Building engineers not products

The Dandenong High School 2018 Awards night was a fitting climax to another successful year for the Vernier Foundation’s STEM Collaboration Program.

The Vernier Foundation is the charitable wing of the Vernier Society. The Foundation’s “School STEM Collaboration Project” is a three year project with a number of schools, of which Dandenong High is one, to promote STEM learning and development. The project is primarily focused on providing donations for the purchase of robotic education kits, tools and components in each of the three years. However, in 2018, the Foundation introduced three personal awards, across the years 9 to 11, for students who demonstrated exemplary commitment to STEM learning and development.

This year, the Foundation introduced three individual achievement awards for Dandenong High students as part of its three-year rolling program with the school to promote STEM education and careers. The financial awards were created for the first time in 2018 from donations from Vernier Society members and in particular Sutton Tools, who in addition to cash, donated a special tooling prize.

The awards ceremony was held at the Robert Blackwood Hall on the Monash University campus and attended by students and parents. Vernier Society members who attended described the event as “a real eye-opener”, both in terms of the professionalism of the event but also of the wealth of young talent on display across the arts, science and community service.

Vernier Foundation representatives Peter Sutton and Jack Parr were on stage to present the awards to three outstanding STEM students. The ‘Sutton Tooling Prize’ was awarded to Shireen Ahmed for her work in the Year 9 STEM Elective. According to her tutors, Shireen was nominated for her commitment to STEM learning, taking two STEM-based electives in 2018, ‘STEM’ and ‘Applied Science’, and demonstrating her love of understanding how machines and systems operate by playing a significant role in the design and development of the year team’s car design project.

The second recipient was Ali Haidar Qasimi for his work in Year 10 Robotics. Unfortunately, Ali was ill on the night and not able to receive his award in person. In the view of his tutors, Ali has a real passion for learning robotics and applying logical thinking to their creation. Ali adds to this with diligence and hard work, which underpinned his achieved success in all the project work.

The final award went to Year 11 VCE Systems Engineering student Konah Leslie-Evans, who demonstrated his strong interest in STEM learning over the year, including developing his own interest in coding for image editing. Konah has also been intensely involved in Dandenong High’s successful Robots Program, demonstrating his ability to analyse, interpret, evaluate and solve problems.

The other consistent message from the tutors at Dandenong High, who chose the winners, was the contribution of all three prizewinners to their fellow class members’ learning. Shireen was complimented for being “an excellent role model for younger students at the Science Expo”; Ali for his “his ability to collaborate well”; and Konah for his team involvement, “routinely helping the student he sat next to”. The interdisciplinary nature of engineering projects today means that these young peoples’ teamworking skills will add to their chances of a successful career in future.

The Foundation is always looking for additional funds to expand the Collaboration Project and develop the support into apprenticeships and work experience projects. For more information, contact the Foundation Co-Ordinator Jack Parr at jparr.strider@bigpond.com.

This transcript was previously published in Australian Manufacturing Technology Apr-May’19 Magazine.

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