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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Learning STEM through fun and games

While sick and housebound for an extended period of time, Erica Hediger decided to dabble in electronics and programming with the experience prompting a change of career.

Ms Hediger was originally in sales and marketing but is now the founder of The Creative Element, a start-up based in Canberra, and was recognised as the Chamberlains Young Business Woman of the Year at the Canberra Women in Business awards on Thursday 7 November.

“I started teaching myself programming and electronics and I realised how easy it was to get into and how much I loved it,” she said. “So I decided to start my own business.”

While she doesn’t have any formal qualifications, Ms Hediger said she is constantly learning through watching YouTube channels and reading textbooks “as a hobby”.

“I’m always learning, just not in a formalised environment,” she said – and this is the same approach she has taken to her business which encourages learning through doing.

“I like watching people get excited about stuff or do something they thought was out of their reach,” she said. “A lot of people have good ideas but are a bit nervous to start because they don’t think they have the right skills.

“It’s fine for them to fail, that’s our preference because that’s how you learn.”

The Creative Element has two branches – educational outreach and prototype development.

Since starting the business five years ago, Ms Hediger said they are still doing similar things, it’s just the scale has changed. From workshops during school holidays and school visits, The Creative Element was also involved with two major STEM events for kids with the Royal Australian Air Force.

“I think there’s been a lot of attention around STEM and people realising how significant it is going to be,” Ms Hediger said. “Kids just like to play with fun stuff. If you make it fun and exciting, they’ll engage with it.”

Highlighting the growth of the business, Ms Hediger said they are moving to a new location in Fyshwick where they are hoping to build a community workshop space and an exhibition space.

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