Passion for STEM education wins 2018 ZONTA Award
Natassja Sundara, majoring in games design, is the 2018 winner of the annual ZONTA Women in Engineering and IT award presented by the Zonta Club of Sydney.
This Award of $1000 recognises her passion for encouraging interest in engineering and IT from the earliest ages.
“ started as a teacher’s assistant at CodeCamp, guiding children aged 5-12 to program their own 2D side-scrolling game. I moved up to be a Head Teacher and really enjoyed sharing the fun the kids have constructing new interactive activities, building healthy relationships and helping create an environment they enjoy being part of, and want to return to.
CodeCamp was a great way to experience knowledge transfer and application and fuelled her interest to find other opportunities when she enrolled at UTS. In High School she was the only female in a group of gamers keen to study gaming at uni – and the only one to get an ATAR high enough to get here.
At UTS I became a Peer Networker, the first point of contact for high schoolers attending UTS Open Days/Orientations, to share my experiences and encourage girls into the programs and options of engineering and IT for potential careers.
She then became a SPROUT – Student Promotional Representative of UTS! – involved in events such as Young Women in STEM Day and the annual Work Experience Week where she is a student guide/mentor for Year 10 students looking for insight into engineering and IT study options and careers.
Nat is currently focusing on being a SPROUT for Women in Engineering and IT (WiEIT) to devote more time to reaching girls and young women, visiting schools and talking to many prospective UTS students.
She participates in the Lucy Mentoring program, is a Programmer/UI designer for UTS Rapido gamifying a virtual reality showcase and a Games Developer coordinating with FEIT/FASS to develop an asynchronous game to promote exercise for the elderly.
I am looking for ways to engage girls and young women in games development meetups and workshops, learning and sharing experiences with girls wanting to join this field and running an AI workshop showing others what can be achieved in games.
Nat believes that we need to ‘plant the idea’ of what engineering and IT is for primary school girls while they are still developing a sense of what they like, dislike and where their passion may lie.
Then we can help them to realise and develop their interests into viable future career options,” she says, citing the schools health program Healthy Harold as an example of a force for change and impact!
Currently, a small number of events are held annually in some schools to promote awareness and opportunities available in engineering and IT. But if these workshops could be more regular and at a wider range of schools, greater impact will be created with kids looking forward to the annual visit and engaging more with the content.
As well as programs to visit primary and high schools, the Zonta Award acknowledged her ideas for a source of support for young women interested in engineering and IT careers, expanding mentoring to share tips, knowledge, experiences and stories.