Engineering minds

Engineering minds

Smithton High School students applied innovative thinking at the annual Science and Engineering Investigation Awards. 

Grade 10 student Alex Hardy, 16, was awarded Young Engineer of the Year for his design of a bomb-disposal robot. While grade nine students Ty Haywood, 14, and Joel Porteus, 15, teamed up to create a remote controlled rover with a cannon, and claim second place in the year group. 

Jordan Burke and Mia Pay also took part in the challenge, engineering an alarm clock while Ben Pinner and Terrance Jago designed a dump truck. 

The University of Tasmania event is a statewide competition which challenges bright minds between grades five and 12 to exercise scientific and engineering ways of thinking to research and analyse a hypothesis. 

Basing his experiment on commercial bomb-disposal technologies, Alex adjusted his design to achieve a 90 per cent success rate. 

“We had to find a problem in the world, research and design something to solve it,” said Alex. 

“I thought of the terrorism we’re experiencing all over the world and a way to address that without anyone getting hurt.” 

Programming a rover and utilising a lego brick to simulate an object which could be picked up and moved to a secure location, Alex said “all went to plan” during testing. 

Taking inspiration from a toy nerf gun, Ty and Joel designed a robot to replicate the look of a scorpion. An attached cannon shoots small balls of ammunition, created by the students from a 3D printer. 

“That was the biggest challenge,” said Ty. 

“Some of the balls didn’t come out looking like they were meant to.” 

Smithton High School robotics teacher Sarah Prior said the competition not only generates interest in STEM subjects but creates contacts for students looking to one day enter the industry. 

“Engagement, they’re gaining contacts from people in the industry who are taking notice of these kids who are showing initiative,” she said. 

“So in a few years’ time when they go for a job, someone will recognise these students and know they have the get up and go and the knowledge for the job. 

“It develops skills in its own right, in terms of design and problem solving, it’s incorporating a lot of skills.” 

More than 600 students from along the north west coast converged on University of Tasmania’s Cradle Coast Campus for the competition while similar events were held in the north and south of the state. 

Smithton High School students Joel Porteus, 15, Ty Haywood, 14, and Alex Hardy, 16, recently took part in the University of Tasmania’s Science and Engineering Investigation Awards. Joel and Ty teamed up to place second for their design of a remote controlled rover and Alex earned the inaugural Young Engineer of the Year award for his design of a bomb-disposal robot. 


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