Posted by Annette Ruck on Jul 16, 2019
The Innovative Young Minds (IYM) program is run by the Hutt City Council and Hutt City Rotary with some help from other local Rotary Clubs, including us at Eastern Hutt. It provides young women in years 11 and 12 (the old 5th and 6th forms) with exposure beyond the school gates to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Manufacturing - the STEMM subjects. Traditionally these have tended to be male dominated fields but they are now accessible and available to women if they know about them.
 
Des Darby and I had previously interviewed three Naenae College students, Alaa Loulou, Cindy Zhu and Ilma Aminudeen, all of whom gained places on the course, with our club sponsoring two of them. One of them, Ilma, was in the first cohort and Jaye Howey had the pleasure of hearing her speak on behalf of them all at the Grand Hall of Parliament.
 
  
 Ilma Aminudeen at the Grand Hall of Parliament, and Cindy Zhu with Alaa Loulou at the Innovation Dragons Den 
 
This year the program ran over two weeks and involved eighty students in total.  Each week, 20 of the students were local and 20 were from other parts of New Zealand. I had the privilege of being a volunteer on seven of the ten week days.
 
The volunteers' job was to get the young women to their daily experiences. They were divided into four groups of ten and assigned to a volunteer van driver and a chaperone who took them to places of real interest.
 
Some of these places included Massey University where they experienced the sleep lab and the noise control lab as well as hearing from women working in other science fields. At Victoria University they saw lectures and labs in progress and heard from some PhD students about the research they were doing.
 
The students went to Opus in Petone where they learned about international testing standards including a bike which is being used to measure how close a car should come to a cyclist - the current standard for this is a guess. They visited the Water Testing Facility at Kaitoke, and they got to use for themselves a 3D printing program at Elab. They had trips to Fraser Engineering in Taita, where they saw the construction of fire engines from the initial drawings to the finished product, and to the Resene Paint factory in Naenae where chemistry is so important. In NIWA at Greta Point they saw one of the most powerful supercomputers in the southern hemisphere as well as a lot of other scientific equipment. These were just some of the highlights of the days out.
Among many other sites, the students visited Opus Engineering in Petone, Fraser Engineering in Taita, Resene Paints in Naenae, and NIWA's supercomputer at Greta Point
 
In each place the people in charge put emphasis on the roles women play in their workplace and provided female role models from whom the students were able to ask as many questions as they wanted.
 
Many guest speakers spoke to the young women at Silverstream Retreat where the students were staying and taught them about opportunities available, as well as giving them advice about how to feel confident about their abilities and how to talk in a group even if they felt a bit insecure. This was particularly helpful when they attended the Parliamentary Reception and were able to speak to many leaders in local businesses. Quite a few got local internships from this experience.
 
This program is a marvellous opportunity for female students to mix with like minds and see the opportunities available to them when they leave school. 
 
Des and Jaye heard Ilma, Cindy and Alaa speaking as part of their teams' presentations to a "Dragons Den" type of panel on creating innovative solutions to the negative impacts on young people that social media can have. All three told Des that they had gained from IYM a huge amount of confidence, had learnt a lot more about science possibilities, had heard the steps other women had taken to succeed in their careers and, finally, had made lots of new friends. 
 
Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the students, their real effort to contribute and get as much out of the program as they could and the fun they had doing it. I had a ball and am left with the positive feeling this is a needed and extremely well run worthwhile program. Well done to all involved!!! We plan to have the three Naenae girls come to speak to us on a Club night.
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