Students take up the science gauntlet

HOVERCRAFTS, suspension bridges, catapults and a mission to mars.

These were just some of the competitive activities on offer at the recent Tasmanian Science and Engineering Challenge that saw students from 24 schools across southern Tasmania put their critical thinking and teamwork skills to the test.

Held over three days at the University of Tasmania’s Sandy Bay campus, the annual competition is designed to address the skills shortage in science and engineering by inspiring young people to study mathematics, physics and chemistry in years 11 and 12.

Tasmanian state coordinator Susie Haley said the hands-on, competitive nature of the challenge allowed the students to experience aspects of science and technology that they would not usually see in their school environment.

“By participating in the challenge, students can see that science and engineering involves creativity, innovation, problem solving and teamwork,” she said.

“The event continues to improve and we had some exciting new challenges set for the students at this year’s event.”

Mount Carmel College head of maths and science Valery Kullrich said the school had been involved in the challenge since its inauguration more than 10-years-ago.

“There is a huge interest in science and technology at Mount Carmel College and it’s now a badge of honour for students to be selected to participate in the challenge,” she said.

“As an all-girls school, it is so important for us to promote science and engineering as potential careers and supply our students with the problem-solving, teamwork and critical thinking skills that are so relevant in today’s modern world.

“The students absolutely loved it and they always leave on a high, no matter where they place in the competition.”

One of the most popular activities at this year’s event was the “Mission to Mars” challenge, which required students to design a buggy that could carry a weight over a set length of uneven terrain.

Mount Carmel College grade 10 student Dhanika Verma, who spearheaded the school’s Mission to Mars team, said the key to success was in the details of the buggy design.

“It’s all about getting the right suspension so that the block doesn’t fall off the buggy easily,” she said.

“I really like participating in this challenge because it’s for a full-day, it takes a lot of concentration and there is such a variety of different challenges on offer.”

The top eight teams from the three events in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie will now be given the chance to compete in the state final, to be held later this month.

The Tasmanian Science and Engineering Challenge is presented by the University of Newcastle and supported by the University of Tasmania, Rotary Clubs of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.

Caption: Mount Carmel College students designing a buggy as part of the “Misson to Mars” challenge. From left, Ebony Ten Broeke, grade nine, Grace Moritz, grade 10, Dhanika Verma, grade 10, and Tahlia Bortignan, grade 10.