You start learning by taking the first step, and continue by learning along the way.’ Marita Cheng

In a recent ‘Good Weekend’ article, we were delighted to read about the incredible achievements of Marita Cheng, who studied Mechatronics at the University of Melbourne and now runs her own company called Aubot.

In 2008 Marita assisted her lecturer, Professor Jamie Evans, in giving a robotics workshop to our students. She went on to found Robogals with four other students and Lauriston was the first school to work with this group. Today, Robogals has taught more than 10000 girls from 11 countries.

In 2013 Marita built a robotic arm for a young quadriplegic which greatly improved the life of that young woman. She has also designed and built a robot that enables young people in hospital to connect virtually with the school teachers, and co-developed an app called Aiploy Vision that relays detailed information via text or voice about whatever the phone is pointed at.

Marita exemplifies the reason why females are needed in STEM careers. She is smart, tenacious and wants to use her skills to make a difference to the lives of other people and to our world. She is a great role model for our girls because of her ability to see every challenge as an opportunity and her willingness to find a solution to a problem rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

From Kindergarten, we encourage students from Prep to Year 12 to create, design, problem-solve and engage effectively with STEM.

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In 2013 Lauriston set up a digital fabrication laboratory (known as the FabLearn Lab or FabLab) in partnership with Stanford University. This collaborative setting for open-source technology, digital fabrication and programming has become an important cross-disciplinary learning space.

Every year the FabLab is used by all our teachers to incorporate digital learning opportunities into their curriculum.

This year our Preps designed their 100 Days of Prep and made them in the FabLab.

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During Home Learning, our Year 2s completed drawings of the view from their windows. These were etched into coloured acrylic to make a group artwork using the FabLab.

Year 8 students built a helicopter from scratch in the lunchtime STEM Club sessions. All the parts were laser cut in plywood, and they added LED lights, and even a motor to run the propeller. The entire creation was built, soldered, glued and wired up by the girls.

This term the Grade 5 girls investigated the topic of Space, including the planets in our Solar System and how Earth’s seasons occur. Each girls were sent individual laser-cut kits to build at home. The models – including moveable joints and an Earth spinning on its tilted axis – were carefully constructed and then painted for that impressive final touch. This project was a great way to integrate ‘learning through making’ into Science.

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Our Year 6 students have been designing a solution for a problem in their home as part of their STEM home learning program. Using the Design Thinking framework – Empathise, Define (the problem), Ideate, Prototype and Test – they interviewed family members and identified a household problem, then brainstormed, planned and designed a prototype using materials from home. They presented their solution to their family members for feedback. Lucy designed an improved almirah for her parents; Yoyo designed a music stand to fit her book, GoPro, light and place for her iPad (so she can Zoom); Annabel designed a special bed for her dog to keep him warm; and Nicole designed a customised beanie for her beanie obsessed mum.

Our intention through digital fabrication and making is to determine ways in which we can further develop experiential or ‘hands-on’ learning activities. Our aim is to  give our girls the 21st-century skills — the knowledge, skills, values and experiences – they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world and inspire the courage and confidence to choose tertiary studies and careers related to STEM. Like Marita Cheng, we know our girls are capable of making a difference and changing the future.

See this recent article in the Age for more about STEM at Lauriston.