For the past five years, Kevin Badin has been doing his bit to address Australia’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) shortage. STEM disciplines are closely linked to innovative new industries, but Australian students have been falling behind.
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) compares student achievement in maths and science at age 15 across 65 countries. While nations such as China, South Korea and Switzerland rank highly, on the 2012 results Australia was placed 19th in maths (down from 15th in 2009) and 16th in science (down from 10th in 2009). Australia’s reading rank also dropped, falling from ninth in 2009 to 14th in the 2012 results.
Badin volunteers for about four days a year with the REA (Re-Engineering Australia) Foundation to attract students to STEM subjects and give them a better understanding of what careers are on offer.
Team-based challenges, such as designing and building miniature Formula 1 cars, submarines or 4WD vehicles, are a big part of the REA program. The popular F1 in Schools competition sees students as young as 10 design, test and make miniature Formula 1 cars capable of reaching speeds of 80km/h. Badin helps them along the way, offering advice, reviewing their portfolios and evaluating their designs.
“It’s about developing STEM education and giving kids a chance to explore engineering and science,” says Badin. “Some of the kids are very talented.”
A qualified industrial engineer, with a Master’s degree in Engineering Projects Management, he holds STEM subjects close to his heart. “Almost everything in life stems from engineering.”
Inspiring the next generation of innovators is important for Badin. In June, he headed overseas with a bright group of STEM sparks on a three-week tour, visiting the headquarters of companies such as Google, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz.
It doesn’t matter which profession the students eventually choose, if they can understand engineering, maths and science, they can help build the nation.
When he’s not inspiring school students to build miniature F1 racing machines, Badin runs ORA Innovations, a Sydney-based consultancy that assists medical device companies to develop, license and gain certification for their products.
And Badin’s volunteering doesn’t stop with the REA Foundation. A keen gardener, he gives at least one Saturday a month to Easy Care Gardening, a subsidised gardening service for pensioners in northern Sydney.
“We do mulching, pruning and pretty much all the things you can do in a garden with manual tools,” says Badin. “I love gardening and I just enjoy helping out.”