St Mary’s College Ipswich rocketing girls into STEM careers

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Helicopters on the oval, rockets flying through the air and female Aerospace experts answering questions. St Mary’s College Ipswich was transformed into a hub of Aerospace activity on Friday 13 March, with close to 250 female secondary students participating in the Girls in Aerospace STEM Day.

Students from St Mary’s along with visitors from surrounding schools explored opportunities for women in STEM careers and Aerospace Industries. As well as gaining an introduction to aerospace theory and advanced rocketry, the students launched their own water rockets and chemical rockets from the College oval, with many flying more than 100 metres in the air.

As a member of the Queensland Government’s Aerospace Gateway to Industry Schools program, St Mary’s was seen as the ideal school to host the event, organised by It’s Rocket Science Adventures and Queensland Rocketry Society. The day was made possible thanks to a Queensland Women’s Week grant from the Queensland Government.

St Mary’s College Ipswich Principal Judith Finan was thrilled the College could host the day. “In advocating for young women in the Science, Mathematics, Technologies and Engineering fields, the College is committed to sourcing pathway opportunities where our girls will be valued and situated well for success,” she said. “Events like this help to reinforce this work, giving our students the opportunity to see firsthand where a career in STEM can take them.”

“As a new Aerospace Gateway to Industry School, we have introduced vocational pathways including a Certificate III in aviation and Certificate II in Engineering,” she said.

Students had the opportunity to ask questions of an all-female panel of aviation and aerospace professionals, including RAAF Pilot Mel Russell, UQ Aerospace Engineer Isabelle Fleming, Aeropower Helicopter Pilot Alanna Carew and GE Aviation Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Jodie Fair. Demonstrating her practical skills and providing some excitement, Alanna arrived to speak in her helicopter, which was landed on the College oval. She was greeted by enthusiastic students who were invited to get up close and explore the aircraft.

Students felt inspired and motivated by the panellists, who encouraged them to pursue their ambitions and not be intimidated in the male-dominated sector.

Member of Queensland Rocketry Society, Petar Nikolic said, “Getting hands-on with the rockets and talking to people who live and breathe aerospace is a fantastic opportunity for these young women.”

It’s Rocket Science Adventures Founder Cran Middlecoat, encouraged young women to pursue STEM-based careers. “Flight and space science is not just for the boys—that’s why our school programs and events such as these are so important—they create career pathways and show how the science, technology, engineering and maths curriculum can open doors for some really exciting possibilities.”