Supporting STEM

“The best! Going here was worth it.” “Really fun, good to use all of the lab equipment.” “Very interesting and engaging, this program helped me figure out what I want to do after high school.” Student feedback shows that the Knox Innovation Opportunity Sustainability Centre at Swinburne is helping to switch on the next generation of Australian science students.

Australia is increasingly recognising the importance of expertise in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The Australian Government “regards high-quality STEM education as critically important for our current and future productivity”. Under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government allocated more than $64 million to fund early learning and school STEM initiatives.

The Knox Innovation Opportunity Sustainability Centre

The Knox Innovation Opportunity Sustainability Centre (KIOSC) is helping to meet Australia’s needs for STEM expertise and education. Located at Swinburne’s Wantirna campus, KIOSC immerses high school students in practical, hands-on, interactive STEM activities in a university environment. The aim is to inspire high school students to understand STEM ideas on an intuitive and deeper level, rather than to simply ‘teach’ students.

Swinburne established KIOSC in 2012 under the federal Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, in collaboration with Knox City Council and six Knox high schools.

Modelling tech education

Since its establishment, around 7000 high school students have attended KIOSC each year. Students have given KIOSC an average rating of 7.6 out of 10 for “I learnt new ideas and skills”. Teachers also give KIOSC high marks – 9.3 out of 10 for ”The program enhanced/reinforced what students learnt at school” and “I intend to link the practical component to the concepts in chemistry being discussed”.

KIOSC was also identified as a model for the Tech Schools initiative in Victoria, which has established 10 high-tech STEM shared learning centres across the state. In 2015, the Victorian Government provided KIOSC with $4 million to become a demonstration centre for the new Tech Schools, all of which opened in 2017/18.

Innovation and industry-based learning

The KIOSC program is based on Swinburne’s research into innovative delivery methods for STEM education, including industry-based learning. KIOSC uses immersive and interactive learning experiences and workshops, informed and supported by Swinburne research across many disciplines – including robotics, coding, virtual reality programs, design engineering, chemistry and astronomy.

Swinburne’s extensive industry network has also enabled the establishment of several programs involving industry partners. In particular, the university established a partnership between KIOSC and Siemens – a long-time partner of Swinburne.

Award winning learning spaces

KIOSC is in a two-storey custom-built facility, with innovative, high-tech learning spaces, incorporating interactive audiovisual tools and online technologies. KIOSC was the first provider to introduce coding using humanoid robots to high school students. Swinburne also provides KIOSC students with access to additional equipment and facilities as needed.

In 2012, KIOSC was awarded the Best New Entire Educational Facility by the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, Victorian Chapter Awards for “its dramatic architectural forms and strong sustainability principles”. In 2015, KIOSC went on to receive the Economic Development Partnerships Award for its establishment and success in the local community and, in 2016, it received accolades from the Australian Office of the Chief Scientist, which referenced KIOSC in the STEM Programme Index.

Project lead: Ms Sharon Rice