LATEST CAMPAIGN

HARMFUL INFLUENCE
IN STEM EDUCATION

HARMFUL INFLUENCE IN STEM EDUCATION

THE PROBLEM

Companies that make lethal armaments and profit from war are interfering in STEM education programs across Australia. 

Companies – including companies that are involved with weapons of mass destruction – seek to influence primary, secondary, and tertiary students to have a positive attitude towards the arms industry. 

This influence is incompatible with progress towards peace and disarmament. 

THE SOLUTION

By changing states’ and territories’ education department policies, we can prevent children from being exposed to the harmful weapons industry.

With our partners, we’ve already been successfulQueensland, NSW, and Victoria have changed their policies to recognise that companies that make weapons are not appropriate partners for schools.

Passing resolutions in our union branches,  changing our schools’ internal policies on partnerships and duty of care, asking STEM programs to drop harmful sponsors, and sharing information about the issue are steps along the way to changing department policy. In 2023, branch, state and federal education unions have taken a stance, adopting resolutions rejecting militarised education programs.

Weapons companies are interfering in STEM education programs.

Students are being influenced to have a positive view of the arms industry.

Exposing young people to the arms industry is a breach of policy in some states and territories.

The influence of weapons companies prevents progress towards peace and disarmament.

WHICH WEAPONS COMPANIES SEEK TO INFLUENCE YOUNG PEOPLE?

Some of the world’s biggest weapons companies seek to influence students to have a positive view of their industry.

Some of these companies are associated with corruption, crimes of war and human rights breaches. 

 

Lockheed Martin is a major sponsor of STEM education programs, including Code Quest and the National Youth Science Forum.

Lockheed Martin made 90% of its revenue from armaments in 2022 (SIPRI).

Lockheed Martin is involved in the production of nuclear weapons, fighter jets, autonomous systems, laser weapons, missiles, and bombs.

Lockheed Martin has been involved in more instances of corporate misconduct in the US in recent decades than any other weapons contractor, including influence peddling and anti-competitive and fraudulent activity. 

A 2019 Amnesty International report found that Lockheed Martin lacks human rights due diligence procedures to effectively identify, assess, prevent, mitigate, and remediate its human rights impacts, in contravention of obligations under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). Lockheed Martin is associated with alleged human rights abuses and war crimes in Palestine and in Yemen

BAE Systems is a major sponsor of STEM education programs, targeting children as young as four years old. Programs include FIRST LEGO League, Beacon, and Concept 2 Creation.

BAE Systems made 97% of its revenue from armaments in 2022 (SIPRI).

BAE makes fighter jets, combat vehicles, combat ships, naval guns, explosives, artillery, missile launchers, and more. BAE produces equipment for electronic warfare and is involved in the production of nuclear weapons.

Human rights groups have named BAE in a dossier submitted to the International Criminal
Court. They seek an investigation into the contribution of BAE executives to serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen that may amount to war crimes.

The dossier cites BAE’s supply of arms that were used in 26 airstrikes - including attacks on schools and hospitals - which killed 135 people.

BAE is accused of facilitating exploitation of refugees in Libya through export of control and
surveillance equipment.

RTX (Raytheon) is the second biggest weapons company in the world.

RTX made 59% of its revenue from armaments in 2022 (SIPRI).

RTX is involved in the production of illegal nuclear weapons, and makes missiles and precision- guided munitions, hypersonic and laser weapons, surveillance drones, armoured vehicles, and the Active Denial System, known as the ‘pain ray’. RTX is a sponsor of FIRST LEGO League, Maths Alive, and the Advanced Technology Industry School Pathways Program.

RTX missiles have been linked to over a dozen attacks on Yemeni civilians, including the 2016 bombing of a Sana funeral hall, and a 2022 attack described by the United Nations as the "worst civilian casualty incident in recent time".

RTX products have been used against Palestinian people, and are deployed by US border police to surveil and repel people seeking asylum.

Thales is headquartered in France with a footprint in every Australian state and territory. Thales is involved in the production of illegal nuclear weapons, as well as munitions, weapons, surveillance technology, and armoured vehicles.

Thales made 51% of its revenue from armaments in 2022 (SIPRI).

Thales targets young people in Victoria in a design competition “linked to the Thales vision to ‘make life better and keep us safer.’”

In 2022, Thales was linked to the exploitation of refugees in Libya through export of control and surveillance equipment. The company is also named in a 2019 complaint submitted to the International Criminal Court, alleging Thales’ criminal responsibility for supplying arms used in potential war crimes in Yemen.

Thales is accused of profiting from Egypt’s military crackdown on dissent through its supply of technology capable of implementing mass surveillance.

Thales products are sold to Indonesia and are alleged to have been used to repress and target West Papuan people.

Northrup Grumman is involved in the controversial arms trade, military training, and border surveillance systems. Northrop Grumman is involved with Northrup Grumman Foundation Teachers Academy, Space Camp, STEM Camp, Cyber Taipan. 

Northrop Grumman make 88% of its revenue from armaments in 2022 (SIPRI).

In 2020 Northrop Grumman sold US$30.4 billion worth of weapons. The company supplies weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Israel, Morocco, and Colombia.

Northrop Grumman is involved in the production of illegal nuclear weapons, and is the largest single nuclear weapons profiteer, with at least US$24.3 billion in contracts, not including consortium and joint venture revenues.

Boeing is the third largest arms company in the world, making more than $33 billion from weapons in 2021.

Boeing made 44% of its revenue from armaments in 2022 (SIPRI).

Boeing makes bombs, munitions, attack aircraft, bombers, drone subs, autonomous systems and surveillance technology.

Boeing is associated with ME program, YMCA Space Squad First LEGO League, First Robotics Competition Above and Beyond, Aerospace Gateway

WHICH STEM PROGRAMS ARE AFFECTED?

Some of Australia’s best and most popular STEM programs are associated with some of the world’s biggest weapons companies. 

STEM programs sponsored by weapons companies expose children to weapons brands in a highly positive context. 

Advertising and recruitment for STEM programs may feature weapons company logos; participants may receive certificates or trophies branded by weapons companies. Company logos may feature in event and exhibition spaces, or on collateral like program materials or staff or volunteer uniforms.

In some programs, weapons company employees participate as coaches or mentors for students. Young people may be photographed with weapons company logos, or with company representatives.

Students, schools and families are likely not properly informed of the companies’ core business, or the humanitarian impacts of their products.

Is your favourite STEM program on the list? Ask them to drop their harmful sponsor!

  • ASC Robot Rumble
  • Beacon
  • Creativity in Research Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST)
  • Code Quest
  • Concept 2 Creation
  • Cyber Taipan
  • Engineering Is Elementary
  • Engquest
  • First Lego League
  • First Robotics Competition
  • iSTEM 
  • Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) Engineers in the Classroom
  • ME Program
  • National Engineering and Science Challenge
  • National Youth Science Forum
  • Port Adelaide Football Club Power Of STEM Program
  • Port Adelaide Football Club Community Youth Program
  • Raytheon Australia Playford International College STEM Academy Scholarship
  • Regional Development Australia (RDA)/Hunter ME Program
  • Science Alive
  • Science Assist
  • Space Camp
  • STEM Camp
  • STEM Day Out
  • Thales And Tech Schools Design Competition
  • The Ultimate STEM Event 2022
  • YMCA Space Squad
  • Young Space Explorers

This list of STEM programs with one or more weapons industry sponsors or partners was compiled in 2022 and is not exhaustive.

Commercial arrangements frequently change. We recommend checking with program organisers for updated partner information. 

INFLUENCE, HARM & THE GLOBAL TRADE IN ARMS

ARMS TRADE & HARM

There is a direct link between human suffering and the development and trade of arms.

  • Civilians account for the majority of deaths and injuries from the use of weapons. When explosive weapons – such as the laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin – are used in populated areas, up to 90% of those killed and injured are civilians.
  • The international trade in arms affects a wide range of human rights protected under international agreements and customary international law.
  • There is a significant opportunity cost to society of over-investment in weapons and the weapons industry. Big budgets and taxpayer subsidies for the development, manufacture, and export of weapons diverts public money from the public good, and creates harm.

CORPORATE INFLUENCE

Weapons companies seek to build positive brand recognition amongst students in order to attract the ‘best and brightest’ young people to the weapons industry.

  • Shaping the science, technology, engineering and mathematics eco-system; promoting defence careers, and creating links between children and the weapons industry are explicit strategies to socialise children to accept the the proliferation of weapons. 
  • Weapons companies dilute or obscure their core business, and highlight non-lethal aspects like robotics, coding, and aerospace.

BRANDS & CHILDREN

Children are susceptible to influence from advertising.

  • Schools have a duty of care to protect children from exposure to advertising from harmful industries. Some states and territories already recognise that companies that make armaments are not appropriate partners for schools. 
  • Positive experiences with a brand – like a STEM workshop – are an important part of creating brand association.
  • Children can have a strong positive association with a brand, without knowing what the brand really stands for.

The Medical Association for Prevention of War has produced a comprehensive report on the issue. Click to download.