Minds meet for higher learning

Clancy university

Young innovators: Vanessa Vazzo, Jordan Mattiuzzo, Lucas Frasca, and Felicity Collucio are among Clancy University’s 2015 class. Photo: Kitty Beale

Biotechnology, nutrition, genre theory, psychology – no topic is off limits for the curious minds at Clancy University. 

The extension program for Years 8, 9 and 10 students at Clancy Catholic College began in 2011 to allow those with a special interest to explore it through a self-directed project. They work independently and meet twice a term to further develop their ideas.

Clancy University facilitator Lauren Armbrusta said the extension program was driven by students, most identified as gifted. They self-nominate for the project and needed three teacher endorsements to be involved. They are allocated a mentor, develop a project over three terms, and present it to their peers in December.

“It’s born from the idea of project-based learning – that if students are given the right tools, the right problem and the right questions they will drive their own learning,” Ms Armbrusta said. “Our job is to take their interest and put it back in to the school curriculum in a place that it gets valued and has an authentic audience, as opposed to them working away on their own and having school work get in the way of their passion.”

Year 8 student Jordan Mattiuzzo, 12, will create an app to deter people without a disability from using disabled parking spots.  “I decided to fix that by using a camera that reads the number plate and puts that into text and into a data base to see if that car is registered for disabled parking,” he said. “Hopefully this will have a life afterwards and I can sell it to the government.

“The whole thing is based on coding. It’s definitely important. I have read a few quotes from Steve Jobs who said everybody should learn coding because it has become almost a new language in life.”

Year 8 student Felicity Colluccio, 13, will turn the cooking skills and information she learnt at a five-week Ministry of Food course into an animated e-book. She said the best thing about Clancy University was the freedom to do something different. “I wanted to teach people the basics of food,” she said. “It will have information about nutrition, storage tips for your food, how to save money, and weekly food plans.”

Vanessa Vazzo, also in Year 8, is studying the psychological background of serial killers, an interest she discovered at a forensic science course held at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. She will research ‘Granny Killer’ John Wayne Glover, Ivan Milat, and Jack the Ripper.

“I have an interest in forensics and I want to be a homicide detective when I’m older,” she said. “In class we don’t really focus on things like this. The way that people think, and the way they may not realise that a tiny piece of evidence left behind can make a massive difference in how they find a killer, is interesting.”

Lucas Frasca, a Year 6 student at Holy Spirit Catholic Primary Carnes Hill, is the only student outside of Clancy to be invited to take part in the Clancy University project. He will create a bandage that can detect a chemical that is released when the immune system is active. “It detects the immune system fighting so it can alert you to be healthier, or tell you to take vitamins or go to the doctor,” said Lucas, 10. “Most of it will be nanoscale, so very small.”

“I have a passion for Science and Maths. I teach myself at home because I can’t get enough of it at school. I’m not certain I will finish a prototype by December because of the complexity of it and programming too. It allows you to push your boundaries and do what you want to learn.”

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