STEM equipment

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Category: In class learning

Suitable ages: Primary and secondary


A STEM equipment initiative refers to any in school STEM initiative where specialised STEM equipment plays a pivotal role in learning. The equipment is often acquired by schools for the purpose – either purchased, gifted or rented. Specialised equipment enables exciting forms of STEM learning, but its effectiveness hinges on the quality of its use and related teaching. There are many kinds specialised STEM equipment – measuring devices, robotics components and electronic circuits are just a few examples.

An example is the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering’s STELR program. STELR (Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance) supplies schools with purpose-built equipment to support hands-on, inquiry-based, curriculum-linked STEM learning.

Benefits Limitations
Increases student enthusiasm and interest Costs can be high
Facilitates hands-on, inquiry-based learning Equipment can be underused or ineffectively used if teachers are not appropriately trained
Can demonstrate the real-world relevance of STEM


There is not enough clear evidence to draw a conclusion about the impact of this initiative type on student STEM engagement or achievement.

There is some evidence that initiatives involving specialised STEM equipment can enhance student engagement and achievement. However:

  • The evidence is often based on self-reported data rather than objective measures.
  • Equipment initiatives are often implemented in parallel with other activities such as teacher professional learning or careers awareness programs. This can make it difficult to isolate the effects of the equipment.
  • The impacts of the same equipment can vary to a great degree across schools.

Overall, there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about the impact of STEM equipment initiatives. This does not mean that STEM equipment initiatives don’t work. It just means that there is an opportunity for more research. If planning a STEM residential program, be sure to evaluate its success.


  • STELR Teacher Survey Results - January 2014. The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering’s STELR program surveyed teachers at STELR schools. Over 50% of responding teachers reported higher enrolments in Year 11 science. The science literacy of students increased in more than 80% of participating schools. Over 75% reported increased awareness among students of opportunities in technology-related careers and the study pathways necessary to gain access to these careers.


A successful STEM equipment initiative requires much more than just fancy equipment. Successful initiatives rely on good research, smart planning, and, most importantly, prepared and confident teachers. The following questions can help to get things started:

  • What is the purpose of this STEM initiative?
  • What equipment is best suited to this purpose, within our budget?
  • How, when and where will the equipment be used? How will this fit in with the curriculum?
  • Is the equipment supported by supplementary resources such as lesson plans and/or teacher manuals?

Implementation tips:

  • Successful STEM equipment initiatives often incorporate some type of teacher professional learning. Plan for this upfront and consider it part of the investment.
  • If funding is an issue, consider alternative sources. For example, Schools Plus can help schools find donors for worthwhile projects.

Industry involvement

Businesses can support STEM equipment initiatives by:

  • Supporting existing initiatives that help schools access high quality STEM equipment. For example, Orica has provided long-term support for the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering’s STELR initiative.
  • Helping individual schools to acquire new equipment through in kind or monetary support.
  • Teaching teachers and/or students how to use specialised STEM equipment and explaining its real-world applications.

Case study: STELR

STELR is a national initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering that aims to improve enrolment rates in senior secondary STEM subjects. Schools purchase equipment packs to support inquiry-based, curriculum-linked learning modules. Topics include renewable energy, sustainable housing, car safety and climate change. STELR provides resources and professional learning to support teachers. Corporate sponsorship helps to subsidise the costs for schools.

STELR modules are implemented in over 600 Australian schools, and reach 100,000 students per year. In a 2013 survey of STELR schools, over 50% of responding teachers reported higher enrolments in Year 11 science, and 80% reported increased student science literacy and understanding.