June 17, 2022

Girl power drives interest in STEM

Sydelle Isaacs is embracing her girl power and grasping opportunities to learn more in her quest to broaden her knowledge in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related fields.

The Year 9 St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School Warragul Campus student is among 40 girls who have been offered a place in The University of Melbourne’s Girl Power in Engineering & IT Program. She has also been invited to register for the BIOTech Futures Challenge and recently attended the Here Comes the Future 2022 Youth Summit at Federation University.

Melbourne University’s Girl Power in Engineering & IT Program is a four-year mentoring program aimed at encouraging female high school students to pursue opportunities and careers in STEM. The program includes work experience, mentoring opportunities and a three-night camp at the University of Melbourne as a means to foster gender parity in engineering and IT disciplines.

The Girl Power in Engineering & IT Program, according to Sydelle, will help her in choosing her future career path.

“The main reason I applied is because I love engineering. I love the whole aspect of creating different things, but I don’t really know what options are out there,” she said. “Applying for this program was an opportunity to try and explore the different career paths and options available so that I can have a better idea of what I want to do when I’m older.”

She is confident she will benefit greatly from the program. “I’m really looking forward to meeting all the girls there because they’re all like-minded people and it’s really cool to meet people who have the same interests as yourself,” Sydelle said. “Being surrounded by so many like-minded and really smart people brings you up to that next level and I feel like I can learn so much from people like that.”

Through the BIOTech Futures Challenge, Sydelle is also in the early phases of collaborating with a Melbourne University PhD student to develop and design the fabrication of tissue-engineered blood vessels.

The BIOTech Futures Challenge is a mentorship and innovation initiative aimed at empowering Australia’s brightest young scientific minds. It unites high school students with world-class academics to creatively think about biologically-inspired solutions to problems in the realms of health, medicine, energy and the environment.

Sydelle’s invite to the BIOTech Futures Challenge resulted from her continuous involvement with The University of Melbourne’s STEM camps and programs for young girls. Only a few students were chosen for the challenge, and only 8-10 spots were available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sydelle says they are currently learning about stent antennas and is excited about the knowledge she will gain from the BIOTech Futures Challenge.

“It will really educate me on the science side of things,” she said. “Learning about neurology and the brain, and how the stent antenna will work, I think will be really helpful and help me understand a lot more in science classes at school too.”

“My mentor is such a hands-on smart guy. There is so much I can learn from him. He created an app when he was in high school, so he’s a pretty cool guy. I’m really excited just to learn from him and the other girls because I’m with a bunch of really smart girls from Melbourne.”

Sydelle also recently participated in the Here Comes the Future 2022 Youth Summit at Federation University which provided students with the opportunity to learn about and express their own ideas for climate action.

“The youth summit was amazing! We learnt so much. We had a talk from the ‘olders’ and they gave us all their stories about how climate change affected them and what they had seen throughout their life. It was really inspirational and I really think more people need to hear what they have to say.”

Her love for STEM and trying new things were evident from a young age and she has participated in a number of University of Melbourne’s camps and programs for girls. “I think I first became involved because my parents realised from when I was a really little kid that I always had an interest in designing, building and creating things, kind of like an aptitude for engineering. My woodwork teacher in Year 7 also said something along those lines, so, when we came across one of the first programs I did, which was Hands-on Engineering and IT, we decided to give it a shot. It was a good opportunity to learn, see different career options and try out different things.”

Throughout her personal learning journey, Sydelle commented that her teachers at St Paul’s have been there to provide her with encouragement and support.

“All my teachers have been absolutely incredible, especially my mentor, Mr Coulthard, he gave me a pep talk before I did my interview, and then as soon as I told Mrs Schreyer and Ms Pearson about it, they absolutely helped me in every way,” she says. “They told me all the things I could do and all the clubs I can join. Ms Pearson helped me with “Here Comes The Future” which was another thing that definitely got me up there in the program.”

“Ms Bailey helped me through the whole application process and sat next to me during my interview, which was probably the most helpful thing in the entire world,” she continued. “They all helped me so much, I could not have done it without them.”

Although not quite sure which direction she will take when she finishes secondary school she added, “I still want to explore more options and see what other options are out there.”

Sydelle has learnt a great deal by pursuing her potential in STEM and is excited for what lies ahead. “I just love STEM in general. I love creating things and learning how things work so it’s about the whole learning process. It’s been amazing learning so much and I feel like I’m still going to learn so much more as this all goes on – I can’t wait!”

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