Showing girls STEM is not just for the blokes

May Hane Giving the girls a go: President of Newcastle Robogals, May Hane, encourages students to consider giving engineering and science a go. Picture: Marina Neil.
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A GROUP of Newcastle students are hoping to encourage more girls to consider studying engineering, science and technology subjects by teaching them about robotics.

The Newcastle Robogals, led by president May Hane, host the free hands-on workshops at primary and secondary schools throughout the Hunter and the Central Coast, and as far asTamworth, Armidale and Coffs Harbour.

“Robogals started in Melbourne in 2008, and spread to different areas from there,” Ms Hane said.

“We go to schools to teach girls about roboticsin the hope that they will consider pursuingscience and engineering later in life.”

The primary goal of the group is to address the gender disparity in female participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines, both in the workforce and in higher education.

In 2014, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute reported that women made up 28 per cent of the STEM workforce, with 14 per cent in engineering.

The Newcastle Robogalshoped the workshops would help to show younger girls some of the more playful and fun aspects of learning about science and engineering.

The student-based volunteer organisation have also done workshops at district libraries, and for Girl Guides and Scouts.

When Newcastle Robogals first began in 2013, they approached schools.

But now the schools were seeking out their services.

“Some of the girls are really interested, some aren’t so much, but they all seem to enjoy the workshops,” Ms Hane said.

“We take them out of the classroom and show them that they can do it on their own, we just give them a little bit of help to figure itout and learn, and they really have fun playing around with the Lego NXT robots.

“They are easy to use, and the kids love it.”

Newcastle Robogals has more than 100 members.

In the past 12 months, they have visited more than 117 schools, with more than 4700 girls participating in the workshops.

Newcastle Robogals was recently named Team of the Year at the2016 Hunter NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Ms Hane joined as a volunteer in 2014, before becoming the club’smarketing manager in 2015, and being named as president in 2016.

She said it was satisfying to help younger girls see that science and engineering is not just for “the guys.”

While many of them were time-poor due to the demands of both academic and employment responsibilities, Ms Hane said it was nice for them to be able to share their love of learning with younger students.

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