Space engagers: Inspiring students to embrace STEM

Ai Group recently had the opportunity to visit The Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) at Strathmore Secondary College, which is designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

VSSEC is a specialist not-for-profit Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning facility. Since its inception in 2006, VSSEC has used the context of space to enhance the learning experience in STEM for both teachers and students.

Adding to the excitement of the day, students are decked out in spacesuits, complete with futuristic backpacks (so they can keep in contact with the students back at Mission Control) before heading into an airlock for take-off.

When they arrive on Mars, the temperature is artificially lowered to immerse them further into the experience.


Adding to the experience, students get to dress as astronauts before heading to Mars

Fun and games aside, the students then have the very real opportunity to apply their classroom learning in the space context, completing tests and tasks while solving the problems presented to them along the way as a team.

Another exciting feature of the program is the opportunity for students to interact with mentors. Mentors are students from a range of Victorian Universities from varied disciplines who receive special training to enable them to work closely with the students on the program.

Some of the courses designed to engage students in the STEM area are the Robotic Mission to Mars for years 9 and 10, Quantum Computing for year 10 and ‘Tickle My Droid’ (computational thinking using Tickle, a computer language based on Scratch by MIT) which focuses on coding for students in year 7 and 8.


At Mission Control, students work in teams to solve problems. This adds a communication component to the program

The tuition is practical and designed to assist the learning of a wide range of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is valuable not only educationally, but for aspiration also.

Having attended the day, it occurs that the space theme is particularly apt, given the program is so perfectly positioned to encourage students to ‘reach for the stars.’

We were kindly shown around by Strathmore College staff Michael Pakakis (Director VSSEC), Brett Biddington (Industry Representative) and College Principal, Jill English. Also in attendance was Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples.

More information about the centre and its programs can be found here.


This fantastic Mars rover can be controlled remotely on a range of devices, even from the other side of the world!


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Rachael Wilkinson
Rachael Wilkinson relocated from Western Australia to Victoria to join the policy team at Ai Group in 2017. Prior to Joining Ai Group she worked for the Fair Work Ombudsman, providing advice to the public on the Fair Work Act. She then spent time living in Vancouver (Canada) where she worked as an Appeal Coordinator, and volunteered with the homeless community.

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