STEM Fundamentals Core Topic Overview



‘STEM fundamentals’ develops knowledge, skills and understanding of essential STEM principles and processes. Students engage with engineering design processes to solve a range of problems. They develop fundamental skills required to complete other elective topics which form the basis of this course.

To satisfy the requirements of this core topic, students must utilise iterative engineering design processes to undertake a range of problem-solving exercises, collaborative tasks and inquiry-based learning activities that occupy the majority of the time.

What is STEM?

The workforce of the future requires high levels of skills, responsible thinkers and creative thinkers.

STEM education:

  • is an approach to teaching science and technology, and mathematics
  • fosters inquiry learning in our complex world
  • helps teachers guide students to apply their knowledge and understandings, inquire into their world, and solve complex, authentic problems involving contextually rich projects.

Through quality STEM programs, students from pre-school to Year 12 engage with their curriculum, acquiring skills that lay strong foundations for their career aspirations.

From the NSW Department of Education Website

The iSTEM Process

The iSTEM engineering design process is an engineering design process developed for the Stage 5 iSTEM course. It was initially developed by the STEM Industry School Partnerships (SISP) program through extensive consultation with teachers from both primary and secondary education. It has since been refined by the NSW Department of Education’s STEM curriculum team in consultation with a range of educators and industry partners.

The iSTEM engineering design process has been designed to provide a consistent approach and language across all stages based on an industry recognised process. It provides a scaffold to develop a student understanding and application of design thinking and problem solving.

Teaching and learning units developed for Stage 5 iSTEM will embed this process into current and future curriculum materials. The iSTEM engineering design process is available as an A4 poster design and is recommended for display in iSTEM classrooms.

Different coloured cogs icons have been used in the iSTEM engineering design process to enhance student understanding, these are documented in the table on page 4.

Please note that not all of the eight processes (cogs) would be used in every design activity. Also they can be used in different orders depending on the problem being solved. The processes (cogs) may also be used more than once when solving a particular problem. For example students could use the evaluate cog in a number of areas within a cyclic design process. Also when using the iterate cog, you could use cogs such as brainstorm, design and prototype again in order to improve a solution.



STEM Learning Activities

The Jiggler Challenge

The Jiggler Challenge

The Jiggler Challenge has been developed by the STEM Industry School Partnerships (SISP) Program in collaboration with Design Nutstm. The Challenge is a great way to demonstrate the different aspects of the iSTEM process, leading to the development of an innovative solution.

A five video series has been produced to help step students through the iSTEM process whilst designing a solution to a quirky problem ~ an automatic tea bag jiggling device.

Click on the resource button below to find resources to support the jiggler challenge




This short animation explores Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the essential skills behind it all and why it is so important to Australia.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. If you want a great job that is lots of fun, pays well and has the potential for travel, you may have found what you're looking for.