Inspiring Future Engineers

Michelle McLeod (STEM Teacher in Residence) programs rovers with students from Our Lady Queen of Peace School.

Michelle McLeod (STEM Teacher in Residence) programs rovers with students from Our Lady Queen of Peace School.

Primary and secondary students and teachers experienced a morning of engineering at The University of Adelaide Creation Studio as the STEM Teacher in Residence Program welcomed its inaugural cohort of partner schools.

Told to imagine they were building a colony on Mars, pupils enthusiastically worked to solve some of the challenges they might face, from managing water resources to building environments and programming rovers. Afterwards they had an opportunity to watch the Australian Rover Challenge.

The event was the first of many school partnership activities made possible through the STEM Teacher in Residence Program, one of the sponsored programs within the $4.55 million gift from McMillian Constructions' gift.

More than 70 years ago, Raymond McMillan graduated with a Civil Engineering degree, inspired by a school visit from a University of Adelaide lecturer. The McMillan gift was made in memory of Raymond.

Looking over the Creation Studio packed with 50 young engineers, Raymond's daughter Lee-Ann Hunt laughed, "It's amazing, I wish I could go back to school! It's very exciting that schools and teachers have this type of opportunity to come and engage with the University.

"We are so grateful for Michelle's enthusiasm and expertise in making this happen. Bring it on!"

Michelle McLeod is the first STEM Teacher in Residence, tasked with inspiring the next generation of school students to discover the opportunities that science, technology, engineering and mathematics can bring.

Her role is to build partnerships across the University’s STEM faculty areas and develop outreach activities, professional learning opportunities and create curriculum support materials across STEM related learning areas.

Michelle describes the STEM Teacher in Residence Program as her dream job. The students certainly seemed to be enjoying their first experience of the program.

"They're having so much fun they don't even realize they're learning," said teacher Leigh Turbill of Our Lady Queen of Peace School as he watched his pupils at work.

"There was nothing like this when I was in primary school," said Yashila Balakrishnan, President of the  Adelaide Uni Civil Engineering (AUCE) Society, who had come to help run the activities.

“I didn't know if I wanted to do medicine or engineering when I was at school and this type of activity would have given me a much better understanding of what was involved.”

Raymond McMillan grew up in a single parent home during the depression. His legacy gift will ensure children facing similar disadvantages are offered the same opportunities that changed his life. 

Underdale High School Mathematics Leader Thamarai Vetrivelu said, “At our school we have a wide range of diverse cultures and we cater to a huge immigrant community. 

“For them to be able to see university as something for them, not just for those with socioeconomic or networking advantages, coming to the University and having immersive experiences like this could be one of those memories that stays forever.

“Looking at events like this, what happened with Ray could happen to a lot of our children, showing it is achievable for them, not just a pipe dream,” said Thamarai.

Michelle says the STEM Teacher in Residence Program’s strength is connecting STEM educators and academics to develop lasting partnerships.

“The program creates opportunities that inspire students to see what they have never seen before. 

“Ray’s legacy allows this to happen in exciting and meaningful ways; supporting students to find their STEM passions by doing, and potentially changing their future journeys. It was wonderful to witness this.”

Tagged in STEM, education, teaching