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Media Release

November 9 2007

The wind beneath their wings - girls imagine an engineering career

UniSA focussing on women in engineeringYou can never underestimate the influence of imagined possibilities in people’s lives and, based on that notion, UniSA is giving female high school and primary school students a special insight into engineering as a career as part of the 2007 Year of Women in Engineering workshop on November 14, 2007.

The workshop, being held at the SA Museum Armoury, aims to inspire young women to consider an engineering career and to celebrate the achievements of women already making a difference in the world through engineering.

Teacher-in-residence at UniSA, Katrina Elliott says women have an enormous amount to offer the world of engineering but it is important for girls to learn early on that engineering is a valid and exciting career option.

“What we hope to do with the workshop is give young girls an insight into what engineers do so that they can ‘see’ themselves in those roles,” Elliott says.

Elliott says while there has been some cut-through for female engineers, recent data shows that Australia wide there were only about 15 per cent female engineering students compared with almost 85 percent of male students.

“Women engineers bring diversity, creativity and often a sociological context to problem solving in engineering,” she says.

“As we face the challenges of global warming and environmental degradation and their broad impact on society, I believe women can make an invaluable contribution through engineering and the sciences.”

The Women in Engineering workshop will include a morning session where teams from high schools and primary schools will work on a project entitled, “Capture the Wind” to find ways to develop and power a system for watering the garden using water-sensitive soil moisture probes. Students will devise a way to power a grey water-watering system that will only be activated when soil around the roots of plants is drying out, by exploring wind power.

The afternoon sessions will feature group presentations from girls from Mitcham Girls High and Unley High Schools who have each been working on special projects with UniSA to develop soil moisture probes and a solar energy control pump as part of a bioremediation system for grey water.

There will also be the launch of a new curriculum booklet entitled, The reuse of grey water – An interdisciplinary approach inclusive of biology, chemistry, physics, maths, technology and engineering.

“Practical projects are a way to make key maths, science and technology subjects meaningful, exciting and rewarding,” Elliott says.

“This kind of curriculum development makes clear to young students how powerful engineering, science and maths are in solving real world problems and contributing to things they care about such as the well being of the planet.”

UniSA’s Teacher-in-Residence project commenced in 2007 as a special collaboration between the University and the Department of Education and Children’s Services. It is a one semester placement for a teacher, strengthening the links between schools and universities. The project allows teachers to work with researchers in key areas and helps to inform curriculum development that relates to the latest advances in science and technology. It also allows the teacher to examine issues surrounding the transition from high school to university.

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