PBAS STEM 7 – What are other schools doing?

On Monday 21st November I had the opportunity to attend the SA Area Schools STEM Conference at West Lakes. Part of this day involved visiting Brighton High, Henley High and Henley Primary schools. It was a great opportunity to see what other sites are doing in the area of STEM and to consider how some of these ideas could translate to PBAS.

Henley Primary School

Henley Primary provided three STEM based activities for us to look at during our visit. The junior primary were using Bee Bots and iPads to do basic coding (unfortunately I did not get to see this activity), the Year 7 class were finalising work on their enterprise projects and some Year 5 boys shared their experience of attending an after school coding club.

After school coding club

Code Club is an online based program that supports students understanding of coding using Scratch. Henely Primary run an after school coding club that is based around using this software. As you can see in the images below Scratch involves dropping blocks into sequences which command how a character moves. While we were there two Year 5 boys created a maze game using Scratch. They almost forgot we were there and their in depth conversation with each other to problem solve and create the game was both impressive and interesting to listen to. While the majority of students who attend this after school club use Scratch one of the boys pictured uses Unity coding software which is more advanced. Unity requires the user to write their own code rather than using a block which has the written code already inside it. It’s a popular coding platform and was used for Pokemon Go, Assassins Creed and the Temple Run Trilogy. This year 5 boy is using Unity coding software to create his own multi player, multi level games!


Students playing a virtual reality game they created. Requires the player to use the laptop camera to keep a small ball from hitting the bottom of the screen.


Students share some of their games created using Scratch.

Year 7 Enterprise

Students in Year 7 had a subject called Enterprise which ran for 4 weeks. They had one hour per day allocated to this subject which included maths, science and technology time. Students had to design, create, cost and market a product. This culminated in an Enterprise evening which parents attended. Below are some examples of student work including a video of a PowerPoint showing the process one student went through to complete his product.

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Henley High School

Henley High runs two significant STEM based programs – STEM Link and STEM Connections. They also run a Girls in Technology program (jewellery making), they also have a significant visual media studio as well as traditional technology areas.


  • This is a high achievers program involving Uni SA.
  • It requires students to apply to be involved.
  • Mentoring is provided by Uni SA including the use of the Mawson Lakes campus.

STEM Connections

  • All Year 9 students do this program.
  • 480 mins per week for 5 weeks. Uses all maths and science lessons allocated for those 5 weeks.
  • The program required students to solve a real world problem. In 2015 students had to create a bio fuel in 2016 they had to design and build a water pump that did not need power. The pump had to meet certain criteria in terms of the amount of water it could pump.
  • At the end of the program students have to present their solution. DECD and industry representatives attend this presentation.

Girls in Technology

  • To encourage girls into technology Henley High set up a jewellery making class.
  • Has been very popular and even had the side effect of more girls asking to do woodwork and some boys asking to do jewellery.
  • The jewellery space has a $20,000 laser cutter which has become some popular and well used they are looking to get another one that all subject areas can access if needed.
  • Schools do not need an expensive laser cutter. As work is designed on free software the cutting can be outsourced to another school or industry willing to provide the service.
  • Jewellery designed created by the students is a mix of hand made and digital.


Girls in technology – jewellery making space

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Laser cutter used by girls in technology jewellery classes

Brighton High School

Brighton High School STEM Coordinator Stephen Read talked to us about Brighton’s involvement in the F1 in Schools and the Subs in Schools programs. The work that was presented to us was from the highest level students and was mid blowing to say the least.

F1 and Subs in Schools Programs

  • Stephen Read has taught at Orroroo Area School (and other Mid North schools) for many years and is now the STEM coordinator at Brighton High. Considered one of the leading STEM teacher/coordinators in Australia.
  • The F1 in schools program has 180 kids go through the program which is based around designing C02 dragsters. Many schools already do C02 dragsters and the F1 program is an extension of this.
  • Any school can do the F1 program. All you need is the Autodesk CAD Inventor software. Brighton have a $45000 router which they use to create their cars but Stephen pointed out that 90% of the F1 program is digitally based on free software. When it comes to physically creating the car that can be outsourced. He is currently working with Burra to help them produce their car for the F1 in Schools program.
  • Autodesk have video tutorials about creating cars for the F1 program.
  • Brighton access industries to assist with the F1 and Sub programs.
  • The Subs in schools program works along similar lines to the F1 program.
  • Stephen is more than happy to be contacted about the program and STEM in general. Willing to have teachers work shadow him for a day.



F1 in Schools 2016 World Titles Austin Texas


  • While Brighton has 180 students go through the F1 program they also have a team of 15-16 year old students who took the F1 in Schools program to the highest level.
  • Brighton are the Australian champions.
  • Brighton (combined with St. Bedes College from Melbourne) came second at the World titles held in Austin Texas to a Greek team.
  • The Brighton/St Bedes team broke the world record which had been broken twice prior to Brighton’s attempt. It was first broken by another Australian team and then by the Greek team that eventually won the overall world title.
  • 16-year-old Nicole Kascak, Brighton’s Team Manager said “I think our catamaran design style and our innovative extended canister housing which no one has done before are the two key factors that have given us the edge.”
  • Interestingly the team that came third overall, the Germans had a budget of around $500,000 + budget while Brighton’s budget was around $56,000.
  • Brightons team Infinitude were made up of a Team manager, Design Engineer, Marketing Manager, Innovations Engineer, Graphic Designer and Structural Engineer . Click here to meet each member of the team and what their role was.


Team Infinitude

The conference was very worthwhile. It is always interesting to see what others schools are doing and in this case the schools I visited presented some great ideas in the area of STEM.






PBAS STEM 6 – DECD STEM Learning Strategy 2017 to 2020

DECD have just released their STEM strategy for the next three years. Below are some of the key points from the document.
  1. “We know that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills and knowledge.” Hon Susan Close MP, Minister for Education and Child Development
  2. “It is imperative that South Australian STEM education provides every student with the chance to develop the capabilities they will need, as our future innovators and problem-solvers.” Hon Susan Close MP Minister for Education and Child Development
  3. The economic case for STEM is clear. Between 2006 and 2011 in Australia, the number of people in positions requiring STEM qualifications grew 1.5 times faster than all other occupation groups.
  4. There is a growing need for the broad skills that are fostered through STEM education: “critical thinking and problem-solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination have all been identified as critical ‘survival skills’ in the workplace of the future.”
  5. The South Australian Government has invested $250m to provide new infrastructure for 139 schools to improve STEM learning in modern, flexible spaces.
  6. All South Australians, regardless of where they live, should have access to the opportunities of the future.
  7. By 2020 there will be 500 primary teachers with a STEM specialisation.
  8. Preschool leaders and teachers will have access to new STEM teaching resources from 2017.
  9. South Australian teachers will use a new approach to learning design, assessment and moderation for STEM education from 2017.
  10. Professional learning resources will be available from 2017.
  11. A ‘STEM play’ initiative will be established within all DECD preschools from 2017 to 2020.
  12. All schools with secondary enrolments will have a STEM career strategy, linked to local primary schools and supported by links with business and industry as appropriate.
  13. All schools and preschools will have a STEM learning focus.
  14. 5% increase in the number of students who participate in SACE Stage 1 and Stage 2 STEM subjects.
  15. All schools with year 1 to 10 enrolments use the new Standard of Educational Achievement (SEA) to measure STEM subject achievement and inform practice.

This is only a selection of the points made in the DECD strategy paper. To read the full document click here.

Where is PBAS heading for the remainder of this year and into 2017?

  1. Joelene and Allan are attending a STEM conference this term run by the South Australian Science Teachers Association.
  2. I am attending the Area Schools Conference which will have a STEM focus including school visits on Monday week 6 this term.
  3. Kelly, Sarah and Tresia are attending “Little Bang Discovery Club” training this term with the aim of running STEM based activities for preschool aged children.
  4. Major redevelopment of existing spaces to support the teaching of STEM will continue in 2017. Current proposals have been put on hold to allow for further research and a deeper understanding of how we can best provide for our students.
  5. The Digital Technologies Australian Curriculum achievement standards and content descriptors are being matched with supporting technologies that will help teachers address the achievement standard. This document will be shared with relevant staff before the end of term 4.
  6. In 2017 teachers will be expected to develop STEM based projects in their classrooms.
  7. While we are looking to improve the delivery of STEM at PBAS there are plenty of activities that we currently do that support STEM. The following are some examples of what I have seen happening:
    1. Year 6 students participated in the primary science challenge in Port Pirie coming equal first.
    2. Year 7/8 English students using an iPad, iMovie and green screen technology to create a 60 Minutes interview.
    3. Year 5/6 students creating solar powered vehicles in design technologies.
    4. Year 1/2 students programming Bee Bots to solve simple problems.
    5. Year 3/4 students undertaking a maths and the Olympics project.
    6. The Reception Year 1 class have propagated their own vegetable garden.
It is important that we begin to consider how we will further support learning and engagement in the sciences, math and technology based subjects. What will our contribution be?


It is important to watch and learn from what others are doing. The Victorian Government have a VicStem page which provides some great resources including:

  1. digital curriculum resources page for teachers. The main part of this page has icons linking to topics which include “Why digital technologies?”, “Where to start”, “Designing the learning”, “Teaching and learning resources”, “Assessment” and “Find out more”. The right hand side of the page has all the links found within these larger icons. The teaching and learning resources provide content descriptors, lesson ideas, online resources, videos, ideas to try and units of work. Covers Foundation to Year 10.


2. The digital curriculum resources page includes links to six school case studies.

3. Victoria has six Science and maths specialist centres. This page provides information about each of the six centres – Bio Lab (sport and human performance), Earth Ed (earth sciences), Ecolinc (environmental teaching and learning), GTAC (Gene Technology Access Centre – life sciences), Quantum Victoria (physical sciences and maths) and VSSEC (space science engineering centre). Making connections outside of our school environment is an important part of the STEM approach. What industries and organisations do we have in South Australia that can support the teaching of STEM?

There are more links and information on the VicSTEM page including VET and higher education, mentoring and career pathways and partnerships with other organisations.

The VicSTEM page provides a useful resource for schools and partnerships looking to develop and move their own STEM programs forward.