A team of creative students from the North Lakes Library has won the inaugural STEM Punks Innovation Sports Tournament.
Run in conjunction with the Queensland Public Libraries Association, the tournament pitted teams from around the state in locations such as the Moreton Bay Region, Gladstone, Mount Isa, Fraser Coast and Mackay against each other to devise and deliver the best solution to a challenge using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) principles.
Samford-based STEM Punks education director Damien Aldridge says the idea for the challenge sprang from constraints brought about in the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every council and region has libraries, and in COVID they took a huge hit,” Damien says.
“We’re trying to make these resources rock stars for kids to come in and see what’s available – we’re trying to get kids back into libraries.”
North Lakes Library senior branch leader James Nicholson says the partnership between STEM Punks and the Queensland Public Library Association has opened up a world of opportunity and the library is proud to have the inaugural championship belt on display.
“One of the challenges when you’re trying to do these sorts of things in libraries is that you need more than just library staff,” James explains.
“Something that’s unique, and that we’re grateful for, is that STEM Punks have a training portal for coaches to be able to feel confident to be able to lead a team.
“Coaches were able to upskill and engage with the program.”
Queensland Public Libraries Association secretary Scott Cadoo says giving students the opportunity to take part in challenges at public libraries is an important way to make technology available to everyone on an even playing field.
“It’s a bridge across what we call the digital divide,” Scott says.
“We still do have a lot of households that don’t have the internet – and that’s a quintessential part of going into the modern workforce.
“It could take them into careers that haven’t even been developed yet.”
James agrees, saying while many schools take part in similar challenges, not all are equipped equally, with some constrained by location and the socio-economic area in which they are based.
“This way, we step into the space to bring it to those who have not had that opportunity,” he says.
As part of the Innovation Sports Tournament, libraries facilitated teams of up to six students to come together for practice during the first week of the most recent school holidays under the guidance of a coach, ahead of the tournament itself in the second week.
“We gave the students and coaches time to experiment and learn,” Damien says.
On the day of the tournament, teams across the state were given a “Kick-Off Card” outlining their challenge, which was to design a new outdoor adventure park to train future ninja athletes on climbing, parkour and obstacles, using Minecraft.
They had two hours to design and deliver the course, which had to be “radically fun and suitable for all ages”.
Damien says the North Lakes team nailed the brief right from the beginning and STEM Punks are grateful for the vision of the QPLA, which has helped bring the Innovation Sports Tournament to life.
“It’s turning into our flagship program,” he says.
“It uses collaboration, research, designing, creativity – it ticks all the boxes.
“We’re so happy about how people are helping out and for the support of the QPLA and independent libraries.”
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