St Clare’s STEM interest looks to life on Mars

St Clare’s College Waverley students took their Science skills to the moon and back with the first flashbuild the Delta-V NewSpace Alliance has held at a school.

The task mirrors the rapid prototyping process used by businesses, by giving teams a problem to solve within an hour.

A gifted Year 7 Science class was joined by two students from each grade and senior physics students to work in teams on two discovery missions – one to Mars and another to the moon.

The 40 students used Google Earth Pro to examine the terrain of each and made scaled maps of it before coding Spheros to be used as mission transport.

Aerophysicist and future parent at the school Dr Tim Parsons led the challenge in November with the help of Physics and Engineering students from The University of NSW. His space start-up, the Delta-V Space Hub, has collaborated with The University of NSW satellite team and engineering group to form the NewSpace Alliance.

The missions they prepared for the day exemplified innovation, challenge and teamwork.

We were looking into canyons that were up to four metres deep.

– Isabella Vasiliou

Year 7 students Isabella Vasiliou and Emily Rowley were part of the Mars team, scouting for places humans might live to complete fieldwork on the planet.

Emily was part of a group of students who drew a map of a section of Mars. Isabella was part of the group who programmed the Sphero craft.

“It was fun to do the scale for the map because we got to use Maths,” Emily said. “We had to use post-it notes to show where hazards were.

“It was very useful because we could apply what we had learnt in our Science classes. I was surprised that even though it is the red planet it’s actually pretty cold on Mars, especially because it’s close to the sun.”

Our students got to mix with aerospace engineering students … It was a great day for all.

– Michael Burden

Isabella said the time pressures of the task led to some freestyle coding and a greater appreciation of teamwork.

“The time went really quickly, and the project gave us good experience at being able to work together to solve different problems,” she said.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot of new things. I didn’t realise there were such big canyons on Mars. We were looking into canyons that were up to four metres deep.”

St Clare’s Leader of Information Literacy and Innovation Michael Burden said opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning like the flashbuild were part of the College’s preparation to begin the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program in 2019.

“It was very successful, and only the beginning of our space journey,” Mr Burden said.

“We have a lot of things planned for next year with Delta V. Ultimately we are looking at a 2020 space camp, and this is all part of the build up to that event.

“Our students got to mix with aerospace engineering students from The University of NSW. Some of our senior students got to sit with them and chat about their degree. It was a great day for all of us.”

View the school’s Space Flashbuild project blog here.


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