Grammar girls study STEM at Boeing Amberley


Students from Ipswich Girls Grammar School have used a school holiday work experience program to see how the Air Force and Boeing keep some of its most advanced aircraft flying at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.

The June 24-28 program had a deliberate focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

It allowed eight students between Years 7 and 10 to see engineering units for the F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and C-17A Globemaster.

This included visits to the No. 36 and No 1 Squadron flightlines, engineering and logistics facilities, and Super Hornet and Growler technical training flights. There was also an opportunity to see the C-17A cargo compartment trainer – a massive training facility used for instructing loadmasters and developing new load carrying techniques.

Their experience culminated in a practical design project. Wing Commander Derek Reinhardt, the chief engineer for the Super Hornet and Growler Systems Program Office, said the program was a joint activity with Boeing Defence Australia.  

“The program emphasised the collaboration between Defence and Boeing Defence Australia on the Super Hornet and Growler program,” Wing Commander Reinhardt said.

“All the students came to us with an interest in technical and engineering fields, providing us with the opportunity to showcase our talented people from both organisations.”

Boeing program manager Chris Gray said this was the first time the program had been undertaken with an all-girls school, and the first time Boeing and Defence had partnered on a STEM event for young women at RAAF Amberley.

“Our past experience shows that practical involvement engages young people with STEM and inspires those who otherwise hadn’t considered a career in aerospace,” Mr Gray said.

Jennine Holliday, Boeing Defence Australia’s coordinator for the STEM program, said the students enjoyed seeing the different elements of the base including the technical training facilities, aircraft and a heritage tour.

“The students have been encouraged to continue their STEM studies to allow them to participate in the engineering and project management fields, having shared career experiences with Defence and Boeing Staff they met at Amberley,” she said.

Flight Lieutenant Shannan Nichols, an engineering officer with the Systems Program Offce said, “I believe it’s in Defence’s best interests to maximise opportunities like this, both to build a positive connection with these students and also inspire their enthusiasm to be involved with STEM careers.”

Ipswich Girls Grammar School deputy principal Jayne Acutt said the program was an exciting step in creating a long-term pathway for more women to pursue technical careers.

“Initially the opportunity was presented for a cohort of six students, however, the calibre of submissions and enthusiasm shown by the students resulted in the selection of eight participants – an increase that Boeing and Defence willingly accommodated.”