The International Space Station (ISS) got a little more international recently, as Australia joined its ranks.
However, it wasn’t astronauts or scientists breaking new ground – it was high school students.
An Australian initiative, created by two university students with a passion for science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM), seeks to ignite a love for STEM in high school students. The program, known as Cuberider, works directly with NASA to turn the classroom into a launchpad, where students work collaboratively online to create their own experiments utilising STEM skills such as coding and experimentation, coupled with developing their problem-solving abilities, all the while meeting nearly all of the national Year 7 to 10 Physics and Earth Sciences syllabus requirements. Students even get to run early tests by sending their experiments into the stratosphere via balloons.
Over 100 of the experiments, created by more than 1000 students from around 60 schools, were launched late last year from Japan.
These experiments included testing the dilation of time by analysing data from a clock sensor; using data from UV sensors to test and measure astronauts’ exposure to UV light onboard the ISS, and testing the earth’s magnetic field.
The project itself hasn’t been cheap, with every hour of work on the ISS costing around $1000, however, that hasn’t been a deterrent for any of the participants, with more space booked for another rocket launch in August.
Space is just one of the few places that a STEM education can take young Australians.
Currently, Cuberider is Australia’s only way to access the International Space Station, and has gone on to help inform and direct the country’s own space policy and industry.
The program was the brainchild of Cuberider’s 23-year-old wunderkind Solange Cunin.
Her work is seen as a prime example of what can be achieved thanks to a passion for science. Unfortunately, Cunin’s path is one that is not frequently taken in Australia, with our nation falling behind Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the fields of maths and science.
Programs like Cuberider or Bright Spots STEM Learning Hub a collaboration between Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and Samsung Electronics are two examples of the different ways that STEM education is being supported in Australia, going beyond the classroom, showing real world applications of STEM learning.
Samsung Electronics Australia Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Tess Ariotti, explained the company’s support of the STEM education “STEM is going to have a big impact and we’re going to need coders and engineers and designers.”
“There will be great opportunities within different jobs which haven’t even been created yet,” Ariotti adds. “Excitingly, they will be created by the young Australians going through their school education at the moment.”
“Samsung is committed to working with the Australian community where we are best placed to do so. Programs such as the Bright Spots STEM Learning Hub which has meaningful and measurable outcomes,” she says, adding “STEM education is vital for Australia’s future.”
According to Sue Cridge, Director Bright Spots Schools Connection, SVA, this program could be a foundation for the national STEM agenda.
Cuberider’s payload sent into space are expected to be on show at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum from September this year, in the hopes of inspiring more Australians to take to the skies.