PEOPLE: Launching STEM Punks to inspire tomorrow’s innovators

For National Science Week, Fiona Holstrom shares why she started STEM Punks to inspire the next generation of STEM students and professionals.

  • What initiated the idea for STEM Punks? 

STEM Punks’ mission is to “Inspire Tomorrow’s Innovators” and teach kids 21st Century Skills by enabling a mindset of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. After researching trends in overseas education, we realised there was a gap in the market in Australia for quality STEM education for children. When we started, STEM wasn’t part of the National Curriculum so we were ahead of the trend.

STEM Punks started out by running small After-School classes in our garage. The business grew exponentially, especially this year, despite COVID. Initially, seeing the need in the market for quality STEM Education for children that provided them with learning outcomes that were aligned to the National Curriculum, not just entertainment, was uppermost in deciding that STEM Punks had a really solid offering to the market. What started out as market testing with the local community had such a rapid uptake from parents and teachers that the business had to scale up and spread across Australia.

  • Why is it important to encourage an interest in STEM fields from a young age? 

Helping children develop skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will prepare them for a future where they can make a difference.

We believe STEM Skills are important from an early age. It is all about solving problems and by introducing a mindset of creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation from an early age, they allows kids to explore these concepts and then take them with them into their adult life and throughout their careers. For example we use a process called Design Thinking, which utilises a Design process to solve real world problems. If we can introduce this at an early age, it becomes more of a mindset than a process. This is very important for kids to understand at an early age to enable them to solve more complex problems later on in life.

  • Have you experienced any hesitation from adults or children when you initiate conversations around your STEM programs? If so, how do you manage that? 

Parents are generally very excited about the opportunity to be involved in their kids’ 21st Century learning. Questions might arise around year levels and suitability for their kids but our programs are developed by professional teachers so we have a very good understanding of the correct learning process for each year level and learning outcomes.

  • How do you overcome the stereotypes of STEM fields being ‘boring’ or ‘complex’ when working with children?

This is a very interesting question. Children don’t want to learn anything that doesn’t excite them. Yes, STEM education can come across as very dry and technology focussed. At STEM Punks we have a core philosophy to make STEM Education interesting and engaging, and we do that by linking real world problem solving and STEM skills in hands-on immersive workshops.

Making learning fun is priority number one. Robots, drones, game coding, and Virtual Reality are just a few of the tools we use to assist learning. 

For example, to learn the physics of rotary flight, you could give students a physics textbook and tell them to start reading. Or, you can engage them by introducing a drone as a platform to learn rotary flight in action. By doing so, students get a keen interest for the topic as they want to learn and explore by playing with the drone. At the same time, we can teach kids the fundamentals and the physics behind rotary flight. The combination of entertaining content and deep learning outcomes is key to our success and something that is core to our philosophy in STEM education.  

About the expert

Director of STEM Punks, Fiona Holmstrom, believes helping children develop skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will prepare them for a future where they can solve real world problems and make a difference.

As well as being the Director of STEM Punks, Ms Holmstrom is a mother of three young children. Her curiosity to seek out leading global education saw STEM Punks being born three years ago, and it this passion to see all children educated in STEM that is behind her success in the world of business and education.

Image description: Headshot of Fiona, who is smiling at the camera. Fiona has long, brown and wavy hair, is wearing glasses, a green top and a grey blazer.