The Heathcote High School teacher is on a mission to encourage primary and high school girls into STEM subjects or have them risk being left behind in their future career opportunities.
“Girls [at my school] just aren’t picking my classes, and it’s not just at our school, it’s across the board, the boys they dominate,” she says.
“I just find with the boys around, a lot of girls are awkward around technology – they’re going through puberty, etc.”
Wallace-Massone’s work in this area, particularly with the utilisation of drones, saw her awarded last year’s NSW Premier's Teachers Mutual Bank New and Emerging Technologies Scholarship and she has just returned from a study tour around the US.
The trip was for five weeks in March and April and looked at STEM in action in US schools.
“I just had these extraordinary experiences that if I had taken myself over to America, I would never have had,” she says.
“What I got most out of the study tour was girls using UAV’s or drones.”
“Girls like to do things collaboratively, whereas if you give a boy a drone, he wants to be the master of the drone and fly it the highest and the fastest and so on."
Whether it be marine conservation, aerial thermography, surveying, real estate advertising the list of emerging drone-related opportunities continues to grow.
At an IEEE Aerospace Conference, Wallace-Massone caught up with a range of women in high-flying roles and surveyed them on their source of motivation – be it parents, themselves, their teachers – and for all of them it was self-motivation.
“They were really passionate about the aerospace program and that was the drive to get them there," she says.
Wallace-Massone is set to begin working for one day a week on special projects that will fill skills gap for girls, helping them to become confident with technology before they pick their HSC subjects.
“For those who are interested [out of school time] I’ll run a STEM program with drones but also lots of other technology, so we’ve got a laser cutter down in my department which is amazing! So that’s been really exciting
“The other thing that my school will be doing is, we’ll go out to our six feeder primary schools and I’ll be focusing on the girls that the primary schools choose for me and be running STEM programs for them.”
Massone-Wallace is a mother of three, and a grandmother of two, and says her middle child is a great example of how tech is increasingly becoming a major component of many jobs.
Initially involved in marketing and PR, she moved into visual merchandising, and has now set up her own fashion business college in Ultimo.
“So she’s opened her own business and she has to have a website and she wants to be smart the way she runs it, so it’s run through a portal, so everything’s self-managed within the portal, and she has to go into the back end of the portal and change things.
“So my point is, everyone has to know about technology.
“Here’s the fashion girl, now in the back end of her website and changing up html and code, so it’s everywhere.”
“Even for the boys who’re maybe looking at a trade, say a plumber, you’re going to have books to keep, so you have to skill accordingly.”
Wallac-Massone also says that while Australia is amongst the world’s leaders in drone technology and sensors, the United States is “definitely doing the education part better”.
“During my visit I went to Thomas Jefferson High School, which is the No.1 public high school in the states, so it’s selective and has these amazing kids, and they do a lot of work with other schools, which is really great.
“So they were doing something called a Hackathon, where the kids were basically building apps and the whole thing was sponsored and the kids didn’t have to bring a single thing because it was all paid for by the sponsors.
”So that’s how industry can get involved.
“Also in higher education, I went to Dayton University and had a chat with a guy there and he was saying that how they build up their syllabus – they might be approached by industry to say ‘look, we need this, but we’re missing this’, and then the university will put that in to their curriculum, and so that’s how it’s coming.”