UniSA Case Studies

Case study: IAESS at Curtin University

Curtin University logoThe [xe] project aims to understand how Australian universities are developing initiatives to improve Higher Education study pathways for Indigenous students in the disciplines underpinned by science and mathematics.

To meet this aim the University of South Australia has undertaken research using a case study approach to examine 6 university exemplars.

One of the initiatives studied was the Indigenous Australian Engineering Summer School (IAESS) at Curtin University.


Core features Engagement strategy: Annual residential summer school
Student catchment: Mainly Western Australia (targeting remote areas)
Age-group: Years 9-12
Funding source: Philanthropic (Engineering Aid Australia) and HEPPP
Outcomes 2014 survey data found: 95% of the students said they felt IAESS was valuable; 90% said their perception of engineering had improved; 75% said it increased their interest in studying engineering at university. Started in 2010; now in 6th year. 20-25 students each year. Academically supported exciting and educational activities. First student from program now enrolled in engineering.
Strengths Pastoral care by Indigenous mentors. Opportunity for return visits. Culturally-appropriate engagement. Students provided with laptops or iPads to maintain connections with peers after completion of summer school. Rich connections with engineering industries. Focus on problem solving.
Challenges Long term financial sustainability. Availability of participants. Co-operating, rather than competing with other similar programs.

From the report:

The objectives of IAESS are to provide a challenging environment for Indigenous students:

* to discover the benefits of the engineering profession
* to provide a forum for students to meet engineering role models
* to gain insights into the excitement and opportunities engineering can provide to Indigenous communities.

The IAESS program includes problem-solving tasks set which students work in teams to solve. The DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) framework is modeled for solving engineering problems.

There is clear evidence that the IAESS program has opened up Higher Education pathways for some participants, and that students value this investment.

Students have the opportunity to return over several years, building capacity for university study. Return visits also build capacity for participants to become future mentors.

Full report: Strengthening Indigenous Participation and Practice in STEM: University Initiatives for Equity and Excellence (PDF) >>

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