Solar cars, Statistics and Uni Scholarships come to West NSW for National Science Week by Tim Roberts
Life as an academic is a wonderful thing. I am on a road trip across outer NSW running STEM workshops for teachers, and visiting schools, in Dubbo, Broken Hill, Griffith, West Wyalong and Orange, counting roadkill and reminding ourselves of the history of bathroom tiles as we move from motel to motel.
With my research colleague Peter Howley we are delivering on our Australian Government funded equity (HEPPP) project which is based on the premise that early engagement with hands-on team projects, in our case solar powered cars and the National Statistics Competition will lead to subsequent tertiary success in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM). Our world is so dependent on science and technology, and our aim is to alert students through their teachers to the career opportunities in engineering, physics, maths, statistics and chemistry through competing in the Electric Vehicle Competition and the National Schools Poster Competition.
At the workshops teachers have excitedly constructed the cars from scratch, working out the gears, assembling the components and installing the solar panels which power the vehicles -mechanics, electronics and teamwork, all wrapped in an interesting project which ends up racing model cars around a 15-metre track.
It has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the primary teachers especially for STEM at the workshops, since it is increasingly being recognised that during primary school is when many students make lifelong career decisions, both positive as to what they want to be and negative as to what they do not want to study in secondary school. Our world needs more STEM oriented students graduating from secondary school.
Coincidentally, August 13-20 is National Science Week and the Hunter Innovation and Science Hub has organised a wide range of activities in the Hunter, including the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens and culminating in a wonderful interactive display at the Newcastle Museum on Sunday 20th August.
Originally published in Newcastle Herald on August 14 as "Solar cars, statistics and scholarships head west"