Recent history has seen a concerted effort to encourage girls to get involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

BSSC Year 11 student, Ruby A’Vard, is embracing the trend to push beyond educational ‘norms’ by electing to study VET Automotive and Product Design & Technology (Metals); two subjects still strongly dominated by male students.

She is presently constructing an electrical temperature gauge test circuit in VET Automotive, and in Metals she is creating a dog house for her sister’s pooch.

Ruby says she owes some of her interest in these areas to the family business, Avard Civil, a thriving local engineering firm.

She remembers the company as a small business with the plant on-site at home providing wonderful opportunities for her to see bobcats, trucks and their maintenance on a daily basis.

Ruby also grew up surrounded by animals—cattle, sheep, horses, chooks, dogs, cats—but it was cars and metalwork she found most fascinating.

Her brother also loved working out in the shed, and his tinkering with an old car only encouraged her curiosity about things automotive.

“I learnt to drive a truck when I was in about Year 8,” Ruby recalls. “I asked Dad to teach me how to use a MIG welder when I was around 12—which he was very happy to do.

Ruby’s mum and dad always encouraged her not to be scared to try new things and this philosophy has permeated her life and imbued in her a ‘have a go’ confidence.

“They’ve given me so many great values,” she says. “I now know that ‘have a go’ attitude is actually the cure for fearing new experiences.”

Ruby has taken her skills in welding and blended them with a natural flair for art. Her first creation saw her use scrap pipe, metal plate and reo-bar to construct a bull’s skull.

Being able to weld also allowed Ruby to repair a small trailer that she used to store and display bags of chook manure she sold at the front gate—her first job.

With a bird’s-eye view of what it takes to run a family business, and the skills she’s developing in automotive and metals Ruby’s future might seem set on something in the engineering sector.

Instead, her long-term dream is to live the life of an artist near the beach.

Beyond BSSC, she’d like to enhance her artistic knowledge through a visual arts course at TAFE an open her work to wider influences.

Ruby loves working with mixed media, charcoal, and acrylic paint. She is also a keen photographer and, despite her love of metals and cars, says Photography is her favourite subject this year.

“When I first saw the range of subjects at BSSC I was in awe,” she says.

“I have so much respect for my teachers. They’re incredibly supportive and allow me to learn in ways that work best for me. They go out of their way to help when I ask for some extra support.”

This is especially important for Ruby who has challenges with dyslexia and dyscalculia.

She recalls her first week at the college as a great relief

“It was pretty significant to have no stress walking into a new classroom because all the teachers and so many of the students were so open and welcoming,” she says

“It’s like everyone knows we’re all on the same page and feeling the same insecurities.”

When she does need a break, Ruby loves to get a coffee and sit in Rosalind Park.

“I come back so refreshed,” she says.

Ruby’s ‘hot study tip’ is to keep notes and checklists, or reminders on your computer, so you know what and when things are due.

“I like to get as much work done at school as possible,” she says. “I tend go to the library and work really hard to get things done.”

Away from the college, Ruby loves listening to music and works at Epsom’s Bowser Bean on the weekends.

One of her favourite pastimes is camping.

“My family has a couple of favourite spots in the High Country and down at the beach,” she explains. “It’s always great to get away.”

Ruby is grateful to her parents, both for all they’ve done for her and the example they’ve set.

“I’ve watched how far they’ve gone by working really hard and having that ‘give it a go’ approach,” she says. “They’re such great role models.”

If Ruby could step back in time and offer her 12-year-old self some sage advice, it would be to always have the confidence to give things a go.

“Don’t worry what other people think and persevere when you are not happy at school,” she’d say. “You’re going to end up at a school you’ll just love.”