STEM Unearthed_Thuringowa SHS

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Students from Thuringowa State High School and Tec-NQ are becoming mine managers, metallurgists, and engineers for the day as they complete hands-on tasks at a Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) workshop, thanks to South32.

The QMEA, which is the education arm of the Queensland Resources Council (QRC), is in Townsville today delivering one of its most popular student engagements that showcases the importance of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).

QRC Director of Skills, Education and Diversity, Ms Katrina-Lee Jones said about 28 Grade 10 students are working in teams, testing their communication, data collection and analysis, and problem-solving skills at the STEM Unearthed workshop.

“The first activity saw students operate their own mini mines where they had to factor in construction, operational, and rehabilitation requirements to meet project milestones on time and within budget,” Ms Jones said.

“Not only was this a clever way to get them thinking about managing finances, procuring project materials, and time constraints under a real-world scenario, but it also let them explore the different and exciting roles that are needed to operate a mine site.

Students will investigate and compare two methods for extracting copper from rock, including heating with a Bunsen burner, and treating it with a chemical solution before filtering and decanting it.

South32 Cannington Vice President Operations Joe Russell said the second workshop activity, often a crowd favourite among students, involves diving into the fundamentals of chemistry to separate metal from rock.

“At South32 we produce base metals that are used to make a wide variety of everyday household items and are also key ingredients for renewable energy products such as solar panels and batteries for electric cars,” Mr Russell said.

“This workshop hosted by the QMEA is a great way for young people to get some first-hand experience of the mining and resources industry and hopefully inspire them to one day consider a career at South32.

“We’re also very excited to have this year’s QRC/WIMARQ Exceptional Young Woman in Resources winner, and South32’s Engineering and Projects Superintendent Jill Coppo at today’s workshop guiding students through the activities.”

Thuringowa State High School Principal, Mrs Kaylene Mladenovic said the last activity of the workshop will see students use various strategies, including trial and error, prediction and process refinement to design the ‘perfect drink’.

“Process engineering is a creative way to get the students thinking about the different and innovative ways they can achieve consistent and accurate results when embarking on a new challenge, especially as a team,” Mrs Mladenovic said.

“Not only is this a useful skill for their lives outside of school, but it’s a valuable takeaway for their future career paths and professional development.”

As Australia’s largest and most successful industry-led education and schools training initiative, the QMEA seeks to broaden student and teacher knowledge of career opportunities in resources.

The academy encourages a talent pipeline of employees into vocational and professional careers, with a focus on female and Indigenous participation. The QMEA currently engages with 90 schools and is a partnership between the QRC and the Queensland Government under its Gateway to Industry Schools program.

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