NASA Scientist Inspires Tomorrow's Gems at Toyota's Centre of Excellence

A NASA scientist has addressed more than 120 year nine and ten students from schools in Melbourne's West at day one of the 2019 Ecolinc GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Mathematics & Science) Conference held at Toyota Australia's Centre of Excellence in Altona, Victoria.


Ecolinc is a specialist STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning facility established by the Victorian Government and received a Toyota Community Trust grant to fund the conference.

The two-day conference kicked off with a keynote presentation from NASA scientist Jessica Rae Vos who livestreamed direct to the Altona Centre of Excellence from the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas. 

Ms Rae Vos spoke about her NASA career and background in aerospace systems engineering, which has included leading teams in the Advanced Spacesuit Systems Development Laboratory and developing innovative approaches to assessing human performance in a spacesuit. 

"Learn to visualise what it is that you want to create or experience in life, and then always know that you have exactly what it takes to make it happen. Anything is possible when you choose to execute your actions in alignment with that vision from a place of integrity," Ms Rae Vos said.

The conference also included a STEM panel discussion by women working in software development, biomedical science, chemical engineering and research innovation, as well as small group presentations where professional women shared their experiences establishing a pathway into STEM and gave tips for overcoming hurdles along the way. 

After lunch the students went on industry visits and attended a careers expo on site. 

Students also have access to a range of tools via an online careers portal, which features advice on potential STEM pathways from a number of female role models. 

GEMS Conference organiser and Ecolinc Manager, Linda Flynn said, "Australia's future will rely on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at the core of innovation. GEMS 2019 is designed to ignite interest in pursuing STEM pathways for female students." 

Ms Flynn continued, "Beyond the generous financial support, this opportunity to partner with Toyota has served to model real STEM related pathways for young women. The grant provides potential life changing opportunities for students in the targeted municipalities through access to outstanding and exciting STEM role models. It facilitates an ambitious and engaging two days of STEM career-related emersion activities designed to inspire a new generation of female innovators."

Chairman of the Toyota Community Trust, Mike Rausa, said Toyota Australia has had a long history of giving back to the community. 
"The Toyota Community Trust is proud to support tomorrow's GEMS at our Centre of Excellence, the hub for innovation," he said.

"Events like the Ecolinc GEMS Conference give students the opportunity to hear from some of the world's most inspiring people while providing access to quality learning environments and experiences with the aim to position them for successful careers in STEM in the future."

Day two of the conference was held yesterday at Ecolinc, where students participated in a number of practical activities using Ecolinc's labs.

Toyota Australia supports a number of organisations through the Toyota Community Trust, with a focus on inspiring young Australians to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Read more about the most recent grant announcement here. 


The Toyota Community Trust was created by Toyota Australia in October 2017 to honour the legacy of its proud history of local manufacturing in Australia. 

Initiated through a $32 million endowment, the Trust aims to encourage young people in Melbourne's West to pursue further study and careers in STEM.

The Toyota Community Trust is a discretionary trust, managed by the Directors of Toyota Community Foundation Australia Pty Ltd, acting as Trustee.

To date, the Trust has provided grants worth more than $1 million to a range of recipients.

Find out more about the Trust recipients here.