The University of Newcastle celebrated a milestone in science and engineering engagement recently with the 100,000th student participating in the Science and Engineering Challenge.
The Challenge changes students’ perceptions about what a career in science or engineering entails as they compete in a variety of activities including building bridges, making catapults, navigating virtual mazes and decrypting codes. The principle message they take from the competition is that a career in science or engineering involves creativity, innovation, problem solving and team work.
Developed by the University’s Faculty of Science and Information Technology and Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, the innovative program has been successful at convincing students to continue with maths and science in senior secondary school to keep their options open for careers in science and engineering.
The Challenge is a partnership with Rotary, Engineers Australia and universities across Australia, and is sponsored nationally by the Australian Constructors Association. The Challenge has previously won the Engineers Australia National Engineering Excellence Award for the best engineering project in Australia.
Professor John O’Connor, Head of the University’s School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said the Challenge was established in 2000 as a way of boosting enrolment in secondary high school science and mathematics.
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has provided one million dollars over two years to support both the Challenge and the University’s SMART program, which delivers interactive science shows to primary school students, said Professor O’Connor.
Since its inception, the Challenge has grown from a local event to one involving more than 20,000 students per year from high schools across Australia each year. The participation of 100,000 students in the program demonstrates the wonderful success the Challenge has achieved throughout its 10 year history.
One of its great strengths is the principle of “local ownership”. In every location, a local organising committee coordinates activities in their region.
Professor O’Connor welcomes interest from ASC members wishing to assist with future Challenge activities. Find out more here: http://www.newcastle.edu.au/faculty/engineering/events/challenge/ or contact: Professor John O’Connor – ASC NSW Branch / Hunter Chapter, john.oconnor [at] newcastle.edu.au.