Who’s Who in 2022, Business: STEM Punks

Published 9:30pm 3 December 2022

Who’s Who in 2022, Business: STEM Punks
Words by Moreton Daily

STEM Punks founders Fiona and Michael Holmstrom have continued to forge new frontiers in 2022.

Michael and Fiona and their team have won a slew of awards – and set a Guinness World Record – as well as taking Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to thousands of people around the globe.

STEM Punks rolled out several new programs this year – among them the Space Innovation Program and the STEM Punks Innovation Sports Tournament, which involved more than 250 Australian schools this year.

The Space Innovation Program gave participants the chance to use STEM skills to design and create innovative solutions.

During the program students learnt from astronauts and space scientists and explored the challenges of designing space habitats and creating environments for physical and mental wellbeing.

The five-day program took participants through a series of challenges, equipping students with new knowledge and skills to build towards an innovative solution for space problems.

Michael says the Space Innovation Program launched with major events in Mackay, Dubai, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and at the Kennedy Space Centre in the United States, bringing together 300-400 students from schools in each location.

He says the idea is to give students an insight into the vast array of opportunities for working in STEM.

“STEM education goes wrong when we just talk about coding and robots,” Michael says.

“It’s about teaching kids how to use these tools to solve problems – then you get diverse engagement as well - we get kids to be part of the journey and immersed in the process.”

Fiona says it’s all about capitalising on kids’ curiosity.

“We have been saying for years ‘get them excited with the problems their going to solve’, instead of asking ‘what are you going to do, what are you going to be?’,” she explains.

“Kids don’t have that fear of failure that we have as adults.”

As well as inspiring students in schools, the STEM Punks Innovation Sports Tournament hit local libraries, pitting 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 STEM principles.

Run in conjunction with the Queensland Public Libraries Association, the tournament saw libraries facilitate teams of up to six students to come together for practice during the first week under the guidance of a coach, ahead of the tournament itself in the second week of school holidays.

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.

STEM Punks education director Damien Aldridge says the idea for the challenge sprang from constraints caused by 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.”

About STEM Punks’ success

Fiona and Michael’s work has had an impact globally – taking STEM to countries including the US, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, Peru, Columbia, Ghana and Papua New Guinea.

In June, Michael headed to the United Kingdom as part of a delegation of 10 companies attending London Tech Week and as a finalist in the prestigious UK PIEoneer Awards in the Digital Innovation – Learning category.

While there, Michael met business leaders, entrepreneurs, start-ups and government officials as part of a bid to expand the world-leading STEM education program into the UK market.

Attracting thousands of attendees in person and online, London Tech Week brings together the world’s most inspirational founders, global leaders, senior investors and rising stars to collaborate and discuss the vital role of technology in society.

Michael says it was the perfect arena to raise interest in STEM Punks TV – a world-first streaming space for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“We’re raising capital for this world-first platform for STEM TV.

“It’s all content we have produced ourselves – we’ve done that ourselves during COVID - it’s high value content.”

The PIEoneer Awards were among many that recognised STEM Punks’ ground-breaking work in 2022.

The company won the Children's Educational Services category at the Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards, took home a GOLD Stevie Award in the Most Innovative Company of the Year 10 or Less Employees category, won the Australian Small Business Champion Awards for Children's Educational Services and set a Guinness World Record for The World’s Largest Space Exploration Lesson, 2500+ students across 10 campuses.

Fiona won a bronze Stevie for Women Helping Women – Social Change, as well as an APAC Women in Tech Award in Kuala Lumpur, being named a finalist in the Beam in Business Woman to Watch Awards and being named as a Top 10 Woman to Watch in 2022 by WB40.

Education Director Damien Aldridge was recognised as one of the Most Influential Educators in 2022 by the The Educator Australia.

Other gongs for STEM Punks in 2022 include being shortlisted in the Reimagine Education Awards for Developing emerging skills and competencies, being named as a finalist in the 'Growth category' at the Pause Awards and being selected from more than 3000 organisations to make the top 100 ‘Education Innovation to watch out for' by HundrED.

Rounding out STEM Punks’ achievements for the year, their headquarters in Australia and USA were joined by Interstellar headquarters after the company secured the exclusive branding rights as the first business on the moon.

In partnership with Space X, STEM Punks will provide STEM Education programs from their galaxy-first moonbase at the Copernicus Crater.

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