Systematic inspiration for STEM
Alexander van Hoek wants to see more children with a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). For this reason, Alex has developed Systematic, a not-for-profit initiative to help children foster an interest in STEM topics and skills, during their young and formative years.
“The main goal of Systematic is to break the stereotype that only ‘smart’ children can be involved in STEM. Children should be encouraged to engage with STEM activities, regardless of their educational, geographical, cultural or socioeconomic background,” Alex explained.
Alex is a UWA Fogarty Scholar studying a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Genetics. He has an avid interest in STEM subjects, innovations and careers and wants to share this passion with others.
“My love of STEM was inevitable with two engineers for parents, one electrical and one chemical. As a child they made sure I always saw the fun in science, how amazing and cool it could be,” Alex explained.
“I grew up understanding that STEM is part of our lives, it is all around us, even in areas we wouldn’t expect, and it helps us discover and understand the world around us,” Alex said.
Systematic is a one-stop-shop for fun and engaging STEM activities. The Systematic kit contains various toys and experiments for teachers and parents to use to inspire curiosity, engagement in learning and conversations around science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Alex hopes that by providing these tools and opportunities, educators can help to build confidence in a child’s ability to understand and master STEM concepts now and into the future.
“STEM can and will have a significant impact upon the lives and careers of all children, so why not encourage them to enjoy it from a young age, through structured play and exploratory experiences,” Alex said.
Alex was the 2021 recipient of the Fogarty Foundation’s Jeremy Cheang Award. This annual award is presented to a UWA Fogarty Scholar to acknowledge their contribution to their chosen profession, the University and/or the wider community. Alex received the award for his creation of Systematic and has been using the funding to progress the Systematic initiative to the ‘testing’ phase, due to commence in 2022.
“This phase is important to ensure that the kit contains toys and experiments which are practical for teachers and parents to deliver, while also being stimulating and inspiring for the children,” Alex said.
Alex is currently working with Venture, the Student Innovation Centre supported by the UWA Student Guild. Venture provides access to expert advice, support, and guidance, to help students navigate the innovation journey and improve innovative outcomes. Guild Venture, in partnership with the UWA Grand Challenges, also offer ‘Making a Difference’ Social Innovation and Enterprise grants to the value of $5000. Alex will present Systematic at the UWA Showcase event later in the year.
With the Foundation’s seed funding and Venture’s network, Alex is gaining support from other students and learning from entrepreneurs, including the entrepreneur in residence Josh Van Ross.