The Innovation Challenge is a 12-week program for Year 9 and 10 students who are curious about pursuing study or a career in STEM. Run by BrainSTEM and supported by the Royal Society of Victoria (Science), students are paired with an industry mentor and challenged to develop solutions to real-world problems using the scientific process.
In Terms 3 and 4, Kiana (Year 9), Mathangi, Emma, Justina and Sudiksha (Year 10) worked closely with their supervising teacher, Aarti Ram and industry mentor, Dr Amy Gelmi, Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellowship at RMIT University, to make education more accessible for kinaesthetic and vision impaired learners.
Students engaged with Stanford University’s Design Thinking Process to identify an area of focus, research and gather baseline data, develop concepts and create prototypes of potential solutions. Reflecting on her experience, Mathangi said she particularly enjoyed the ideation process, ‘we started off with big ideas and then realised that we did not have access to the resources. This step made us think more realistically and it really stretched our thinking.’
‘I found that the team was full of fantastic ideas and excited to make science in schools more accessible. I was impressed with their initiative and how quickly they made their idea come to life.’ Dr Amy Gelmi
In their presentation to participating schools, BrainSTEM leaders, industry mentors and invited guests, Fintona’s team shared their concept and working prototype for an accessible chemistry set and fidget pen. Justina and Sudiksha said these solutions were chosen because the group wanted to create something meaningful and these two ideas were achievable in the given timeframe.
The challenge has inspired students, and they have expressed a desire to continue working on their prototypes to refine them. ‘Figuring out the mechanics of the fidget pen was tricky, especially because we wanted to create a functional prototype. The current prototype can definitely be improved on,’ said Emma.
After a successful first year of participating in the Innovation Challenge, Fintona’s Learning Support Leader, Aarti is already looking forward to the next group of students who will take up the challenge in 2023.