An online platform encouraging young girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) called Sister Cloud, has won Swinburne’s 2021 ‘Design for Change’ student competition.
Design for Change invites students to design and pitch a STEMM prototype to either inspire school-aged students or contribute innovative ideas to industry partner Insurance Australia Group. The overarching aim is to help make the world a better place.
Designing the future
Emily Cheng, who is studying the Master of Information Technology with a major in Software Development, designed Sister Cloud with fellow students Jordan Remzi-Johson, Marius Bejan, Michael Datta Chaudhuri and Shan Lu. They came up with the idea for an assessment in the Technology Design Project unit.
It consists of an online platform that encourages girls aged 10-15 years old to get involved in STEMM activities by providing a safe space for them to connect with mentors already working in the space, as well as with peers.
Sister Cloud gives users access to learning resources like games with incentives for consistent use such as points and daily streaks. It is targeted at a younger audience and suitable to be implemented in schools.
Shaping STEMM futures
When Design for Change was announced, lecturer in Science Communication and initiator of the competition, Dr Bita Zaferanloo, encouraged the Sister Cloud team to enter.
‘I believe community knowledge is a powerful force and my aim is to empower students to act as science communicators to lead and shape the future of STEMM,’ Dr Zaferanloo says.
Emily says she is ‘extremely honoured’ to win the award and grateful for the recognition of the hard work the team put in to create the STEMM prototype.
‘It means a lot to me seeing our idea has resonated with other people.’
Design for Change is one program in a series of co-curricular activities that the Shaping STEMM futures initiative offer to engage Swinburne students in Australia and Malaysia to enhance communication and develop future readiness.
The team, led by Dr Zaferanloo, in addition to Senior Lecturer in Software and Electrical Engineering, Dr Caslon Chua, and Industrial Designer, Elliot Henkel, have spent the past five months designing and promoting the program to help make a difference.
The Design for Change program is supported by an Adobe Innovation Grant and the Design Factory Melbourne at Swinburne. Participating students have access to various training workshops to learn new skills and opportunities to put them into practice.
The team behind Sister Cloud won $1,000, recognition within the Swinburne Emerging Leaders Program, which helps translate their experience on their final academic transcript, and professional experience supported by Insurance Australia Group where they can receive feedback from Industry partners.
Sister Cloud’s platform is based off islands which each represent an area of STEM and locations within them for users to visit to find others with the same interests.
Creating a supportive community
Emily’s own experiences as a woman in STEMM inspired the idea of Sister Cloud. She always had an interest in STEMM but did not necessarily feel supported to participate in it by family and teachers.
‘As a Women in STEMM, I often feel isolated, just like a small island in a big ocean.’
‘I only recently decided to follow my passion and pursue a degree and future career in STEMM. I understand the feeling of being unsupported and unrecognised and really want to create a solution to help.’
As a result of how positively Sister Cloud has been received, the student team is now looking at turning the idea into a real application.
Emily hopes Sister Cloud will benefit girls and women looking to get into STEMM for the first time or further their journey in the field.
‘Sister Cloud will aid girls, as well as the industries attached to STEMM, ensuring that gifted young girls are not pushed out of STEMM for lack of support or other reasons such as cultural stereotypes.’