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Drones take flight as part of new STEM initiative

USQ launches new program that uses drones as a STEM learning tool.

The humming of drones filled the air at Mt Crosby State School as part of a new USQ initiative to tackle the STEM skills shortage.

Mt Crosby was one of the first schools to pilot the new program designed to foster innovation and steer more young people into the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

USQ Associate Professor Ange Fitzgerald, a science education and STEM researcher, said STEM was critical to Australia’s future, with workers estimated to spend 77 per cent more time using science and mathematics skills by 2030, according to the Foundation for Young Australians.

“Helping more young people, especially girls, boost their enthusiasm for STEM subjects and allowing them to recognise the real world applications of these fields is at the heart of this project,” Associate Professor Fitzgerald said.

“Drone technology is one of the most exciting areas for students to experience the practical application of STEM subjects and covers a whole range of STEM disciplines, including engineering, physics, mathematics and coding.

“It’s an effective way to inspire and extend young people’s learning in STEM and develop skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, which are essential for future careers.”

As well as the student workshop, the program provides educators with professional development on drone safety and operation, as well as teaching tools they can use to help bring STEM to life in their classrooms.

Associate Professor Fitzgerald is co-leading the project with USQ Surveying Lecturer Dr Zahra Gharineiat.

Dr Gharineiat said the program drew on the University’s research and experience in STEM education and digital technologies, and demonstrated to the students the links STEM has with other areas of study such as aviation, surveying and climatology.

“The work we are doing with schools and teachers has an important role to play in inspiring future generations of innovative thinkers and skilled workers with STEM talents,” she said.

“More educators are using drones because there is so much potential to not only teach STEM concepts, but also drone technology is expected to skyrocket, creating thousands of future jobs in many different fields and industries.”

Mt Crosby SS Principal Penny Grant hoped the workshop would inspire the students to continue their STEM journey both at school and into the future.

“By exposing our students to the wonders of science and technology, it really broadens their perspectives and gets them interested in those topics at a young age,” Ms Grant said.

“The school is looking for ways to offer more activities and experiences that promote STEM learning, and USQ’s Drones for STEM Learning program serves as a good take-off point for more opportunities like this.

“It demonstrates the benefits of schools and universities working together in raising the aspirations of young people and delivering better learning outcomes.”

Schools interested in being involved in the program can contact Associate Professor Ange Fitzgerald at

Girl pilots drone
Ava Clark was a picture of concentration as she flew a drone.