Townsville STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Hub was founded following Sarah Chapman’s attendance at the Prime Minister’s Science Prize Award Ceremony in 2013.
Being in Canberra and meeting so many influential people, Sarah saw an opportunity to promote and advocate for our region.
“I spoke to as many politicians, STEM experts and communicators as possible,” Sarah said.
“I followed up my discussions with emails pitching my idea of a STEM hub. The concept was primarily around the belief that Townsville and North Queensland has an exceptional number of STEM organisations that are not celebrated or recognised.
“Our community does not hold STEM as one of our strengths, however we have extraordinary world-recognised STEM research, industries and businesses here in North Queensland.
“I decided it was time to change, to connect, to collaborate and most importantly in the community, champion what we were doing.”
Sarah connected with Inspiring Australia in 2014 and Townsville STEM Hub was created, which now includes amongst its ranks James Cook University, Townsville City Council, Queensland Government, Museum of Tropical Queensland, a range of local high schools, GBRMPA, AIMS, CSIRO, Ergon Energy, Innovation NQ, Safety Culture and more.
The Townsville STEM Hub was the first regional STEM Hub to be formed in Australia, and was a flagship for the other regional hubs that have since been formed across the country.
As a teacher for the past 15 years, Sarah has been passionate about inspiring, engaging and empowering people through STEM. She is currently the Head of Department of Science at Townsville State High School, and is driven by “fueling sparks of curiosity in the classroom that build strong lifelong connections with the wonder, ingenuity and dynamic possibilities of science, technology, engineering and maths.”
Growing up as a curious-natured child in remote North Queensland, Sarah was inspired by a childhood science teacher to follow her passion to study a science degree, completing her honors thesis in cell death following traumatic brain injury.
She worked in research and science communication and event management before studying to become a teacher.
“It is a challenging occupation but a tremendously rewarding one, when you get to be the person that connects a young person with science,” Sarah said.
“To see their eyes light up and connect with the wonder of science is truly amazing and necessary to inspire and empower our problem solvers of tomorrow.”
A dedicated educator, Sarah has committed significant portions of her own time to raising the profile of science education by working with students, teachers and the wider community.
Not only was Sarah the founder of Townsville STEM Hub; in 2016 she was instrumental in establishing a virtual STEM Hub for North Queensland, developing authentic STEM research, industry and education opportunities for students from regional, rural and remote areas of North Queensland.
“The Townsville STEM Hub has successfully elevated STEM in our region. We have hosted a number of community events to promote awareness and networking between STEM organisations including our STEM Faire held this month, STEM Photography competition, primary school student robotics competition and secondary student entrepreneurship competition.”
A respected industry keynote speaker, published researcher and prized STEM educator, Sarah was selected as a Fellow by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute this year and remains passionate about exploring STEM Hub opportunities in Townsville.
“The resounding learning experience as an educator and advocate for STEM is the importance of connection, the bringing together of each sector of the STEM ecosystem. The next important component is communication between each sector of the STEM ecosystem, to strengthen connections and grow, along with the importance of positive and enabling communication to young people, absent of unconscious bias. Connection, communication and the third being collaboration, working together to share their strengths to influence and grow the STEM ecosystem. Championing success and telling stories is the all-important cherry on top. Championing the brilliant achievements of our STEM community must happen to promote engagement and pave a pathway for our young people to aspire to in the future.”