Highlands Science and Engineering Challenge

On 7th and 8th March, the Armidale Central Rotary Club together with the support of UNE’s Schools of Science & Technology and Environment and Rural Science, hosted the Highlands Science and Engineering Challenge & Discovery Days, a nationwide program run by the University of Newcastle. Students from primary and secondary schools from all across the Northern Tablelands gathered at the Armidale Ex Services Memorial Club to tackle difficult science and engineering tasks, competing for the top place.

The Discovery Day, which is directed at years 5-6 primary students was held on Wednesday 7th March, while the Challenge Day, which is directed at years 9-10 high school students, was held on Wednesday 8th March. Each day is designed, through fun and practical hands-on activities, to inspire the students about the opportunities available in science, technology and engineering.

Members of our UNE Discovery team volunteered to run some of the challenges over the two days of the event. Dr Chris Wacker ran “Grasping at Straws”, where students used straws and string to build a prosthetic hand, and it had to be strong enough to pick up things like balls and other straws. Dr Kieran Meaney led the “Confounding Communications” activity, where students had to devise codes using blue, red, and green lights, and send messages to each other without speaking or even looking at each other. Dr Geoff Hughes ran “Helter Skelter Shelter”, where students used straws, paper, and tape to build towers that could support heavy weights against the strain of an earthquake machine.

These challenges were meant to be, well, challenging. Straws and tape don’t make the best construction material (and we didn’t even give them good tape). Nonetheless, the students had a lot of fun with building their towers and hands, or with creating their secret codes.

The Discovery Day was won by Armidale City Primary School coming, followed by Ben Venue Primary School in second, and Sandon Primary School in third. The Challenge Day was won by Presbyterian Ladies College, O’Connor Catholic School taking second, and TAS in third.

Congratulations to all schools and students who participated in this fantastic event. We were impressed by the ingenuity and enthusiasm displayed by the students. It was a pleasure to be part of the Highlands Science and Engineering Challenge.