Giving students a leg up in engineering

What do wooden stakes, a toilet plunger, and a piece of charcoal have in common? These, and other materials, are used in the classroom to help students understand the positive difference engineering can have on people’s lives.

Thanks to Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and the Origin Foundation, more than 1,000 students throughout regional Queensland and New South Wales participated in Regioneering Roadshows in 2016.

The workshops, which have targeted regional and rural students, demonstrate the humanitarian benefits of engineering, by drawing on real-world challenges to solve problems that can improve lives and strengthen communities. Students have made water filters, prosthetic legs, floating houses and solar powered fans, using limited materials. In doing so they’ve developed invaluable skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and teamwork.

In 2016, 32 Origin volunteers, most with a background in engineering and science, gave their time and expertise to help plan and facilitate the workshops, to bring engineering to life for primary and secondary students.

It’s estimated that three quarters of future jobs in the fastest growing industries will require skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and programs like the Regioneering Roadshows encourage students to consider career paths in STEM.

Based on feedback, approximately 88% of students said they are now more interested in studying engineering.

A student from The Glennie School in Toowoomba said: “It was a good opportunity to talk to professional engineers, and seeing female engineers was really motivating. I really want to follow a career in civil engineering. There aren’t many female engineers and I definitely want to make a difference.”

Watch the Glennie School workshop coverage on WIN News.

Origin chemical engineer Liana Bonnette found the volunteering experience rewarding, too. "It was a great opportunity to connect with communities that we impact. It was really interesting to see that the kids' view of engineers didn't go past building bridges and roads and to change their perspective on engineering," she said.

Origin Foundation’s Give Time program gives employees access to paid volunteering so they can give their time and skills to help our community partners.

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