MIE Labs – Encouraging young people in STEM

My mission is to help make the Sunshine Coast the place to be for education, employment and retirement. To make that a reality as we look forward from COVID-19, we need to encourage growth in new sectors, like health care and high-tech manufacturing, and we need to ensure local young people are ready to take on the smart jobs of the future in these sectors on the Sunshine Coast. That’s why recently I was pleased to deliver a grant of $524,455 from the Morrison government to the MIE Lab project, organised by dedicated University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer Natalie McMaster. The MIE Lab provides evidence based on early interventions in schools focusing on crystallising students’ burgeoning interest in science and technology. It helps our students to recognise their abilities and potentials in STEM, breaks down gender stereotypes to encourage more young women to pursue these careers and demonstrates the relevance of STEM study to getting a great future job. The Morrison government’s funding will extend the reach of the MIE Lab program from an initial pilot to engaging with 5,000 more students across 50 additional schools, and it’ll support the presentation of 15 STEM-focused career education workshops for parents and carers throughout the South East Queensland region.

MIE Labs came about because of USC technologist Peter Embleton’s vision to use day-to-day electronics to help students of all ages and abilities to understand the way of thinking used in STEM. Now, thanks to Natalie and Peter’s hard work, this project leaves behind not only thousands of inspired students but teachers with new skills to encourage and develop that interest right across our region. MIE Labs will complement the incredible RoboCoast program, led by the incredibly dedicated Chancellor State College teacher Simon Richardson, which is already operating in my community. The RoboCoast program brings robots and robotics clubs into schools across South East Queensland—in fact, right around the country.

I want to thank Simon for hosting me and MIE Labs at Chancellor to launch the new funding announcement. Simon introduced us to some incredible young students who, inspired by his work, are already founding technology companies in their spare time. Binara Wasala in grade 12, for example, has been running his own design and 3D printing business, Binary Designer, for the past two years, working with dozens of clients, from hobbyists to local food manufacturers, while Tahlia Harris has begun a not-for-profit, Gear Up Robotics, to go into Indigenous communities in North Queensland with robotics equipment to spread the STEM message. Congratulations, Tahlia and Binara, and all the young students starting their own businesses.

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