The It Takes a Spark! STEM Conference inspires and engages forward thinking students, teachers and leaders in STEAM.

Founded by engineer, education consultant and author, Dr Adrian Bertolini and event specialist, Rachel Manneke-Jones in 2017, the Conference has directly and positively impacted over 6750 educators and students through their attendance.

The event format provides a unique opportunity for Teachers to engage in hands-on professional learning with the option of attending with Students.

In 2024 Conferences will take place in Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. This year’s Conference themes include:

  • STEAM – Empowering leaders for a changing world (QLD)
  • STEM – Making and shaping the future (WA)
  • STEAM – Inspiring collaborative and innovative teams, change-makers and problem solvers (VIC)
  • STEAM – Creating and shaping a thriving future (TAS)

Find out more about our 2024 events



How the event works

The program is different to many conferences namely it is intended for both Teachers and Students to attend. This parallel learning experience facilitates shared knowledge and collaboration between Teachers and their Students.

Over the course of the day educators and students will attend a variety of sessions together including, a Digi-Design Mini Workshop, a Problem Solvers Design Challenge and Keynote Speaker Presentations. Teachers also have the option to attend Teacher only Mini Masterclasses and networking sessions.

The brightest educators and students who are passionate about STEM and key organisations will lead the action-packed sessions. Attendees will also have the opportunity to explore the STEAM Expo and discover the latest technologies and resources.

Why Attend

Take the opportunity to be part of Australia’s leading STEM events and…

  • Hear from experts in the STEM field
  • Engage in innovative, hands-on STEM learning alongside your students
  • Discover the latest developments, innovations, tips and tools in STEM from experts and practitioners.
  • See live demonstrations and receive resources, tools and tips to implement back in the classroom
  • Network and collaborate with other schools, educators and industry experts and get insight into their STEM activities and programs
  • Earn professional development hours



Head of Projects and Analytics
Grok Academy

Karsten holds a PhD in Computer Science and a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Software Engineering. In 2010, Karsten created the Young ICT Explorers Competition and, in 2014, whilst working for NICTA (now part of CSIRO), he founded the Bebras Australia Computational Thinking Challenge, which is part of the International Bebras Challenge with over 2.9 million participants annually. Karsten is a former track and field athlete, who competed at German national youth level in long jump.

Karsten has been working in the Australian ICT and Digital Technologies space since 1999 in an international R&D leadership position. He has designed a computer processor, builds artificial neural networks, has 18 patents in his name and has a passion for data, process flow and artificial intelligence.


Marine Scientist, University of the Sunshine Coast
Superstar of STEM

Can we save the world with seaweeds? Dr Alexandra Campbell is working hard to find out.

As a key member and co-founder of the USC Seaweed Research Group, Alex leads projects that are investigating how seaweeds can restore damaged ecosystems, improve food production and enhance human health.

She was a founder of ‘Operation Crayweed’, which restores underwater seaweed forests along Sydney’s coastline, won a ‘Green Globe’ award and was a Eureka Prize finalist (2017). Alex is a Churchill Fellow (2014), a Young Tall Poppy (2012), a busy mother of twins (always) and a passionate advocate for Women in STEM (forever).


Associate Professor and Director, DNA Zoo Australia
The University of Western Australia

Dr Parwinder Kaur is an award-winning scientist, a passionate leader and positive role model as a mother, and a professor in science for the next generation of diverse scientists to pursue their passion for science and discovery. She leads cross-disciplinary biotechnology research investigating Earth’s biodiversity and natural environments to ensure sustainable futures. Through her diverse research teams, such as DNA Zoo Australia, she harnesses STEM to achieve maximised impact. In doing so, she believes this will help us tackle the bigger issues we as society are facing, bringing about solutions through fresh thinking rather than following usual norms.

Her noteworthy achievements include receiving the prestigious ‘Science and Innovation Award’ from the Australian Academy of Sciences in 2013, winning Microsoft’s AI for Earth award in 2019, being recognised as a finalist for WA Innovator of the Year in 2022, and earning the esteemed Australian Sikh Woman of the Year for Excellence in 2023. She has also been inducted into the WA Women Hall of Fame in 2023, is a Superstar of STEM, a winner of Women in Technology WA Tech+ Star in 2022, the recipient of the AmCham Alliance Award in Biotechnology in 2023, a finalist for Trend Setter of the Year, and an ambassador for GirlsXTech internationally.


Astrophysicist and Superstar of STEM,
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
Curtin University

Dr Adelle Goodwin is an astrophysicist at the International Centre for Radio Research. Her career pathway was forged by a love of reading, understanding why things behave the way they do, and a deep curiosity about space (like do black holes really devour everything in their path?).

When you look up at the night sky, there are billions of stars twinkling, but, what happens when these stars die? Adelle’s research looks at the objects we don’t see: the dense remnants of dead stars called black holes and neutron stars.


Astrophysicist and Superstar of STEM
Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing
Swinburne University of Technology

The last 100 years of astronomy has seen our knowledge of our own home galaxy, universe and even the things that make-up us change in almost immeasurable ways. We simultaneously know more and less about the Universe we live in, and with new and exciting telescopes, we’ll soon have too much data to work with manually.

To prepare for the future of Astronomy, Dr. Sara Webb works with optical telescope data and machine learning to explore explosions in the universe and how astronomers find them. Sara focused on studying small, yet mighty, red dwarf stars and their flares. When a star flares, energy and matter are spewed out into the surrounding solar system, and Sara has worked to build up a large and unique population of these stars that flare in very short periods of time. In her broader research into investigating the use of AI in team situations, Sara is currently working on studying how astronomers work in their various cognitive states.

Aside from her academic research, Sara also coordinates and co-leads Swinburne’s unique student space challenge programs, sending student led experiments to the International Space Station. This Australian wide program gives students insight into a space science career.


Marine Scientist and Superstar of STEM
School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Deakin University

A former high school teacher and now marine scientist and educator at Deakin University, Prue is exploring the extent to which ocean literacy is being taught in schools across Australia and evaluating innovative methods to enhance ocean literacy. Notably, Prue and her Deakin SEA.Ed team have been exploring ocean-themed picture books as a useful tool to educate school children about marine science. Subsequently, Prue has co-authored a children’s book, The Great Southern Reef (by Paul Venzo, Prue Francis; illustrated by Cate James) to promote ocean education in schools and raise awareness of Australia’s Great Southern Reef.

Prue regularly engages with community groups and is passionate about inspiring younger generations to be curious about life underwater. Prue visits schools to present her fun and engaging (not slimy!) Seaweed Matters incursions and champions ocean literacy on Melbourne’s independent radio station, Triple R.


Associate Lecturer in ICT
Information and Communication Technology
University of Tasmania

Dr Meredith Castles is a university lecturer, Interaction Design Science researcher specialising in both Human and Animal-Computer Interaction, and a science communicator. She has worked extensively as an actor and writer in the TV, film, stage, and radio industries, speaking on panels and MCing events regularly Australia-wide.

Meredith uses her skills in interaction design science to help create digital interactive experiences for people in fields as diverse as archaeology and space science. She co-hosts and helps produce the 2023 Eureka Prizes award-winning STEM podcast That’s What I Call Science and solo hosts a live-streamed science communication show called Dr. Meredith on Twitch TV and YouTube twice weekly to teach people about science fundamentals through conversation and video gaming.

Her main research interest is in harnessing the power of Citizen Science and Human Computer Interaction to design more ethically focused and accessible technology for improving people’s lives. From her work in participatory science, Meredith created a new model for the sustainability of Women in ICT for Tasmania, aimed at retaining women by creating role models who can communicate to a diverse audience.

Dr Samantha Sawyer

Food Scientist
Superstar of STEM
University of Tasmania

Dr Samantha Sawyer is seeking solutions to keep Australian businesses globally competitive economically, socially, and environmentally. Whether that means helping industries be more resilient to climate change, finding ways to process food waste into great tasting and nutritious food, or improving production systems to be efficient and socially conscious. She received a 2022 Science & Innovation Award (Wine Australia) for her project helping the wine industry adapt to climate change.

Samantha is currently a Lecturer and Research Fellow in Food Science at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (University of Tasmania). She is passionate about STEM outreach and engagement in regional areas and mentoring students and junior staff members to discover and achieve their career aspirations.

It Takes a Spark STEM Conference
Sponsors and Partners

Thank you to our 2024 sponsors and partners



Rachel Manneke-Jones

Registration & Bookings
Ph: 0411 270 277

Dr Adrian Bertolini

Conference Co-Ordinator
Ph: 0413 036 382

Stay Connected

Facebook: @SparkEDUConferences
LinkedIn: spark-educonferences

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