asvirtual wind tunnel software, 3D CAD/CAM, omputational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, 3D printing, CNC machining on classroom-friendly machine centres, and smoke and wind aerodynamic testing in a mini test lab. In addition, they are judged for their collaboration with industry, public speaking, marketing skills and project management.

[Image: The Athena 'Subs In Schools' National Champions with Federal Assistant Minister for Science, Karen Andrews (c).]