With a background as a mechanical engineer, Adrian Casten has given his Burnside State High School students a flying start in STEM by establishing unique courses in aviation and using drones. Last week, he was made a Teaching Fellow by the 2022 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards.
When Mechanical engineer Adrian Casten joined Burnside State High School, STEM subjects attracted low student numbers. Now, though, his aviation-related courses have seen interest take off, while the skills he teaches – critical thinking, problem solving, experiential learning and collaboration – have had an impact across other learning areas.
With his expertise and drive, the school now boasts a dedicated STEM Drone Engineering Makerspace where students design, build and fly drones and became the first in Australia to introduce a Certificate III in Aviation – Remote Pilot for their students.
Award-winning STEM teaching
To recognise this sky-high achievement, Casten has been named a Teaching Fellow by the 2022 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards. Along with 11 other outstanding teachers from across a range of subjects and from around the country, Casten receives a $45,000 Teaching Fellowship, which he plans on using to fund an aviation project to engage the junior school, as well as covering the expense of building aircraft with his high school students.
“I am amazed and honoured to have been named as a teaching fellow,” says Casten. “STEM is an exciting area for schools to focus on – students become very engaged in these types of projects. I have been lucky to work at Burnside SHS where I can use my skills to create such an innovative project.”
Committed to collaboration and sharing knowledge, Casten has presented at conferences for teachers looking to establish an aviation curriculum, instigated the Holey Moley drone competition for schools, and created invaluable partnerships with industry, leading to new career pathways for students.
Casten’s engaging programs have earned Burnside State High School recognition as a leader in this field throughout Australia and is one of only a few schools globally who offer similar courses. Last year, 20% of Casten’s students progressed to university or trades related to careers in aviation. Casten’s collaborative drive led to four high schools cooperating to construct a Vans RV12 two-seater sports aircraft, with project management and engineering support from industry experts. Burnside students are now constructing another two aircraft.
Casten’s course in Drones and Modern Flight allows students to gain an understanding of the underlying principles and practical skills in manned and unmanned flight. He teaches theoretical concepts and practical applications related to drone flight, including safety considerations, manned and unmanned aircraft engineering, flight planning, and airport management.
As part of the course, students design, test, make a model fixed wing aircraft, research the requirements to operate an airport, and develop flying skills using a flight simulator.
Casten’s courses have also been particularly effective at engaging female students. According to Engineers Australia’s Women in Engineering report, 48 per cent of Australia’s workforce are female, yet only 13 per cent of the engineering profession are female. Courtney Freebody, Leader of Learning and Technology at Mater Dei Catholic College in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, says it is important that girls are encouraged to embrace STEM from an early age.
The 2022 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards
In partnership with national charity Schools Plus, the 2022 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards celebrates and rewards educators for demonstrating teaching excellence and helping to address the education gap in schools across the country.
“The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards recognise outstanding educators who go above and beyond to nurture young minds for a bright future,” says Luke Schepen, Head of Community Investment Commonwealth Bank.
“Many of us will have fond memories of teachers who made a profound impact on our lives, encouraging us to achieve and prepare us for our future careers. Teachers and educators play such a vital role in preparing the next generation to meet the demands of an evolving workforce, economy and society and we congratulate our 2022 Award recipients for their exceptional contribution to schools across the country,” says Schepen.
“We are delighted to celebrate these inspirational teachers, who share our commitment to addressing the education gap in areas of disadvantage, particularly over the past two challenging years,” says Rosemary Conn, Chief Executive Officer, Schools Plus. “Schools Plus is proud to support schools and teachers who have shown innovation, resilience and tireless commitment to their students.”
For more information on the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards, visit www.teachingawards.com.au.
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