At 16, Jordan Salmon has already used his affinity for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, to make the world a better place.
Four years ago, the Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton year 12 student designed and programmed a system to deter people from parking illegally in disabled parking spots.
The self-directed project impressed the panel of scientists and educators who presented him the CSIRO Indigenous Secondary STEM Achievement Award in front of his peers at a school assembly on March 27.
Jordan was picked from a pool of 99 candidates for the award, which recognises an Indigenous student with a deep interest in STEM who also displays strong community involvement and connection to culture.
Students who get the award become STEM leaders -- ambassadors who encourage and inspire other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to take up study or a career in STEM fields.
In primary school I didn't want to do STEM because it was fixed. I wanted hands-on, interactive Technology. Not just opening up a document on a laptop -- I wanted to pull the hard drive apart and see how it worked.- JORDAN SALMON
"There's a tool called a woomera, which acts as a catalyst to make a spear launch further," said Jordan, a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation.
"Just like a woomera people need to act as a catalyst for indigenous students to help them launch further and achieve things that initially seem far away. I really feel humbled to receive the award."
Jordan's aptitude for STEM was first shown when, at 6, he broke a laminating machine out of curiosity at school before repairing and reassembling it. Project-based learning is his forte.
His other projects include a robot programed to teach primary pupils basic maths concepts by moving blocks and a device of coded games to teach problem-solving made in his year 12 Design & Technology elective.
The device gives children a question to work through, such as a maze or pattern to complete, and was inspired by comparing Australia's Maths curriculum with Singapore's, regarded as the best in the world.
"The main difference is that in Singapore they focus the first two primary years of study on basic problem-solving," he said. "They don't even touch numbers, they just do problem-solving. I wanted to incorporate that into education in Australia.
"In my primary-school years I didn't really want to learn STEM because it was a fixed way of learning.
"I wanted Science, Engineering and Maths but not the everyday stuff. I wanted hands-on and interactive action in my learning. I wanted Technology. Not just opening up a document on a laptop -- I wanted to pull the hard drive apart and see how it worked. I wanted to make it better and try new things. Once this all came together I realised I'd found STEM and wanted to pursue it further."
Jordan now plans to study software engineering at university. Relatives from Wellington, near Dubbo, were present to see award panelist Aunty Dr Kate Price and CSIRO education advisor Peter Poon present him with the Indigenous STEM award. His prize includes a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, held from May 12 to 17.
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