Please indicate if your Initiative is an Established Initiative.
Galen Catholic College
Team - who worked on the project/initaitve
There were many involved in the initiative
Teachers at Galen Catholic College:
Maree Timms - Galen Catholic College
Brett Webber - Galen Catholic College
Bernadette Albertson - Galen Catholic College
Key Students at Galen Catholic College
Mitchell Currie Fraser
Anne Geddis - Charles Sturt University Wangaratta
Anne Shaw - NETracks - LLEN ( Local Learning Employment Network - North East Region)
Brett Ambrosio - GOTAFE Wangaratta
Teacher at Galen Catholic College
Overview - Provide a summary to introduce the project or initiative
The aim of the Galen VEX Robotics Program is to provide STEM learning and leadership opportunities for our regional students at Galen Catholic College, Wangaratta. The program has allowed students to thrive, and develop as individuals. The success of the program has seen the Galen VEX team win the National Titles and go on to represent Australia at the VEX World Championships in Louisville Kentucky, USA.
The VEX Robotics Program has certainly addressed our aim of engaging students into a comprehensive and holistic STEM program. Students have been able to use design thinking, teamwork, collaboration and develop problem solving skills to build and design robots. Wangaratta is a regional area with a lack of access to digital and technical expertise. Subsequently, our students have independently utilised VEX Forums and YouTube clips to learn the underpinning technical knowledge.The tenacity of the students saw them shine on the World Stage.
The main challenge of the program is the increased the cost of travel to competitions which are mostly held in Melbourne. This has limited our ability to learn, network, liaise and collaborate with other teams at competitions. Another challenge is funding equipment. The program has had to expand slowly as funds have become available.
Another aim of this project is to encourage more girls to join the program. It is also open all abilities and ages ( years 7 - 12). This success of the program has seen the number of female participants increase each year.
How would you say diversity is embraced within your organisation or sector? Are there diversity initiatives in place or are diversity approaches new to your sector?
Wangaratta is a regional town, with few opportunities for our students to experience cutting edge technology, and STEM experiences as per their city counterparts. Our region’s Digital Inclusion Index is one of the lowest in Australia, so to get students, parents and the community engaged in our VEX Robotics Program will go towards increasing STEM aspirations and understanding. STEM in our minds is a way of thinking, doing, designing, collaborating, not a single subject entity.
The Digital Inclusion Index (RMIT, Swinburne, Telstra and Roy Morgan Research) looks at three areas - digital access, affordability and ability. Our region is comparable in access and affordability compared to regional centres across Australia. However, it is our digital ability that is extremely low, in fact the third lowest in all of Australia. https://digitalinclusionindex.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Australian-Digital-Inclusion-Index-2017_v2.pdf
To have such a low digital ability score in our region means there is very limited opportunities for our students to engage with role models in industry/business/tertiary institutes who are leading the way with digital technologies, unless they travel to the city. The Galen VEX Robotics Program, allows students to become designers, builders and creators via robotics to increase their own digital ability and STEM Skills. The VEX Robotics Program provides a gateway to opportunities for students to highlight and demonstrate their STEM skills. They connect with a wide range of ages and abilities in the local community and increase the profile of STEM in the region through local competitions, presentations, and workshops. The students have presented at primary schools and aged care residences, at teacher professional development workshops, Careers and STEM Expos, as well as to local service clubs, Rotary, Lions, Zonta and Inner Wheel.
The program started off with a handful of boys, but as the program expanded females were highly encouraged to participate. The female students who have joined the program have become role models and have presented at a number of speaking engagements. They have been guest speakers at the inaugural “Girls in STEM” event held in Wangaratta, at the start of this year.
The girls in the 2017 VEX Teams traveled to the USA as part of the “World Team” and engaged in the “Girls in STEM - Girl Powered Events” at the Vex Worlds. The girls formed connections and friendships with other female robotics students whilst at the World Championships, including a very special relationship with an all-girls team from Tunisia. This relationship has inspired our female team members to recruit more females into the program. The rate of female participation in the program has gone from 0% to 27% in 18 months.
The girls have also been supported by the local ZONTA Club and have presented to them on a number of occasions; before and after their trip to the VEX Worlds. Zonta Club members have noted the difference in the girls’ confidence and stature since returning from their trip to America. Madalynn was invited to be a presenter at the World Skills event, by VEX Australia Leaders as they were very impressed with her confidence and communication skills at the World VEX Championships and saw her as a great female role model for the program.
The VEX Program also caters for all learning abilities, where students with various skills can still thrive. One student in particular who has a learning difficulty has become one of our top coders/programmers and is now mentoring other students. His parents and teachers have all noted the difference in his confidence and improved academic outcomes, since joining the program.
Our school values diversity and inclusion and prides itself in ensuring all students have equal opportunities. Our VEX program includes students from low socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.To encourage equity and inclusion, team members and families were all part of the fundraising efforts to raise $30,000 for the team to go to the VEX Worlds Competition in the USA. It was agreed by all to fundraise the full amount required so that no team members would be disadvantaged by their family’s economic status.
Detail the approach that was taken to implement the project or initiative, what actions were taken and why?
September 2016 - a group of five students were “hand picked” to start a team, as a trial project. These students understood that this was an extracurricular activity and it was a student led project. They understood that the teacher/ mentor was a facilitator only. The students thrived under these conditions and become very innovative, and self sufficient. They began to “think outside the box” - and then got onto VEX Forums and communicated with teams from all over the world, exchanging ideas and design processes.
December 2016 - Wangaratta’s Galen Catholic College hosted the Australian VEX Robotics National Championships. It was the first time the event had been held outside of Melbourne. Confidence in giving a regional town the chance to hold the event was due to the strong partnerships built between Galen Catholic College, Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta, NETracks LLEN and GOTAFE Wangaratta This partnership between the local organisations is now called DTAC (Digital Technologies Advisory Committee). VEX officials from USA, Hong Kong, New Zealand all attended the event, including the President of VEX Robotics, Paul Coppolino. They were all very impressed with the way the event was run, and the amount of local volunteers and community members engaged in the event. The decision to hold the event in Wangaratta meant that local teams were given wildcard entries to enter the event, as they had no previous competition experience. The Galen VEX Students had only three months to learn about the competition, design, build and program a robot. This was done in their spare time, at lunch times, after school and weekends. Through their tenacity, problem solving ability, passion and hard work, they had great success in their first competition, the Australian Nationals, making the finals and becoming Tournament Champions, alongside a top city team.
Feb 2017 - Due to the success and excitement from winning at the National Championships - support by the school was given to fund two more teams. The program expanded now to three teams with 2 female participants. Once again the students worked in teams, honing their communication and team work skills. They researched more, and participated in two more competitions prior to the National Championships. Each competition they learnt more and again they used VEX Forums to tweak and modify their robot designs. They used Youtube clips to compare their robot with others from around the world.
Dec 2017 - Wangaratta once again hosted the Australian National Championships, due to the success of the 2016 event. This time the Galen VEX teams were confident that they were ready and well prepared to battle it out with the strong city teams. This preparation saw each of the three teams win an award, Design, Tournament Champions and lastly the coveted Excellence Award. The Excellence Award meant they had automatic qualification to the VEX World Championships in the USA.
Jan 2018 - The VEX Team had to raise $30,000 in three months to pay for their travel, accommodation and expenses to get to the VEX Worlds in the USA in April 2018. The team did a number of fundraisers and community events. This galvanised the local Community, who got behind the team, and raised the total amount of $30,000 in only two months. This amount in such a short time is incredible, given the population of Wangaratta is 26,000.
Jan 2018 - The DTAC partnership saw the potential of the Galen VEX and created a two day “Robotics and Coding Holiday Program” for grade 5 and 6 students, where the Galen VEX Students would be the mentors. This was to hone in their leadership, teamwork and communication skills, plus share their passion with a younger generation. Twenty five grade 5 and 6 students and eight Galen VEX mentors participated.
April 2018 - The Galen VEX team headed to the USA to compete in America - the largest Robotics event in the World. They connected with many teams, and reaped the rewards. They were awarded the “Service Award.” This award was awarded to the most friendly, helpful and cooperative team, and the only award as voted by their peers. They are currently the only Australian High School team to come away with an award at the VEX World Championships.
May 2018 - The Galen VEX Worlds Team have presented at a number of events as a way to thank the community for their support - Rotary, Lions, Zonta, Inner Wheel. They also traveled to Melbourne to have lunch with the Lead Scientist of Victoria, Dr Amanda Caples. The team got to share their experiences and learning with her. VEX Australia invited Maree (Teacher) and Madalynn (Team captain) to demonstrate VEX Robotics at the World Skills Event in Sydney, as they had been seen as strong female role models.
May 2018 - Galen Catholic College recognised the success of the program and now has a dedicated VEX Room, (rather than working/sharing in a science lab). The VEX program has also expanded into VEX IQ (junior high school competition) with two new teams of year 7 and 8 students. The program now have five teams and thirty students involved in the extracurricular program. Of these thirty students there are now eight female students involved.
July 2018 - VEX Robotics will be integrated into year 8 and 9 Robotics Courses at Galen Catholic College as well as continuing in the extra curricular program. The extra curricular program will remain, as it allows students different year levels to work together. The highlight of the extra curricular program is the mentorship between the older and younger students.
July 2018 - Galen VEX team were invited to showcase and demonstrate their skills at the Ovens and Murray Regional Assembly, in front of Ministers Jaala Pulford and Ben Carroll. The students were thrilled by the interest the ministers took in their program and success.
July 2018 - The DTAC Partnership hosted a second 2 day Robotics and Coding Holiday Program, with the Galen VEX mentors on hand to teach the grade 5 and 6 students. This was sold out within three days of being advertised showing a need for this type of program in the area. Thirty four grade 5 and 6 students attended with fifteen Galen VEX mentors.
July 2018 - The VEX Students will present at DigiCon 2018. They will explain to teachers how they became owners of their own learning, how the VEX Robotics Program has helped them become more confident and how they engaged the local community. They will explain their journey to the World Championships, and how this and the program has changed their world view an developed their personal growth. They will also teach teachers how to program small VEX IQ robots.
August - September 2018 - Students will demonstrate their robotics skills at the Galen Catholic College STEM Expo and at the local Digital Harvest Teachers Conference during National Science Week, as well as during the Digital Innovation Festival in Wangaratta.
August to November 2018 - Compete in regional VEX Competitions. Due to the success of the Galen VEX Program, and hosting the Australian Nationals here in Wangaratta, there have been a number of schools who have also implemented VEX Robotics into their schools programs. This had lead to an increase of teams in the region and thus allows us to have regional competitions rather than having to travel to Melb.
December 2018 - Compete in the Australian National Championships - to be held in Melbourne in December.
Demonstrate the leadership shown in driving the initiative and fostering behavioural and organisational change.
Maree Timms, has been the driving force behind the program, along with her students and supported by her colleagues Brett Webber and Bernadette Albertson. The students have concentrated on their robotics and coding skills, while Maree has been building other 21st century skills within each of the students. Under Maree’s guidance the students have become more responsible for their own learning and have become greater problem solvers, shown resilience when come across design issues and failures. They have also become more confident. Their communication skills have increased, as well as their teamwork and collaboration skills. The students have grown throughout the program, and have been able to present to a range of different audiences, from small children, peers, adults, leaders in the community as well as participating in TV and radio interviews.
Maree was able to collaborate with VEX Australia Leaders, and gain the opportunity to host the Australian VEX Robotics National Championships in Wangaratta in December 2016 and again in 2017. Through her ongoing collaborations with DTAC: Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta, GOTAFE ( Goulburn Ovens TAFE), NE TRACKS LLEN ( Local Learning and Employment Network), Educational Advantage (Melbourne) she was able to gain additional support both in funding and in kind support from these organisations. She gathered a number of community volunteers and support from local schools, and saw the numbers of local teams increase from three local teams competing in the 2016 National Championships to ten local teams competing in 2017. It is expected that there will be twenty or more local teams competing in the 2018 season. It has been noted by VEX Robotics Leaders in both Australia and the USA, that North East Victoria is the now fastest growing region for VEX Robotics in the world. The Galen VEX program and it’s students have been exemplary role models not only for Galen Catholic College but also VEX Robotics as a wholistic STEM Program.
Maree as a female teacher and driving force behind the program, is a great role model for female students. She is able to cut through the gender divide with the male students in the program and inspire female students. The senior female VEX students now have enough confidence to have become leaders and mentors to younger and new female students involved in the program.
Maree has worked closely with the Galen Catholic College leadership team and ICT Teachers who have also seen the positive effect of the program. Their support has allowed the VEX Robotics program to be implemented into the Year 8 and 9 robotics courses. This will enable more students, including female students to become involved in robotics and increase their digital and STEM Skills.
Maree has been able to gain extra support through her colleagues in particular Brett Webber and Bernadette Albertson to assist with the Galen VEX Robotics Program on the daily basis at the school level. On a community level, she has created strong partnerships Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta, GOTAFE ( Goulburn Ovens TAFE), NE TRACKS LLEN ( Local Learning and Employment Network), Educational Advantage (Melbourne), who have consolidated at a working committee: DTAC ( Digital Technologies Advisory Committee). DTAC along with Borinya Community Partnerships School and Wodonga Middle Years College all work together to increase STEM aspirations in the region.
Maree Timms and Brett Webber, along with Wodonga Middle Years College Teacher - Michael Rogers have all undertaken training with VEX Australia to become Event Partners, has meant they have the skills to run and organise Regional Tournaments. The three of them have also gained support from DATTA Vic (Design & Technology Teachers Association of Victoria) as well as DTAC to support their endeavours in holding local professional development workshops to support regional teachers in implementing VEX Robotics into their schools. To get the support of DATTA Vic gives extra funding, support and professional development accreditation for teachers involved in the workshops.
Maree was also able to galvanise the parents and family members of the Galen VEX team to fundraise $30,000 in two months in order to get the team to the VEX World Championships in the USA. Her passion and drive helped create fundraising opportunities for the students and at the same time empowered the families to create opportunities for themselves, knowing that they had her support.
Maree has also been able to gather local media to follow the Galen VEX story, with the Wangaratta Chronicle, Edge FM, ABC Goulburn Murray and WIN TV. This has provided the local community to become engaged with the success of the team. You can find many of the media items here: https://mareetimms.wixsite.com/vex-worlds/blog
Was there organisational/industry or other resistance to the initiative? If so, detail the actions taken to overcome resistance to the project or initiative.
The implementation of the program has been one of slow progression, due to funding restraints. There was always support, but due to the costs involved of the equipment and registration fees, the program has had to be expanded gradually, with a two teams being added each season.
Most competitions are held in Melbourne and the cost for our students to travel to Melbourne to compete is an extremely limiting factor. Due to this the our teams only travel to Melbourne for one competition per year. This has hampered our ability to learn, develop and network through liaising and collaborating with other teams at competitions. Our students make up for this disadvantage by using youtube clips and forums as well as social media platforms to connect with other teams.
The other minor disadvantage is that every time a team competes in a competition they gain World Ranking Points, thus our regional teams miss out on gaining ranking points, due to lack of access to competitions. This will be addressed in the future as there has been such an increase in local teams joining the program we will be able to hold our own regional competitions, where teams will be able to gain world ranking points.
Galen VEX teachers, Maree, Brett along with Michael from Wodonga Middle Years College, have all being trained as VEX Event partners, they all now have the skills and training required to hold regional competitions. This will help keep costs down for regional teams as they will no longer have to travel to Melbourne to compete.
The Galen VEX program operated out of our science labs, at the end of each lunchtime all equipment had to be packed up and stored away, no court or field could be setup to practice on. Through the success of the program and increase in student participants, the Galen Leadership saw a need for the VEX program to have its own room/area to work in. This room has allowed the students to feel more empowered and proud as they look after their room. There is now a full size field set up in there for them to practice on. Each step along the way has made the students realise that their hard work and dedication is being rewarded. It has made them value the small changes and progress that is being made. Staff/teacher and leaders at Galen Catholic College have also seen the obvious personal growth and confidence and for most students an increase academic achievement.
Initially there was little interest in the program going beyond extra curricular. The success of the program and seeing the educational and personal growth of the students involved, the Galen leadership’s support has allowed the Galen VEX Program expand into the main curriculum. This has allowed us to have two programs running at the same time, the extra curricula and now the year 8 and 9 curriculum courses.
Detail the follow up or response to the project or initiative by the organisation /industry /sector. For example has it been extended for a further year, or has the scope been expanded?
The Galen VEX program has been implemented since September 2016 and has continued to grow in numbers, strength and profile, due to the success of the Galem VEX Team achievements and to go on to the highest of achievements of representing Australia at the World Championships.
There have been a number of outside organisations that now support the program both inkind and with funding: Lions, Rotary, Zonta, Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta, NE Tracks LLEN, Education Advantage, GOTAFE Wangaratta, Access HQ, Wangaratta Bearings plus others. Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta has been a keen supporter of the Galen VEX program and have seen first hand the growth of the students and the way they have engaged the community. They have future plans to drive a program where, business, industry and service clubs can becomes supporters of the next generation and help future proof our region and increase our digital ability, by getting VEX kits onto each of our regional schools. Many regional and local schools lack the funding to buy the equipment/competition kits. This has been one of the key limiting factors of some schools implementing the program.
Due to the increase in numbers of schools / teams we will be able to hold more Regional Competitions in the local region. The support, networks , training and volunteers created over the past twelve months, will ensure the program continues not only at Galen, but in a number of regional schools.
The Community Engagement and interest has been increasing, with the success of the Galen VEX team, local media outlets have helped immensely with the telling of the VEX Teams incredible story and journey to the the World Championships. The VEX team have engaged the community through community presentations, fundraising BBQ’s, holiday program workshops as well as holding the Australian VEX National Championships in 2016 and 2017. There is greater Community interest in the program and each presentation has been well attended, as per the recent two day holiday program was sold out within three days of it being advertised.
Charles Sturt University, NETracks LLEN and GOTAFE Outreach officers have asked Galen VEX team members to help them co-present workshops to schools in the region and also at the Winton Hands on Trades Day. The students have become leaders and “go to people” in the community due to their skills, passion and enthusiasm to share their knowledge and experiences.
Please provide 2 references being the beneficiaries or people that experienced the change (as a result of the initiative). Details to be provided should include:
4. Phone number
6. Short description (up to 250 words) of association with the nominated diversity initiative eg as a beneficiary, experiencing the outcome, etc.
Galen Catholic College
Mob: 0407 723 092
Principal, Galen Catholic College, Wangaratta
Bernard Neal, is the Principal of Galen Catholic College, and has been a proud supporter of this initiative. He has seen the benefits of the program through the growth of the students, both personally and academically. He is extremely proud of the experiences and opportunities that they have been able to participate in. He is also seeing new enrolments coming to the school due to the robotics program.
Galen Catholic College
Mob: 0448 799 155
Galen VEX Team Captain
Madalynn has been captain of VEX Robotics World Team, and has been part of the Galen VEX program since Jan 2017. She is has been a great role model for other students, and been able to use her communication and leadership skills to become one of the key spokespeople for the team.
What outcomes have been achieved against overall program or organisational performance? Using metrics specify these outcomes, for example financial, growth, policy achievement, performance or capabciltiy uplift?
The Galen VEX Program can measure its success by the growth of the program, and the success of the team in representing Australia at the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.
The teachers involved in the program, have been emphasising the importance of STEM skills as well as teamwork, collaboration, networking and communication skills. To win the Service Award (most friendly, cooperative and helpful team) at the World Championships is acknowledgement of the skills the students have been learning and improving on through their participation in the program.
Students have also been able to deliver workshops and presentations to a wide range of audiences, which has enhanced their leadership, communication skills and seen each student grow in confidence, this has also lead to improved academic outcomes. The students own world view has changed and become much broader through the many and varied experiences they have participated in. The program's outcomes for the students has also aligned with many of the Galen Catholic College Graduate Outcomes.
The Robotics and Coding Holiday Program, held at Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta, where the Galen VEX Students act as mentors, has seen an increase interest by both families/participants and the Galen VEX mentors. In Jan there were 25 participants ( grade 5 & 6) students and 8 Galen mentors, for the July holiday program there were now 34 participants and 15 Galen VEX mentors. This is a 36% increase in participants and almost 50% increase in mentors.
The Principal and Leadership team who have interviewed new many of the new enrolments for 2019, have found that many are keen to be involved in the Galen VEX Robotics Program.
The growth of program within Galen has been a success - with the number of students in particular female participants has been increasing each season.
September 2016: 5 Boys and 0 Girls = 0% female participation
February 2017: 16 Boys and 2 Girls = 11% female participation
May 2018: 22 Boys and 8 Girls = 27% female participation
The training of teachers at Galen for sustainable program and growth has seen it increase from one to three trained VEX teachers, with two teachers Maree Timms and Brett Webber being trained as Event Partners by VEX Australia. The Event Partner Training gives these teachers the skills, confidence and support to host Regional Competitions.
Galen Catholic College leadership has also seen the positive outcomes of the program and are now supporting its inclusion into the curriculum in the year 8 and 9 robotics courses. They are also very strong supporters of the extracurricular program. Their support has also seen the development of a dedicated VEX Room in 2018.
The students who experienced the World VEX Championships have all become role models and leaders and have decided to “split” the World team across the other new teams, for the new season. They believe that by doing this they will be able to share their experiences and skills to a wider range of students, thus building greater capacity in all students in the program rather than having one “top team”.
The growth of VEX Robotics Teams in the Region is further evidence of the success of the program.
2016 Australian National Championships - 3 local teams out of 27 teams = 1% participation rate
2017 Australian National Championships - 9 local teams out of 48 teams = 19% participation rate
There is expected to be 20 local teams participating in the 2018 Australian Championships.
** Local being North East Victoria.
The media attention given to the Galen VEX Team and program, has lifted the profile of STEM and engaged the local community. It is helping highlight the importance of STEM skills for future career pathways.
What do you consider your significant achievement with this Initiative and why?
The knowledge that we have guided and empowered a group of regional students. They have learnt robotics and coding via their own tenacity and problems solving ability. To facilitate opportunities to allow the students to grow and develop not only as people but to become leaders in their community and to represent Australia at the World Championships, has been a significant achievement and definite highlight.
As teachers throughout the program we have espoused the importance of teamwork, collaboration and communication, the robotics itself is the tool to learn and display these qualities. It was a credit to the students to win the Service Award at the World Championships as the most friendly, cooperative and helpful team. The first time an Australian High School team has won an Award at the World Championships.
We are particularly proud to see the program grow not only at our school but also in the region, and this has been due to the support of the Galen Leadership and also through the great networks we have formed via Charles Sturt Uni Wangaratta, NETracks LLEN, GOTAFE, Education Advantage, Borinya Community Partnerships, Wodonga Middle Years College, VEX Australia and DATTA Vic.
Who inspires you from a diversity perspective? Who provides leadership in diversity and why?
The students have always inspired us, the way they have taught themselves, found problems to challenges faced and to have a “can do attitude”. As teachers, we are proud to be able to provide opportunities and see the students grab them with both hands and fly, no matter their age or ability or socio economic background. Each student has found their own niche and developed their own unique set of skills through the program to create and form cohesive teams.
For regional students to “punch above their weight” at the Australian Nationals and with each team winning and award was a great achievement by the students. Their passion and hard work was rewarded with these awards. Then to have them shine on the World Stage was truly inspiring.
At the VEX Worlds the students communicated with ease with students from all over the world, their world view was expanding each day as they connected with more teams (there were 46 different Nations represented at the World Championships). Robotics was the common language. The way they connected with other teams, saw them win the Service Award - voted by their peers at the most friendly, cooperative and helpful Team.
The Galen VEX teachers and the networks and partnerships they have created also show leadership in diversity by supporting regional students and opening up careers pathways they may never had experienced or thought of before. The students have been able to showcase their skills and knowledge through a number events locally, regionally and also in the cities.