Techtrails @John Curtin College of the Arts

Our third WiTWA techtrail STEM School incursion for the year saw us visit John Curtin College of the Arts in Fremantle on 3 May. Last year the school won the WA Secondary School of the Year Award in the WA Education Awards, as well as taking out the Governor’s School STEM Award for Leadership Excellence in a Secondary School. To add to students’ thinking around the importance of STEM and how STEM skills are applied in industry and a wide variety of professions, we showcased a fantastic group of STEM professionals as part of our techtrails incursion.

The morning started off with a very special guest opening our presentations – Ms Rachel Cooke, Consul General of the United States of America. Hers is a story that proves how STEM skills can indeed take you down many wonderful and exciting roads.  With a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Master degrees in Environmental Management and Public Policy from Indiana University, Rachel’s career has seen her work for the Environmental Protection Agency and for NASA. She later joined the Foreign Service and at one stage was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand teaching fish farming. Rachel certainly held the students’ attention with her story of self discovery and ongoing professional curiosity.

Our pod groups then rotated throughout the morning for the opportunity to meet and hear from each of our other fabulous speakers:

  • Ms Rachael Zeme, from the Tumour Immunology Group, National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases at UWA Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Rachel is an Alumni of John Curtin College of the Arts and it is where she first discovered her love for science, particularly in the area of biology. Planning to pursue her passion, she went to study biological sciences at university, when something else caught her eye – biomedical science. A whole new world of how disease develops and progresses; and better yet, what we can do about it opened up to Rachael. This is where she discovered her interest in studying the immune system.
  • Darren Lomman Executive Officer, Bloom / Managing Director, Green Batch / Director of Youth Innovation, St Catherine College. Darren shared his story from building motorcycles for people in wheelchairs to his latest social enterprise – MY PET Project turning recycled PET plastic into 3D printer filament enabling any school with a 3D printer to turn themselves into a micro-recycling plant. Darren has won a whole swag of awards including WA Young Australian of the Year, WA Citizen of the Year, and recently was named by the United Nation’s JCI at one of the Top 10 Most Outstanding Young People of the World.
  • Dr Brenda Lai who shared her journey from first discovering Photoshop when she was 13, and spending countless and sleepless nights working on art projects throughout high school, to now being the co-founder of Feedmee App.  Feedmee is Australia’s latest restaurant discovery app, with a mission to help fight hunger and homeless issues in Australia. The app was launched in September 2016. Since then, it has ranked top 30 on iTunes Free Food and Drink category across Australia.
  • Dennis Savic, CEO of DESAV Design. Having grown up in Perth, Dennis knew from a young age he wanted to design and build his own vehicles. So he finished school, went to university, and started working on his vision once he finished his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Having initially thought he’d never study again, he soon realised that he would need to learn a lot more to build an entirely new industry in Western Australia. 
  • Jessica Baldwin, Kinetic IT. Jessica completed a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Human Resources and Tourism Management and got her first job working as a recruiter in the Mining and Construction Sector. After nearly four years in this sector she decided it was time to gather some new experiences and seek work in a new industry which landed her the opportunity to work at Kinetic IT and get immersed in the technology world.  
  • Peter Yorke, Kinetic IT.  Peter has an interest in all things hacking, security and digital forensics and in his spare time is completing his Master’s Degree in Cyber Security.  He started his career in technology with Kinetic IT but a few years later he decided to take a career change and followed his childhood dream to become a Police Officer. He worked in various police stations throughout Perth and in the country before joining WA Police’s Technology Crime squad as a Police Sergeant. Peter loved the security and incident response side of IT so much that after ten years he decided to go back to Kinetic IT in an IT security focused role. 
  • Dylan Pratt, Computer Systems Engineer from Surgical Realities. Dylan has always been fascinated by technology and grew up pulling apart computers and making games. Dylan has a Bach in Science from UWA as well as a degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Curtin. Dylan now works with Surgical Realities where he focuses on research and development of virtual reality, augmented reality and rehabilitation technologies in the health industry. A typical day can range from testing technologies during a live surgical procedure to playing with robots and designing new software for a virtual immersion.
  • Ms Libby Howlett, Chief Environmental Advisor, Quadrant Energy. After completing her first science degree, Libby volunteered her time and then got paid to assist others in studying marine fish, worms and other sea creatures on the Great Barrier Reef. She found her passion and continued working in marine research at the Australian Museum and University of Sydney whilst completing a Master of Science Degree in Marine Ecology. Today after 18 years in the oil and gas industry, Libby now holds the position of Chief Environment Advisor for Quadrant Energy and is able to influence and strive for better environmental outcomes from human use of the ocean.
  • Gary Cass, Creative Scientist. Gary is based in Perth and has been a key creative collaborator with many international arts and sciences projects; including Fermented Fashion, the first dresses in the world made from wine and beer. Gary believes that “creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy.” His collaborative projects have been exhibited around the world including; a fringe event at the Venice Biennale and Documenta Germany; Trinity College Science Gallery, Ireland; Signature Art Prize in Singapore; and ArtStays Slovenia. His newest project, iDNAtity audio – making music from your genes!

Thank you to all of our speakers, sponsors and volunteers for bringing another techtrail STEM incursion to life in WA! To see what the school thought about the day and some photos of how techtrails unfolded, take a peek below and also have a look at the John Curtin College of the Arts newsletter article the school published online.

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