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QUT STEM Workshop

QUT STEM Workshop

Author: Gay Ellyett
Author Role: Coordinator Exceptional Scientists' Program

"On Friday 6 March, 33 Year 9 students went to QUT- Gardens Point to participate in a STEM workshop as part of the Exceptional Scientists’ Program. Once we reached QUT, we were greeted by three QUT Ambassadors who we later learnt were studying various fields of engineering at the university. I was very excited since this was my first time participating in one of these workshops. As an introduction, the Ambassadors talked a bit about what they are studying at university and then moved into what we will be learning about during the day. Our goal was to build a robotic arm and program it to lift and move objects. Before we could get started on building the arm, we had to learn some concepts of Physics and how the length of different parts of the arm would affect its strength. It was then time to get building. I had some previous knowledge of coding, but I had never worked on building robots. This was very interesting, and I was excited to see if I could use my programming knowledge to move the arm. We started by making the arm wave and eventually managed to make it pick up some bricks and move them out of the way. It was very fun and engaging to see the code I wrote come to life. Overall, the QUT STEM workshop was a very entertaining experience, packed with lots of new things to learn and be inspired by. If I had the chance to go on something like this again, I would take it." William Stuart, Year 9

"We started the day with some basic guidelines for how to build our robotic arms and then did a bit of maths. Then, the fun part, we got to build our robot arm. This arm consisted of 5 motors: the base, the ‘shoulder’, the ‘elbow’, the ‘wrist’ and the claw. Then for 15 – 20 minutes before lunch, we moved our robot using controls on our ‘COWs’ (Computers on Wheels). This was great fun. First, we made the robotic arm wave, then handshake and then pick up a block. After lunch, we learnt some basic Python coding skills to program our robotic arm. First, we had to make the robot wave, then, the theme of the day came into play. We had to rescue ‘Emit’. So, we built him a little tower, stood him on top, and then spent the remaining hour or so programming our robotic arm to rescue him. This was a great success for most groups, but took a lot of work, and was quite a challenge. The day felt like it went so quickly, and we had such a great time." Ashton Jones, Year 9

"The QUT students who lead this excursion were all studying different types of engineering at university. One was studying mechatronics, while another was focused on software engineering. This expanded my view of engineering, as I hadn’t known that there were so many different types. Overall, this excursion was extremely interesting and enjoyable for everyone." Audrey Davidson, Year 9

"This workshop was incredibly eye-opening. Not only did we get hands-on experience with coding, but we also got insight into how the world is changing and what the future might look like. We got to try a variety of STEM based activities, but my favourite part was coding the rescue arm. This workshop provided many opportunities to learn things we can’t learn in a classroom." Zoe Billings, Year 9

"All Year 9 students who had the opportunity to attend the QUT STEM workshop would agree with me in saying it was an absolutely amazing experience. With a goal of creating a robot to rescue a LEGO brickman, the entire day was filled with great activities that would challenge our teamworking skills. My personal favourite was trying to program the robotic arm. In groups off three to four, our goal was to program our robot to move, to pick up and bring the Lego man to safety, all using the coder Python. Although only some groups managed to successfully complete this task, the rest of us still enjoyed every moment of the day. This excursion has helped us all to build on our knowledge of STEM studies and taught us more about the many aspects of engineering. I would gladly take the opportunity to once again visit one of these inspiring workshops as it was a great day." Sianna Owen, Year 11

"The STEM excursion was a fantastic experience. I enjoyed coding the robotic arm the most because it involved a medium level of coding skills, meaning beginners had the chance to learn new skills and participate in coding. The aim was to make it grab and transport a little Lego man how we programmed it to. We had difficulties in our lines of code at first, but after we overcame those minor setbacks, our arm successfully picked up the Lego man. I would recommend this experience to anyone who would enjoy a fun day with friends learning python coding and constructing a robotic arm." Miranda Robinson, Year 9

"We were given a box of motors, metal beams and screws to build our arms. In groups of four we collaboratively made the different sections of the robot: the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist and the claw. Once they were all connected and wired up, we could move each individual motor using sliders on the computer. Afterwards, the presenters gave us a demonstration on how to use a coding program named Python and set us a challenge of rescuing a Lego figure. With a bit of help, we were all able to create a sequence for our robotic arm which would pick the Lego up and save it from whatever situation we put it in. The day was super cool and I highly recommend the workshop to anybody who has the chance. We learnt many new things that we never would have otherwise." Max Barnett, Year 9

"The entire QUT day was filled with anticipation and excitement as we experienced a range of new thought-provoking and fascinating activities. The QUT student ambassadors who enthusiastically lead us through the day were tremendously knowledgeable and welcoming. My favourite part of the day was building our own rescue robotic arm and then watching it come to life as we developed our Python code. The tasks set were enjoyably challenging, and it taught me to become more patient when having to consistently trial the code, then go back and improve on it and solve any dilemmas faced. By the end of the day, I was proud of what my group and I achieved as none of us had ever completed anything like this or used Python Code previously. I definitely benefitted from this STEM workshop and I liked getting a glimpse at the university itself. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and look forward to more to come." Lucy Elmes, Year 9

"On Friday, we went to a Mechatronics STEM workshop at QUT. There we built and coded a robotic hand to wave. I had very limited experience of coding beforehand and had none with the coding language Python but during the workshop our group managed to work together to pick up a Lego character using the robotic arm and drop her to a safe zone. We had saved her! It provided an interesting and fun challenge that we don’t get to do in the classroom. The presenters were very informative. I enjoyed the entire experience." Lewis Hammond, Year 9

"Throughout the day, three current students studying at QUT guided us and gave us many helpful tips to assist us in completing our goal. They spoke of their history at QUT and what they were studying, giving many of us things to think about for our university options. We experienced life as a uni student with the opportunity to use some of the unique equipment they had to offer. Personally, I loved going down to the food court and purchasing a box of hot chips, something I look forward to doing more often when I attend university. With the day coming to an end, it was time to test our robotic arms. For our group, we didn’t quite get the coding right as we ended up knocking the Lego man off the ledge instead of rescuing him. However, it was an exciting end to a fantastic day." Emma Humphreys, Year 9

"This day was extremely fun as we saw how robotics and programming can change the world and how many different fields there are to branch out from this. I found this day memorable because everyone was having a good time and although my group's mechanical hand did not rescue the Lego man perfectly, we had a good time and learnt a lot." Charlotte Morris, Year 9

"The QUT stem excursion was an epic experience which taught me a lot about different ways to code. We were tasked with the challenge of programming a robotic arm (which we made ourselves) to rescue a helpless Lego figure from their impending doom. The QUT students leading the workshop made it seem a lot easier than it actually was, but they showed us several tips and tricks to help along the way. I really enjoyed creating and using the Python coding system, which before today I had barely even heard of. After several failed attempts and trials most groups managed to successfully control their robotic arm to either wave or save the Lego figurine. Overall, it was a great day that taught me a lot about the engineering opportunities that QUT provides and programming code. The students teaching us were very interesting to listen to and it was a great day." Charlotte McNally, Year 9

"Each group had unique and interesting ideas, with some successful and less successful designs that were all fun to share. The excursion was an educational and enlightening experience, providing some meaningful insight into real-world coding and robots." Charli Theil, Year 9

"My favourite part of the day was when Mackenzie, a student studying Medical Engineering, informed us about forces and moments in Physics as she taught us how to apply these concepts to help us make better decisions in our designing of the robotic arm. Whilst my group was not successful in rescuing the Lego figure, we were very privileged to get an insight into what the QUT STEM program had to offer. The excursion showed us how science, technology, engineering and mathematics can all be applied in the real world to help solve real-life problems." Ben Masnjak, Year 9

"The QUT STEM excursion was an entirely new experience for me. I had never worked with robots or coding before, but the day’s events definitely interested me. The workshop leaders were friendly, easy to get along with. It was much easier to interact with them than I thought, which meant my group was eager for help. Any small situation, they would assist, especially with the problem with our robot, which, thanks to their efforts, managed to stay working while we trialled it. Using Python, we coded the robot to save a LEGO man, guiding its movements. I saw many of the other groups had done a better job than us, but they had some robotics students with them, which really showed me the difference between me, who struggled to use basic Python commands and those who, with pinpoint accuracy safely picked up the LEGO and deposited it into a ‘safe zone.’ The large QUT campus was incredible too, with interactive spaces and advanced technology. Overall, it was an experience I wasn’t used to, but given the opportunity, I would go again." Ayla Lyon, Year 9