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Joy and education STEM from Boyne Island adventure

STEM CAMP FUN: Jolene Devney from Gladstone State High. Picture: SUPPLIED

WHAT do you get when you throw Seagrass, water bugs, VR clown fish, murky water and shark tales at a group of Year 9 girls?

A very exciting week at STEM camp that’s what.

The Boyne Island Environmental Education Center (BIEEC) ran their 11th Annual Year 9 invitational Girls STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) camp last week where students from 12 different schools around the region attended.

The week-long camp kicked off Monday, July 25 at the BIEEC in Boyne Island and hosted 38 girls from schools in Emerald, Monto, Bundaberg, Miriam Vale, Calliope, Rockhampton and the Gladstone region.

Queensland Alumina Ltd (QAL) sponsors the camp to reduce the cost for families.

Principal of BIEEC Michael Gabriel said the camp invitation is sent out to specifically target minority groups who might not otherwise have these opportunities and introduce them to the world of STEM.

“The year 9 girls had to apply for the camp and it was impressive that many responses came back that they wanted to spend time with like-minded thinkers,” Mr. Gabriel said.

“This type of camp was quite new to the girls with some very hands-on, real-world activities.

“The whole program has a bit of a green STEM focus on the environment. Like the engineering task where they had to test water quality and design a filtration system for muddy water.”

On Tuesday the group went to work in the labs at CQUniversity’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Center (CMERC) with Dr. Emma Jackson, who helped them explore the world of seagrass and then ventured over to Curtis Island’s seagrass meadows.

On Wednesday they spent a day out with QAL staff at local ecosystems in the Boyne/Tannum area, including at a red mud dam, learning about water testing methods, water bugs and “The white powder” mystery.

The evening was filled with eco-art, astronomy and cyber safety workshops.

Thursday, students mastered water filtration through an engineering design challenge and saw a brilliant presentation from guest scientist, Dr. Megan Ellis from Gladstone Ports Corporation.

Mr. Gabriel, who has been working at the Center for 9 years, serving the past 4 years as Principal said the week was a fun, engaging, real-world, hands-on learning experience beyond the capacity of the classroom.

“The program has grown each year and evolved with the ever-changing world of STEM, and now the technology is quite different from when we first started 11 years ago,” he said.

“The girls all stay here on-site at the Center’s accommodation and it really is a nice little community for them.”

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