Kurri Kurri High School and Cessnock City Library receive robotics kits from Telstra

With digital disruption rapidly affecting Australian jobs, science, technology, engineering and maths (or STEM) in schools has never been more important.

Kurri Kurri High School’s STEM classes received a huge boost this week with a donation of $5000 worth of robotics and coding equipment.

The Maker Party in a Box was donated by Telstra, as part of NSW Central Area Board’s Digital Futures Program, which aims to boost technology and digital abilities in young people living in regional areas.

Kurri Kurri was chosen after Telstra asked its employees to vote for the communities they wanted to see benefit from such a prize.

Cessnock and Kurri Kurri Libraries have also received a Maker Party in a Box, which includes Little Bits digital inventor kits, Sparki robots and Arduinos. 

Library staff were on hand at Kurri Kurri High School on Wednesday to show a lucky group of Year 8 students how to use the technology.

Technology and applied studies teacher John Wilkes said it was important for today’s students to be able to access the technology that they may be using in the workplaces of the future.

“If you’re going to be teaching this stuff for the future, you’ve got to have the equipment now, and that’s why it’s so exciting,” he said.

Telstra community engagement specialist Tom O’Dea said the initiative was about doing something meaningful to engage with communities and increase digital inclusion rates.

“Forty-five percent of jobs in the next 20 years will be touched by digital disruption,” he said.

“It’s about getting ahead of the game.”

Mr O’Dea announced on Wednesday that the school would be receiving another $2500 worth of Visa gift cards that will be used to buy STEM equipment.

The school will hold a competition next year, and the winners will get to choose what to buy with the gift cards.

Telstra also teamed up with Project Rockit to bring the anti-cyberbullying program to Kurri Kurri High School on Monday this week.

Australia's youth-led movement against online hate and prejudice, Project Rockit has been running positive, strengths-based school workshops about the online world for 10 years.

Project Rockit's head of programs Archie Boulter said as technology has evolved, so has the way bullying plays out – but the workshops at Kurri Kurri High School, this week were not your usual approach to the issue.

“Our workshops are all about empowering young people to feel confident and supported to stand up for themselves or a friend when it comes to bullying – online or offline,” he said.