We recently interviewed Olivia Chen about her passion for STEM, career aspirations and her upcoming trip to Israel for the global science camp SciTech. Olivia is a Year 10 student at Masada College in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
Day of STEM: Can you tell us about how you became interested in STEM?
Olivia: In primary school I enjoyed and excelled in my maths and science classes. Once I was taking the advanced courses at secondary my interest began to grow as I realised some of the real-world connections. I also realised how much STEM helped the disadvantaged and how integral it has become as part of our daily life.
Day of STEM: What are your plans after you finish secondary school at Masada?
Olivia: I know that I want to be an engineer. I’m still considering what type of engineering, but I’m leaning towards mechanical or biomechanical. I want to work on projects that improve life and make it easier for people who maybe at a disadvantage. One day I’d like to start a company that focuses on improving quality of life for people across the globe, starting right here in Australia.
Day of STEM: Have you thought about where you’d like to study?
Olivia: I’m planning on applying to several universities at home in Australia and also abroad. I’m considering applying to Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. I applied and was accepted to a summer camp there in July called SciTech (click here). The program brings together 60 students from over 11 countries to work on alongside at faculty at the college on exciting STEM-based research projects. I’m currently raising money through a Go Fund Me (click here) project to cover some of the travel expenses for the program.
Day of STEM: That’s wonderful to hear, congratulations! Can you tell us why you want to attend the camp? What are you hoping to learn?
Olivia: I’m looking forward to meeting the other students from around the world and connecting with people my age who also have an interest in STEM. It will be good to learn their perspectives and stay connected with them again in the future. I want to bring back what I learned and share it with my friends and school. I want the opportunity to learn and grow from the staff and experience that I will encounter there. This opportunity will hopefully be a massive growth point to further develop my interest in STEM. It’s a chance to learn about cultures from around the world, as well as in Israel.
Day of STEM: Are your friends also interested in STEM?
Olivia: Yes, there is a small group of friends that are very keen on STEM. We’re looking to set-up an afterschool club where we can participate in programs like Day of STEM, learn how to code, participate in hackathons, etc. We want more opportunities and exposure to STEM programs to help build our skills and perspectives. We also have an interest in helping Australia to become more proficient in STEM as a country. It’s frustrating for us to see other countries outpacing Australia on international test scores. One program we’re looking to bring to our school is called Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) (click here). The program designed for engineers, scientists, mathematicians and people with ideas in a Make-a-thon creating prototype solutions addressing the needs of society and the disabled. I have contacted the TOM program organisers and they are excited to bring it to Sydney and run the 72-hour make-a-thon workshop for local students. My school principal has also agreed to it. This workshop will give students opportunities to make practical solutions to solve current social problems. An especially important one is how new innovations and technologies can help the disabled. There are people that have access to the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) but also need the support of machinery and devices. I believe that the NDIS needs more innovation, not more money. Student involvement in this make-a-thon will help youth understand their impact of STEM on people’s lives and everyday society. This will inspire and encourage them to continue to pursue careers in STEM.
Day of STEM: What issues interest your generation?
Olivia: My generation is interested in helping people and communities. With the increase of technology and rapid availability of information, we’re aware of many issues facing our society today. We want to find and create solutions in areas like depression/mental health, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and people living with disabilities. We want to work on projects to help people live productive and happy lives.
Day of STEM: What’s type of activities excite you when you’re learning?
Olivia: I really enjoy hands-on activities. One of my favourite subjects in school right now is Design & Technology. We’ve got all types of tools, like 3D printers and laser cutters, to help us design and build things in the classroom. We rotate between different areas of technology, currently we’re working on metalwork which has been fun!
Day of STEM: What’s your favourite STEM subject? Science, technology, engineering or mathematics?
Olivia: Wow, that’s really a hard question! It’s too hard to choose one or the other. I enjoy when we’re combining two or more of the topics into a project or lesson. It’s good to see how they all connect.