Steampunx Academy

CJ Roberts

Steampunx Academy

Steampunx Academy is a Brisbane-based social enterprise. Our afterschool and school holiday educational experiences provide a unique learning ecosystem where young minds can explore the world of tomorrow through science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

We recently ran a 3-day crash course in technology, innovation and creativity, in Brisbane in the September school holidays, for young people from 8-17.

The impetus behind designing this program was the awareness of a host of professionals out there in the innovation space, who all teach separately. What if we brought some of them together to provide a fun, engaging learning experience for young people interested in innovation, technology and creativity? How about creating an event that was like a mini STEAM Olympics, where participants could move from one activity to another, gaining transferable practical and creative thinking skills to use in the future?

As well as Steampunx staff, innovators from Extreme Virtual Reality, Activate Entertainment, Velbella Cosmetics and Backbone Youth Arts contributed to the project.

Our program included workshops in:

- Virtual Reality. Participants sculpted in the air with paint using effects like fire, which actually looked like flames, and electricity paint that looked like currents. They could actually walk around it.

- YouTube gaming. Participants spent time playing a game, filmed themselves in front of a green screen, and then put themselves on top of their recorded gameplay footage to talk about their YouTube channel.

- Robot combat. Participants used LEGO® Mindstorm EV3 kits to purpose build robots, considering shape and weight to make them workable for combat. They then controlled them using iPads.

- Special Effects make-up. Using industry standard cosmetic makeup, participants learnt to create realistic cuts and bruises, bullet holes, infections and protruding objects, to utilise in sci-fi, invasion or disaster film settings.

- Visual effects. Still wearing their make-up from the Special Effects session, the participants used this as the basis to create characters in a genre driven narrative, and film a story using Special Effects on iPads to make it look like they had super powers.

- Stage Combat. In pairs, participants learnt how to throw punches, block moves and land safely, in addition to using their own bodies to create the hitting sounds.

We believe the project was so well received because it was engaging, practical, and tapped into the interests and learning styles of the participants that were as richly diverse as the program itself.