Innovative minds

Smithton High School year nine students Jordan Burke and Jim Buckby were among 250 students to compete at the Science and Engineering Challenge in Burnie last week.

Education. Creating a bionic hand and coding messages along optic fibre cables is all part of the Science and Engineering Challenge.

An annual competition, Smithton High School students recently competed in the state heats of the national outreach program, aimed at changing student perceptions towards both subjects while fostering further engagement.

This year, six heats were held statewide with more than 50 schools and close to 1600 students taking part.

Smithton High School applied science and robotics students took part in the north west heat at Marist Regional College in Burnie last Monday, alongside 250 others.

Students were challenged to build a cost-effective bionic hand, power up a pretend city and design apartment towers that can withstand an earthquake as well as create a catapult to launch a tennis ball, make a model water turbine, code messages along optic fibre rods and develop transport networks to link towns.

Smithton High School’s science and digital technology teacher Sarah Prior said the local students combined with students from Mountain Heights School to design innovative examples. 

“This is a STEM based competition where students problem solve in teams,” to create out of the box thinking, she said.

“They worked on problems involving forces and motion, electricity and logic.”

Smithton High School placed first with its catapult and turbine designs, finishing fifth overall.

University of Tasmania outreach and placement officer Susie Haley said she hoped the competition would inspire participants.
“By taking part in the challenge, students see that science and engineering involve creativity, innovation, problem-solving and team work,” she said.
“The program will encourage students to consider a future career in science and engineering by studying subjects such as maths, biology, physics and chemistry – the enabling sciences – in years 11 and 12.”

In Tasmania, the Science and Engineering Challenge is supported by the University of Tasmania, Rotary Clubs of Tasmania and the state government with more than 110 volunteers giving over 2000 hours to the challenge.