Launching Turner School's STEM Festival - Speech






Thank you very much for inviting here today everyone. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, and pay my respects to elders past and present. I also recognize Andrew Neely for that terrific talk just now.

Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering are important because they all do the same thing.

They ask questions.

Science asks questions about why things are the way they are. Asking lots of questions, and then trying to find the answers to those questions, is one of the great keys to life.

I’ve got three little boys. Sebastian, Theodore and Zachary are always asking questions. And you know what? The answer, “Because that’s just the way it is,” isn’t very satisfying for them. And it shouldn’t be very satisfying for you either.

They want to understand the solutions. They want to figure things out for themselves. One of the best things that we did last weekend is that we had a coffee grinder that had stopped working, and the three boys got out a screwdriver, took it apart and discovered how it worked – or, how it used to work.

That’s science in action. Exploring, understanding, seeing what a motor really looks like.

And sometimes you, as young people, will see things that older people like me and your teachers have missed. You’ll ask new questions, you’ll come up with new innovations, you’ll solve new problems.

Everything is new for you, and everything can be made a little bit better.

That’s what 11-year old William Grame thought. William is a young boy from Canberra who has type-1 diabetes. Does anyone have diabetes in the room? A couple of you? So you’d know that you have to test your blood maybe 8 or 9 times every day with little throwaway strips to measure your blood sugar levels. This means there are heaps of used and unused little strips lying around in every type-1 diabetic’s home, schoolbag, sportsbag, lunchbox, dishwasher, clothes washer, down the back of the couch, in the cat food, those little strips just end up absolutely everywhere. And everyone just took it for granted that that’s the way it was, since diabetic test strips has been invented.

But not William. William was sick of those strips being around everywhere, and so was his mum. He asked himself why did things have to be like that? The answer was – it didn’t. William had just thought of a solution. A solution that not even the big diabetes companies in Europe and the USA had thought of.

William got to work with his brain and the 3D Printer at his school. You heard Dr Karl talk about 3D printers earlier. They’re like a regular printer, but you can make objects – not just things written on paper.

What William designed was a small, lightweight box that goes alongside any blood glucose monitor and allows people to dispose of those little blood-stained test strips.  

William’s idea works really well. He set up a company here in Canberra called Diabetes Domination and won a trip – yes Andrew, by aeroplane – to NASA. All because he saw a problem that everyone else ignored or didn’t realise existed and then turned his STEM learning into action.

I know many if you have ideas in your pockets. Some of you might already have a great idea like William’s. Those ideas might be big or they might be little. What matters is that you keep asking questions and trying to come up with answers. Don’t stop doing that. Use the tools you’ve learned, use the things your teachers are going to keep on teaching you. Study as hard as you can and make sure you’re always thinking a little bit differently, because in the end you’re going to come up with things that none of us oldies in the room have ever thought of.

Thank you very much.


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