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STEM Punks founder a finalist in tech awards

Posted: 2pm 20 Aug 2021

Fiona Holmstrom’s mission to make Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education gender-inclusive has earnt her a place as a finalist in the 2021 Women in Technology Awards.

The Samford Village resident and STEM Punks director started the world-leading program - with learning outcomes linked to the Australian Curriculum - in her garage.

STEM Punks was created to provide kids and adults with a mindset of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to enable them to solve the problems of tomorrow today.

“There was a need to bridge the gap between ideas and valuable outcomes, and to give students and ability to apply STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills in real world problem-solving,” Fiona says.

“When I was eight years old my brother was given a computer.

“I played on it when he wasn't around and taught myself how to code and how to create games and challenges.

“I knew from early on that my career would involve technology, however it wasn't until decades later that this came to fruition.”

Career change

After a career in the corporate world, Fiona, who won an Ausmumpreneur Award for her work championing STEM for girls last year, had children and decided to leave her working life behind.

Becoming a mum prompted her to search for leading education systems to suit her own children and their development.

“From Scandinavia to the Middle East to North America and everywhere in between, I found that STEM kept coming up in curriculums everywhere - everywhere except Australia,” she says.

“So I set about to change that, and STEM Punks was born.”

Going global

Since the inception of STEM Punks four years ago, it has become a global business, boosted in part by the advent of COVID-019, which initially wiped millions from the company’s bottom line.

“We transferred all of our content online and started doing livestreams. We had to convert teachers to TV presenters,” she explains.

“We tapped into a market we hadn’t explored before and now we’re connected globally.

“Previously, with the face-to-face model we were one-to-one. Now we are one to many, which makes it very cost effective for schools, who don’t have to pay travel costs.”

Fiona says she used her early experience of not being given a computer because it was “a boy thing” to spur on her mission to ensure more girls enter STEM and don’t endure the same gender bias she did.

Recognising achievements of women

“My philosophy is to encourage inclusivity and equity in education.”

“As an early STEM career professional, I’ve achieved some incredible things over the last four years, but particularly the transition of the business from a face-to-face business model to an online model during COVID.”

Fiona was selected as a WiT award finalist from a field of almost 300 nominations across 14 categories.

Australia’s leading technology industry association night of nights recognises the talent and achievements of women working in all fields of STEM and the significant contribution they make to research, policy, economic and social development across a range of categories.

Women in Technology (WiT) President Bec Langdon says it’s clear the themeWhat We Celebrate, Grows’ resonates with nominees, and she is delighted so many regional, rural and remotely located women were featured before the judging panel.

"Many women are doing amazing work and these awards are about giving them the recognition they deserve, building support for their work, and inspiring the next generation of leaders by showing what is possible,” Bec says.

The 2021 WiT Awards will be announced on October 21. To see the full list of finalists, head here.

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