Subs in Schools the mentoring experience

Traveling the world as part of the Saab Graduate program brings many new challenges and for Rachel Klink from Saab Defense and Security USA in Syracuse, New York her introduction to Australia was through mentoring school teams for the Subs in Schools program. We asked Rachel to share her thoughts on the experience:

"It’s no secret that the world is continuously becoming more cutting edge and the technological advancements drive our world further each day. That being said, the people behind this technological growth are in high demand. This growth will only continue, so it is of the utmost importance that we do everything in our power to prepare for that. That includes starting to foster a passion for technology and engineering growth and experimentation in today’s youth. This is true not only for Australia, but across the world. That is where Saab can help! A few years ago Saab Australia started getting involved with mentoring a couple of schools in a program called SUBS In Schools. This has been a great success!

SUBS In Schools is a program partnered with ReEngineering Australia(REA) and Saab to inspire kids to get more involved and interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. There is a particular focus on getting more females involved in this as well to try and overcome the archaic stereotypes. Saab Australia’s participation is on the rise as this year they will be mentoring four schools in South Australia; two of which are all female; the schools are St. Peter’s Girls’ School, The Heights School, St. Peter’s College, and Mitcham Girls High School. During the program the students are learning numerous new skills that range from technical to programmatic. SUBS In Schools focuses on students in grades 9-11 and introduces them to technical skills such as CAD, soldering, 3D printing, electronics, and more. In addition to this, they also have to have a programmatic focus to manage their time, work together in a team environment, market their product, get sponsors, produce a portfolio and display, and finally give a demonstration and presentation. Overall they get a well-rounded introduction to what it's like working in a STEM industry.

I should probably explain that I work for Saab in the United States (Saab Defense and Security USA in Syracuse, NY) and am currently in the global Saab Graduate Leadership Program. Through this program I have the privilege of doing a few rotations to different Saab offices throughout the world to better understand Saab at a corporate level, become more familiar with various products in the Saab portfolio, and gain amazing experiences working with and understanding the different cultures within our corporation. My time in Australia will be spent by working in the Adelaide office for 5 weeks learning as much as possible about the 9LV Combat Management System and then a week in the Canberra office in order to experience how a market area office operates.

This past Wednesday I had the privilege of attending my first mentoring session of the year. It was at St. Peter’s School for Girls. There were 5 of us, including myself, from Saab that attended this session. This was my first introduction to the program. Currently, the students are working on creating a birdhouse in CAD that they will 3D print, as well as modifying mini-Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to get them to operate. At the beginning of the session on Wednesday the Saab mentors walked around and provided assistance where needed. After the time was up for this portion, there were a couple mini-ROVs working so that they could be tested at the end. From there we started focusing on the big project coming up.

The SUBS in Schools program has 3 potential project avenues for the students to pick. The options include creating a larger ROV with many different capabilities- a few being: moving in all directions, taking pictures, and pushing a button. The second option is to build a submarine which focuses a little more on electronics, buoyancy, and creating a water-sealed structure. The last is creating a 3D model of the interior space on a submarine which is more CAD intensive and takes a lot of creativity and planning. The interior design option also has the potential to incorporate virtual or augmented reality. This is a growing field across the world, but especially at Saab Australia, so it opens the door  to teach the students about some of our newest cutting edge technology. This year the girls were being offered the ROV and Interior design challenges.

This launched us, the Saab mentors, into a discussion about the importance of understanding and abiding to the regulations. It also provided leeway into a segment about program management where I was able to share some experiences and advice with the girls. I focused on the importance of communication within the team as well as time management and planning the project schedule. Some key take-aways were the need to plan, plan, and plan some more, while keeping the critical path in mind; as well as the importance to leave time at the end to test, perform rework, and test again prior to competition day.


The last thing we did on Wednesday was to end the session with a little fun. We all went up to the pool and tested the mini-ROVs that were ready as well as the Saab demo ROV. It was exciting to see the ROVs work after all of their hard work and to see the joy and excitement in the girls’ eyes as they watched.

While I am in Adelaide I will be able to attend another session with the Saints girls as Saab has mentor sessions every other week. For me, this opportunity is priceless. It allows me to learn about the program with the hopes of potentially bringing it to the US, but also I believe that it is good for me to be able to provide a female and foreign perspective to the classroom. I studied Mechanical Engineering at university, worked a year at Saab as Test Engineer, and now have a project/program management focus, so SUBS in Schools allows me to offer multi-faceted guidance in all the different areas.

Overall it was a great experience and I am looking forward to the next one! I would like to thank St Peter’s School for Girls as well as their teacher, Brian Parsons, for partaking in this journey with us. The SUBS In Schools program expanded into Europe last year, and I hope that one day we can get it running in the United States as well. As I stood in that classroom, I thought about how amazing an opportunity this program is and could be for so many more students. I think it’s crucial that STEM fields get exposed earlier on and in a fun way, as they are easy to overlook or misunderstand as kids. I would love to see involvement in this program increase and expand globally and America may be just the place to look next. Hopefully my involvement and impact within SUBS In Schools can last far more than just once classroom and can make the jump over to my home base in the US.