As part of the Hunter STEM Festival, the Hunter Regional F1inSchools final was held at The Forum at University of Newcastle. F1inSchools™ is the Worlds Largest Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Competition.
For the competition, students design, test and make miniature F1™ cars capable of speeds up to 80km/h.
F1inSchools™ is a holistic action learning program which focuses on developing long term employability skills. Students learn leadership, team building, project management, business planning, public speaking, marketing, collaboration, writing and presentation skills. The competition is open to all Secondary Students.
The competition was supported by Regional Development Australia Hunter's ME Program, Re-engineering Australia Foundation and The University of Newcastle.
Prof Tim Roberts from the Tom Farrell Institute was a judge at the competition again this year and said it was a "really great event".
Engagement activities like the F1inSchools™ program have been proven to have a lasting impact on student engagement in STEM and should lead to more young people entering into the STEM professions.
Sadly, in the Hunter, humans are not caring for their pets and are straining volunteer animal organisations trying to capture and rehome them. Ratepayers are funding council shelters, or RSPCA facilities, for their lost or abandoned pets. These shelters are now at capacity. The RSPCA website reported that during 2015-16 it received a staggering 137,329 animals, 45,256 Dogs, 55,570 Cats, and 7,262 Mice, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Birds, Fish, and Ferrets. This was an increase of 2.92% animals from the 133,495 in 2014-15. Shelters are a cruel way to despatch animals, but it is even crueller to release them to destroy native populations in the bush or waterways. This demands biosecurity measures that are costly, but critical because pests threaten agribusiness, fresh food, and drinking water. Rabbits create unstable and denuded landscapes and provide fast fuel for feral or domestic Cats, Dogs, and Foxes at the apex of the food chain, along with threatened native mammals, birds, and reptiles. Goldfish, Pearl Cichlid, and other aquarium species infest waterways to destroy native populations by predation, poisoning, pollution, and decay. Pests help spread exotic fungal, bacterial and virus infections to native species. The rate of extinction is 100 to 1,000 times faster than during pre-industrial times but our escaped feral pets are thriving. Poisoned baits of 1080 and Pindone, or viruses, are brutal but effective control methods over large areas. “Track, Neuter, and Release” TNR methods are not so effective. The solution for feral animal pests may lay with their natural predators, Aboriginal traditional hunting, or professional culling by firearm. We are still failing at the simple task of controlling our beloved pets to stop them slowly destabilising ecosystems, accelerating Climate Change impacts, and contributing to the potential collapse of our natural environment. To help track and report feral animals, use the smartphone app Feral Scan https://www.feralscan.org.au/
Originally published in Newcastle Herald on September 4 as "Flood of feral pets devastating ecosystems"
A beautiful spring day greeted The Tom Farrell Institute at the inaugural Newcastle Walking and Cycling Festival at Honeysuckle, Newcastle.
People were entertained by various musicians including a Ukulele Ensemble.
Cyclists were dressed in their finery following the popular Vintage Tweed Ride.
The event was supported by Newcastle Council through a Make Your Place grant, the Heart Foundation and the CycleSafe Network initiative.
Another story from the far west I discovered whilst whiling away the nine hours from Dubbo to Broken Hill. I learnt that there was a company at Warren, some 100 kilometres north west of Dubbo that had achieved world prestige for its technology used in recycling rubber tyres. A technology to replace the age-old processes of shredding, burning or burying old tyres. It is hard to get a solid estimate of the numbers of tyres that are disposed of each year, possibly one billion tonnes of tyres discarded globally each year, while across Australia but certainly the numbers are well in excess of 50 million per year, with only a small proportion being reused or recycled in some way.
Green Distillation Technologies have found a profitable way to recycle waste tyres through the process of controlled pyrolysis in the absence of oxygen and have set up a plant at Warren to do this. In 2015 GDT was awarded a bronze medal in the Edison Awards, the world’s top prize for innovation.
End of life tyres are loaded into a process chamber. No processing of the tyres, such as chopping or crumbing is required. The chamber is sealed and evacuated of air. Heat is applied, acting as a catalyst for the chemical reaction, and the tyres are decomposed into hydrocarbon vapour, which is condensed into oil, and carbon and steel wire that can be collected and used. At the end of its useful life one huge 3.5 tonne tyre from a mine site will yield up to 1500 litres of oil, 1.5 tonnes of carbon as well as steel reinforcing wire. The carbon black powder finds many uses including in plastics, rubber products and toners and printing inks. Throughout the process all emissions are captured which means another bonus for the environment.
Originally published in Newcastle Herald on August 28 as "Rubber meets the road in far west firm's tyre-less work"