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Unpacking the STEM gap for Australia’s remote Indigenous communities

Unpacking the STEM gap for Australia's remote Indigenous communities
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DeadlyScience founder Cory Tott poses next to a McLaren Formula 1 car.

Photo: Corey Tot

Over the weekend at the Australian Grand Prix, the logo of local STEM charity DeadlyScience was plastered on McLaren Formula 1 cars to raise awareness of the STEM gap plaguing Indigenous children living in remote Australia. DeadlyScience is a charity providing STEM resources to more than 220 remote Australian Indigenous communities, hoping to get more Indigenous children into their STEM paths.

Speaking with ZDNet, the organization’s CEO, Cory Tott, revealed the severity of the STEM gap plaguing Australia’s remote Aboriginal communities.

Tut, the Gamelarai man and the 2019 NSW Australian Young Men’s Best, explained that remote Indigenous communities are not encouraged to focus on STEM and lack the basic resources commonly available in urban communities.

“Basic resources like Lego, technology books and telescopes are not available in most of these communities,” Tutt told ZDNet.

“We need funding so that we can provide the staff to go out there and teach science and provide resources and opportunities, again, to young people. As it currently is, there is no real funding for that because it is not being assessed as literacy, which is wrong because I think science is Technology, engineering and mathematics are just as important.”

The decision to put the DeadlyScience logo on racing cars was made by SmartSheet, a McLaren sponsor, who chose to donate his advertising space on the car to a noble cause. The DeadlyScience logo was originally only to appear on the side of the car, but McLaren has also decided to add it to the halo as well – the safety ring around the driver’s head that also displays the care.

In addition to donating sponsor space, SmartSheet also provides free consulting advice and software to DeadlyScience.

In SmartSheet’s view, the company’s CEO Mark Mader said the originality of the company’s values ​​is backed by actions, which means the company wanted to pursue and enable change by creating outreach programs, like the one it has with DeadlyScience.

By offloading SmartSheet’s partnership with DeadlyScience, Mader said his company has donated sponsor space to F1 because he believes this is how his company can make the most impact. The company currently sponsors Special Olympics, Seattle Kraken ice hockey team, Babe Hare yacht, and McLaren. Among those, Mader said, McLaren is its biggest platform to spread awareness.

“It was very important for us to choose, if we wanted to achieve maximum impact, to choose the thing with the largest scope. And that was the thing from our portfolio, whether it was the Special Olympics, the Pip Hare or the Seattle Kraken,” Mader said.

With more funding from established companies, Tott hopes DeadlyScience will eventually move from providing the basics to more advanced resources like cameras, drones and 3D printers so that Aboriginal children can see the potential and opportunities STEM can provide.

Over the past few weeks, DeadlyScience has received its largest donation yet. The donation will see seven and a half tons of Legos sent to remote Indigenous communities.

While the donation is encouraging, Tutt said it’s just the beginning of a long road, as the STEM champion hopes his charitable foundation will be a model for more people to set up similar organizations and other businesses to help.

“It is really important that these organizations succeed so that others are encouraged to start their own forms of DeadlyScience so that we can begin to holistically solve these problems,” Tut said.

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