More than five hundred primary school kids from South-East Queensland converged on Park Ridge State High School in March for the Science and Engineering Challenge.

The Challenge, run by the University of Newcastle, had students compete against each other in a series of activities challenging them to execute highly technical problems in a pressure-cooker environment.

Activities included constructing a water wheel to power a turbine, an earthquake proof tower, a catapult, and a bridge. Also included were brainteasers such as balancing an electricity board and building an efficient railway network.

It was all able to happen thanks to a collaboration between the University of Newcastle, Griffith University, and Park Ridge State High School.

Park Ridge State High School played an active role in the day, with older students volunteering their time to run the activities and offer support to the kids.

‘They’ve done an amazing job,’ beamed Pete Newman, the Challenge Team Leader from the University of Newcastle.

Sally McPhee, from Griffith Universities’ Science on the GO! Program, helped facilitate the event in partnership with University of Newcastle. She was grateful for Park Ridge’s active participation in the days’ activities.

‘The great thing about having the high-school students deliver the activities is that they’re all doing senior science, so they can chat with the kids, and the kids can see themselves in their shoes.’

Park Ridge State High School

The focus of the day was giving the primary school children who attended a chance to experience the world of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

‘It’s all about hands-on STEM’, explained Ms McPhee. ‘We know that kids learn best when they’re doing it, so they all have a chance to build something, to go through that engineering concept of having that failing and rebuilding, retesting, refining the design until they get a final product.’

Park Ridge State High School Deputy Principal Craig McBrien believes the kids can get a lot out of the program.

‘The big focus is science and technology. Being able to work together in a team environment, collaborate, listen to each other, and just to be able to work together.’

The event of the day was the bridge-testing, overseen by a panel of eager judges. Students were tasked with building a bridge to support a moving trolley loaded with progressively heavier weights. Each successful pass was met with a chorus of ‘whoos’ and ‘ahhs’ from the watching students. The final test was the ‘bridge-buster’, which lived up to its name.

‘Our aim is for people to have a really great experience,’ explained Mr Newman. ‘It’s also to help them make better choices when they go to choose their subjects.’

‘We know that 70% of the future workforce is going to need STEM related skills,’ said Ms. McPhee. ‘Things like problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, they’re all skills they get out of a STEM degree, and that’s what we’re trying to do for them, helping them see that pathway.’

 

The event ties in with Park Ridge State High School’s push to facilitate innovate learning. In 2020, the school opened a new Learning Innovation Centre, designed to expose students to the skills and facilities of a future workplace. The school offers Engineering and Robotics programs for eager high-school students.

 

 

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