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Connecting culture and STEM in the USA


Line of young people arm in arm wearing various clothing styles stand on a hard pale surface and in front of a wall with the words in very large print: Think Beyond.
Team Australia at Intel ISEF (L-R) Jordan Salmon, Josiah Cheng, Mitch Torok, Jordan Griffiths, Ivy Brain, Lucy Lake, Tiara Meier, Anne Zimmerman and Allan Alipio. (Photo courtesy of CSIRO)
6 Aug 2019

Jordan Griffiths and Jordan Salmon won the 2018 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student STEM Achievement Award.

The award included travel to the USA to share their Indigenous knowledge and award-winning STEM projects.

Jordan Griffiths is a student at Seaton High School in South Australia, Her ancestral background is the Barkindji nation of the Darling River Basin, New South Wales.

Jordan won the award for designing a specialised mechanism for distributing herbicide from a drone in collaboration with the University of Adelaide’s Centre of Applied Conservation Science and Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility.

Jordan Salmon is a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation, an accelerated student and House Leader at Clancy Catholic College in south-western Sydney.

He developed and constructed a ‘B-Pad’ to teach children in years 1 and 2 problem solving and a robotic system that moves blocks for teaching mathematics.

Both award-winners travelled to Phoenix, Arizona, via San Francisco and the Grand Canyon in the USA with the Australian delegation for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

They presented their award-winning STEM projects at Arizona State University where they were hosted by The Office of American Indian Initiatives.

'We had an in-depth discussion about whether the drone technology I had worked on last year could be applied to a weed problem in the USA,’ Jordan Griffiths said.

‘We also spoke to a variety of people including professors, university students and primary school students. The university students were interested in comparing the similarities and differences between our cultures and their histories.'

They also visited the Salt River Prima Maricopa Indian Community Girls and Boys Club and had the opportunity to share stories with Navajo students who are passionate about STEM and Indigenous knowledge in STEM.

'To be able to learn so much about American Indian culture and STEM and to meet with the staff and students was very encouraging for me,’ Jordan Salmon said.

‘They were very warm and welcoming, and they are very strong in mentoring young Indigenous students. This spoke to me as a young Australian Indigenous student. To be there and to share and exchange our stories, ideas, culture, gifts and just being open to learning from each other was very humbling.'

Find out more

The Indigenous STEM Awards are part of the Indigenous STEM Education Project, a partnership between the BHP Foundation and CSIRO.

Applications for the 2019 Indigenous STEM Awards open on 2 September and close on 27 September. For more information, see Apply.

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