Gauging girls’ interest in STEM study for motorsports | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Gauging girls’ interest
in STEM study for motorsports

The diversity of study pathways into jobs in Australia’s $3.3billion motorsports sector has been showcased to more than 35 girls and young women from Gladstone to the Gold Coast.

The University of the Sunshine Coast co-hosted an information and mentoring day at the V8 Supercars’ PremiAir Racing at Arundel to outline how studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) could lead to adrenalin-filled careers.

The Girls on Track Pathways program, coordinated by Motorsports Australia, aims to address gender disparity in the global industry by empowering women aged 15 to 22, particularly those from regional, rural, remote and First Nations backgrounds.

UniSC academics and students at the event (from left): Bridgette O’Malley, Dr Justin Holland (QUT), Dr Prue Millear, student Alisha Griffiths, Dr Dan van den Hoek and student Tiffany Revie.

“People outside the industry may not realise how many different careers are on offer beyond the high-profile drivers and their pit crews, and how university studies could be of benefit,” said Dr Dan van den Hoek, UniSC Senior Lecturer in Clinical Exercise Physiology.

“Our academics discussed relevant degrees in sport science, engineering, business, management, marketing, psychology, clinical exercise physiology, communications and journalism.

“There are also many upcoming opportunities for applied research, as the industry rapidly develops new technologies and pursues its sustainability goals.”

Dr van den Hoek, who worked as a sport scientist with Triple Eight Race Engineering, said the national Girls On Track program wanted to counter the underrepresentation of women in both athlete and non-athlete roles in motorsports.

“Female drivers represent less than five percent of the motorsport population,” he said. “We need to increase the visibility of female professionals across the sector.”

The UniSC team received a Queensland Government Investing in Queensland Women grant, which helps organisations create positive change for women and girls.

People outside the industry may not realise how many different careers are on offer beyond the high-profile drivers and their pit crews, and how university studies could be of benefit - Dr Dan van den Hoek

Among the 35 participants were University of the Sunshine Coast students Alisha Griffiths (Bachelor of Engineering Mechanical Honours) and Tiffany Revie (Bachelor of Design), pictured below.

“I’m in my third year of studying mechanical engineering and I’ve always had a passion for motorsport and performance vehicles, so this was super exciting for me,” said Alisha, 20, of Ningi.

“I loved seeing behind the scenes of what goes into the sport and how many people are involved.”

Alisha, who attended Chinchilla State High School, encouraged anyone interested in STEM to pursue a career in the field.

Bridgette O’Malley, a clinical exercise physiologist who teaches biomedicine and exercise and sport science at UniSC, said she was excited about the potential of the multidisciplinary research group involving academics from both UniSC and QUT.

“We aim to target the lack of driver science research in Australian motorsport,” she said.

UniSC Lecturer in Psychology Dr Prue Millear, who also attended the event, said it was great to see girls inspired by leading women in the sport such as team owner Carmen Xiberras and race engineer Romy Mayer.

They were joined by UniSC psychology academics Dr James Clark and Dr Kristen Tulloch and QUT exercise physiology academic Dr Justin Holland.

The event was scheduled between the Gold Coast 500 and the Adelaide 500 to be held 23-26 November.

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