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Annual AASQA awards laud achievements of students with autism

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Curtin University last night hosted the third annual Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) Awards, which recognise the extraordinary talents and application of young people on the autism spectrum.

Twenty students, from high school, TAFE and university, received awards across three categories at a ceremony attended by Curtin University Faculty of Health Sciences Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Archie Clements, members of the Perth business community and award winners’ family and friends.

AASQA Founder and Director Professor Tele Tan, from the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Curtin, said the awards acknowledged students for their efforts and accomplishments over the last 12 months.

“These students have shown remarkable determination, focus and ability to complete challenging tasks in the Information Technology field over the past year and are poised to continue making significant contributions to science and engineering in the future,” Professor Tan said.

Four students were recognised for passing an international exam for software testers, offered through the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB). The students spent months studying for the foundation level exam and verification via an e-learning platform donated by industry partner and software quality assurance leader Planit. The examination fees were donated by BHP.

Professor Tan said that being certified for passing this complex, globally-accredited exam would boost the students’ confidence and belief in themselves as software testers and even as software developers.

“This qualification is highly regarded in the industry and in the longer term, this international exam will also help them be competitive in the job market,” Professor Tan said.

Among the award recipients was former Willetton Senior High School student Liam Picen, 20, of South Lake who in 2017 became one of the youngest people ever to pass the ISTQB exam before going on to become a software testing intern with Hexagon Mining.

Mr Picen said he had enjoyed using computers from a very young age and a few years ago attended a CoderDojo at Curtin, which led to him becoming involved in AASQA.

“Through AASQA I took the ISTQB course and exam, which I understand is usually attempted by graduates with years of experience,” Mr Picen said.

“My precise nature and attention to detail allowed me to excel in the exam and these qualities are something I’ve been able to put to good use at Hexagon Mining where I’m thriving in my role as a junior software tester.”

An AASQA graduate in 2018, Cameron Smith, 23, of Port Kennedy recently gained employment with BHP and was full of praise for the AASQA program.

“After graduating from AASQA I was able to do an internship with Deloitte as a data analyst before taking on my current position as a specialist automation engineer with BHP,” Mr Smith said.

“I’m really enjoying and excelling in the new role because there are a lot of engaging, challenging problems to solve and my ideas are listened to.

“My time at AASQA really helped me by giving me valuable work experience that showed me what to expect from the workplace, boosted my confidence and expanded my network.”

Fifteen students received AASQA Australian Computer Society Foundation Scholarships to help support undergraduates through Work Integrated Learning, which are paid internships offering students full-time or part-time placements.

Two students received AASQA VET Scholarships funded by the Department of Training and Workforce Development, which offer up to $5000 to cover course fees for IT programming, software development and cybersecurity courses at Certificate IV (CIV) or Diploma level.

AASQA provides high-level expertise and services in assessment, training, education and work placements for individuals with autism in the software testing industry. More information about the program can be found at

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