Growing a passion for STEM

Students from a variety of high schools will get to delve into the world of science and maths at a three-day workshop at Griffith University. 

Growing Tall Poppies is a program that aims to increase the numbers of girls in high school studying maths and science, and in particular, physics, to increase the number of opportunities for women in STEM fields. 

It will take place across Griffith’s Gold Coast campus from October 3-5. 

Students will get to write programs, conduct experiments, and explore various physics topics and how they relate to material science alongside experts from Griffith. 

Second-year Bachelor of Science (Physics) student Abbe Whitford, will act as a mentor for the students throughout the program, said the event helped address the gender inequity in the uptake of STEM subjects and careers by young women. 

“Studying these subjects at school empowers women and allows them to have a greater range of choices for their careers or further study options at a later point in time,” she said. 

“There is also a disadvantage to not having an equal amount of women in STEM fields – it means that we don’t harness the full potential of our population for improvement and growth in STEM.  

“The cool thing about this program is that even if participants don’t exactly decide they want to study physics at university, the program still opens up their eyes to other possible career options that are related to physics and mathematics, and also about stereotypes related to it which is really important.”

Whitford said the program’s huge range of talks and activities, to take place across the Gold Coast campus, was a great way to understand how physics describes the universe and how it advances our understanding of it. 

Dr Ivonne Guevara from Griffith’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics said many high school girls do not consider the idea of enrolling in advanced maths or science courses because they don’t know what career outcomes await them after studies in those fields.

“I remember when I was trying to decide what to do, I would have loved to experience something like Growing Tall Poppies. These girls are full of creativity and energy and we bring them the space to explore,” Dr Guevara said.

“I want them to feel empowered, to feel that it is possible, that science and in general STEM is a rewarding and exciting path. That there is support, that we can support each other and open the path for future generations.”

Since its inception in 2008, Growing Tall Poppies has seen 2000 students from 33 schools take part.