Stemming the flow

OVER the past generation there has been a global trend away from science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjections but educators and miners are fighting back.
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Gina Rinehart making a pitch to students from Kent Street Senior High School.

Noel Dyson

Roy Hill has become the latest to march into the STEM battle, launching its ROC-ED program.

The program exposes year eight students from Western Australian public and private schools and to the company’s Remote Operations Centre near the Perth Airport.

The half-day program shows students the real-time operation of the mine and its infrastructure and gives them the chance to learn what it is like to run a mining operation. They also learn about Roy Hill’s ongoing rehabilitation efforts and work with robots.

The ROC-ED program is the brainchild of Roy Hill chairwoman Gina Rinehart.

“I hope to interest students to take up the study of engineering, geology, mathematics, science and technology, which are key to Australia’s future development,” she said.

Roy Hill CEO Barry Fitzgerald said the program aimed to provide an overview of what mining was.

“We’re trying to attract different people into the mining industry,” he said.

Fitzgerald said Roy Hill had worked with educationalists to ensure the program fitted with existing school curriculums.

He said the program was aimed at year eight students because they were on the cusp of choosing what streams they wanted to study for the rest of their high school time.

“It’s the last chance to convince them to do STEM,” he said.

Western Australian Education Minister Peter Collier said there had been a drift towards the humanities subjects over the past generation and that had been a global trend.

He said that was something the government was trying to address through the education system and recent results had been pleasing.

“The uptake in science and maths in the past two years has been encouraging,” he said.

The first intake at Roy Hill’s ROC-ED was a class of year eight students from Kent Street Senior High School.

Those students certainly seemed engaged with the opportunities mining presented as well as the tasks set for them through the program. However, references by Fitzgerald and Collier to slide rules and Gestetner machines respectively did seem to go over their heads.

There is also the feeling that Roy Hill missed a gold opportunity in the naming of its program. The School of Rock would have been a much catchier offering, although Fitzgerald did say there had been concerns over false advertising and managing students’ expectations.

Further afield, the Queensland government has stepped up its efforts to close the STEM and digital literacy gaps among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Eligible councils can apply through the State Library of Queensland for up to $25,000 to run the STEM.I.AM program in their local community through their library or Indigenous Knowledge Centre.

The STEM.I.AM coding and robotic grants program provides opportunities for indigenous students to develop their problem solving, creative thinking and technology skills.

It provides hands-on experience for students from year five to year 12.

Activities include coding and robotics workshops, community-led code clubs, and national coding and robotics competitions.

State Librarian Vicki McDonald said coding and robotics activities delivered in libraries were a fun way to learn about digital technologies.


Grant applications close on January 25.