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QUT Young Accelerators STEM Camp

QUT Young Accelerators STEM Camp

Author: Gay Ellyett
Author Role: Coordinator Exceptional Scientists' Program

In the second week of the school holidays, a group of 100 students from around Queensland, including Rebecca Leonard and I from CHAC, travelled to QUT to participate in the QUT STEM Camp. Over the five days, we completed a number of group activities which helped us develop our STEM skills and learn what career opportunities exist after finishing high school. On the first day of the camp, we were given a tour of the QUT campus where we were shown how the university uses its architecture in innovative ways. One noteworthy example is the underground swimming pool which is used as a heat sink for any excess energy produced by the solar panels.

Over the next few days, we began working on our designated projects, which ranged in topic from data analysis to microbiology. My project was called robotic arm vision and involved working in pairs to program a robotic arm to recognise and pick up small wooden blocks. Our first challenge was being able to convert from grid coordinates to toolpoint coordinates, so the robot could be told where to move to. After much debugging of code and several times where the robot tried to move through the table, we finally managed to get the robotic arm to move exactly where we wanted it. Before moving on to the second part of the project, we had the privilege of being able to visit the robotics lab and see the robots that were currently being used. The second part of the project involved giving the robot the ability to see its environment. The programming of this went much smoother, as we had learnt how to work together as a much more effective team, efficiently solving problems as we came across them. In the end, our robot could use thresholding and homography to pinpoint specific positions in its environment, and then go there, pick up a block, and move it elsewhere. Overall, I learnt a lot about programming in Python, and how robots are able to perceive and interact with their surroundings.

In between project sessions, we listened to a number of key speakers including Professor Troy Farrell, Professor Michel Milford, Professor Pasty Yates, and Distinguished Professor Peter Corke, who gave speeches on a variety of topics. On the Tuesday, we listened to a presentation about entrepreneurship and what types of skills employers are looking for. The next two days involved presentations on how to present effectively and the options we have access to at university. On the final day, we heard from a range of people across a whole variety of STEM fields about potential careers outside of university and what it’s like to work in different fields. From beginning to end, the Camp gave me invaluable opportunities to speak with people of all different specialities and experience hands-on what it’s like to be a student of STEM.

Daniel Carton, Year 11

During the second week of the holidays, I participated in the QUT STEM Camp, a unique opportunity to learn STEM in an environment other than school. Each student participated in a group project. There were nine students in my group, and our project was called I Know What You Streamed Next Summer. We learnt how to use Python to analyse big data to come up with a predictive model based on data collected from university students to say whether or not they would enjoy watching a movie. As well as teaching me analytical coding skills, I am glad to have had the chance to examine the ethics of analysing big data and the algorithms used for everything from deciding what ads to show you to Netflix or YouTube recommendations. I enjoyed being able to work on a project beyond the scope of what is offered in school with people who are interested in similar things to me.

As well as this project, we had the opportunity to listen to various leaders of faculties at QUT and the Vice-Chancellor, and we participated in an entrepreneurship challenge, as well as worked on various skills like networking and elevator pitches. One of my favourite parts of the camp was the speed networking, where we got to talk to various students and industry workers. It was fascinating to find out how people have applied their degrees after finishing their education, and it gave me a view into what might be my future. Overall, the QUT STEM Camp was a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills, meet people with similar interests, and discover and learn about possible future careers.

Rebecca Leonard, Year 11