It's called National Science Week but this year's theme for schools focuses on the T in STEM – Technology – with educators and students encouraged to explore Drones, Droids and Robots.
The ‘toy' versions of the tech are becoming increasingly popular but the 2016 theme centres on the real-world application of autonomous technology in areas such as agriculture, mining and space exploration. Australian Science Teachers' Association (ASTA) President Anne Disney says this year's theme will take schools on ‘a fascinating journey between science fiction and science fact'.
Resources to support teachers
ASTA has produced a free resource book for teachers. It says the aim of the digital book is to provide ‘educators and their students a glimpse into the real, fast-paced world of autonomous technology research and devices. It is designed to showcase the close links between the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths at a time when there is a strong move to restore the focus and increase the uptake of STEM subjects in schools.'
The resource book includes links to relevant articles, information and video clips, a ‘robot evolution' timeline, research information and suggestions for interactive learning activities for different year levels with possible curriculum applications. There's also a section on how drones, droids and robots are used in everyday life – from robot vacuum cleaners to drones that are giving farmers a birds-eye view of their crops.
How schools are celebrating National Science Week
In Queensland, students are being invited to take part in a Guinness World Record attempt at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 12 August. The Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist hopes to set a new benchmark for the Largest Practical Science Lesson. The current record was set last year when 2102 students gathered in Durban, South Africa, to complete experiments on pendulum motion and materials science. Details of the lesson for the Australian world record attempt are being kept under wraps until the big day.
This year, 248 Australian schools have been awarded ASTA grants to support National Science Week events. Many of them are organising activities during the week itself (which runs from 13 to 21 August) but some are focusing on the theme throughout the term.
Christian Outreach College in Toowoomba, Queensland, is taking inspiration from Rio 2016 by staging a STEAM Olympics. Lunchtime competitions will include the Eggstraction (students have to design a device to safely extract an egg from the centre of a circle), the Airplane Drop (building a glider to travel the greatest possible distance) and a STEAM concept challenge where students will use the arts to explain a science or maths concept.
There are collaborations – at Aberfoyle Hub R-7 School in South Australia, local kindy students will be visiting for an afternoon of science activities run by the senior primary students; and events focusing on real-word applications – Tasmania's Forest Primary School is running a project called Old MacDonald Had a Drone, encouraging students, staff, parents and the community to find out more about how technology is improving local farming practices.
At secondary school level, Year 8s at Mandurah Catholic College in Western Australia will be taking part in a drone obstacle course race and at Prospect High School in Tasmania students with special needs will be building robots using everyday materials and researching how the tech has impacted on our lives before presenting their creations and findings at an Amazing Robot Show for the whole school community.
National Science Week 2016 runs from 13 to 21 August. For more information and to download a copy of the resource book mentioned in this article, visit www.scienceweek.net.au and click on the schools tab.
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How are you working to increase student engagement in STEM and STEAM?
The theme of the ACER Research Conference 2016 is Improving STEM Learning: What will it take? The conference takes place in Brisbane from 7 to 9 August. To find out more and to register for the event click on the link.