The NSW Virtual STEM academy has hit it's stride, entering Phase 2 of the multi-stage rollout and receiving widespread success and interest from MIA students.
The Virtual STEM academy is hoped to help regional students between years 5 and 9 get into STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Murrumbidgee Regional High School was selected as the pilot school, and the program has now extended to across the area.
11 schools are now participating in the rollout, including Murrumbidgee Regional High School, Lake Wyangan, and Leeton High School. Six courses are being offered, covering; computational thinking, text-based coding with Arduino Microcontrollers, scientific inquiry and Indigenous seasons.
Ian Preston, the Deputy Principal of the NSW Virtual STEM Academy, said the response had been so huge that it made the challenges worth it.
"There's been a lot of hurdles to overcome - there's getting teachers, there's a lot of technology to sort through."
"Our initial goal for this year was to have 150 kids, but we're currently on track to have closer to 350 so we've already reached our goal in student participation - we're way ahead of what we had planned which is great," he said.
Students are enjoying the program immensely, with a waiting list of excited students already.
"This is my second year of being involved with the STEM Academy and that has allowed me to help others who have joined for the first time," said Tharbogang student Ben Savage.
"I really enjoy moving around on the virtual platforms and meeting new people ... I have learnt lots of new skills and absolutely love STEM and can't wait to do it when I go to MRHS."
Meagan Crelley, Principal at Leeton High School, said that they had six students in three different courses.
"Our high potential students have greatly enjoyed this opportunity and we look forward to Term 3 with the Virtual STEM Academy," she said.
She added a thank you to MRHS for 'facilitating this amazing experience.'
The VSA is partnered with Academies of STEM Excellence across NSW - which has helped facilitate guest speakers and experts to add practical elements and explain STEM's impacts outside of the classroom.
Looking to the future, Phase 3 will expand the program to include other parts of NSW including the Southern Highlands, Central Coast, Hunter Valley, Illawarra and the Northern Rivers among others. MRHS will remain the hub of the program however.
"What that will mean for our staff and students is that they'll have classes that involve students not just from the Murrumbidgee but the whole state - Our students will be communicating with some of the best and brightest in the STEM field."
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