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QUT STEM Workshop

QUT STEM Workshop

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

I always get excited when Mrs Ellyett announces another ESP trip to QUT for a STEM workshop. This year, we were looking at Mechatronics and Electrical engineering. After learning all about these new topics, we put our skills into play, building a bionic arm. Once it was fully assembled, we programmed our bionic arm to do different activities. We even taught it how to wave! After this enlightening first session, we visited the Cube, which is the largest interactive display in the Southern hemisphere. We used the display to create and program a virtual recycling robot. While the task was challenging at first, we all had the hang of it by lunch. At lunch, we were able to move around the university campus to buy our lunches. We all gathered together after finding food and ate with each other in the shade. After lunch, we began our second challenge of the day, which was programming our bionic arms to rescue a Lego man from an unsafe situation. While not all groups were successful, my group managed to remove our Lego man from the “unstable tower” that we had built for him. After a day of interactive learning, each one of us returned home exhausted but fulfilled.

Alice Dagwell, Year 9

Once at QUT, we formed groups of four and were introduced to electrical engineering with the building of a robotic arm. We calculated the weight that the arm could carry and then wrote a hypothesis about its potential. After a few mishaps with nuts and screws in construction, we managed to have a functioning robotic arm. We were taught a robotic arm’s uses for prosthetics, both for function and psychological effect, and its uses for rescue situations that would be dangerous for a human. We opened the program that controls the arm and started manually controlling it. We then took a break by going down to the Cube (the campus’ interactive games wall) and programmed the in-game trash-collecting robots to operate effectively (some of us were more successful than others).

Alec Wills, Year 9

After lunch, we started our second workshop, a bionic arm rescue mission. Our task was to save a Lego man from under a pile of blocks. Some of the rescues were very entertaining. All in all, it was a challenging but fun experience and I enjoyed it very much. All of the instructors were extremely nice and helpful. I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Amelie Wiemers, Year 9

The science excursion to QUT was a fantastic experience. We first took a train to the Southbank and walked to the QUT Gardens Point campus. Here we met our instructors for the first half the day. The first activity that we undertook was making a robotic arm. In this task, we chose two beams and we quickly realised that bigger beams were not always better as they cannot support as much weight. Building the arm took us about an hour and a half of hard work. After a short break, we went back to work and into my favourite part of the day. We came back to our robotic arms, but this time we had to program them. Using the coding language Python, we had to program our robot arm to wave. This was a nice introduction to coding. We were then given a few wooden blocks and a Lego man. We had to build a small building to rescue the Lego person from with the arm. Coding the arm was very challenging but most groups completed the task. A massive thank you should be said to the QUT Ambassadors. The workshop was an eye-opening experience into the world of technology and coding.

Aiden Ahmelman, Year 9

To start the second half of the day we used our premade bionic arms as part of our challenge. This involved us thinking about the future of rescue workers and replacing them with robots to reduce the risk of rescues. We then had the mission of trying to code our arms to rescue a Lego man from blocks which represented rubble from something like an earthquake. I can’t say that all groups were successful, but we all had great fun trying. To conclude our day, one of the QUT ambassadors told us about her life in electrical engineering and the opportunities that the course at QUT provides. Overall, it was a fantastic experience which I thoroughly enjoyed and it gave me an understanding of future pathways of STEM and university life.

Charlotte Hansen, Year 9

On 8 March, a group of enthusiastic Year 9 students journeyed to QUT to participate in two half-day STEM workshops–bionic arms and robot rescue missions. Both of these challenges gave us the opportunity to work with students from our grade who also share a passion in STEM and involved collaboration between team members, application of knowledge, managing success and failure, and strategic thinking. We learnt the purpose of bionic arms (functionality and psychological benefits) and the advancements that could possibly be made in the future to make these arms more effective for their purpose. From there, we were tasked with constructing our own bionic arm using the materials available and experimenting with different lengths of the different ‘members’ of the arm to obtain the theoretical maximum carry weight. This challenged our team collaboration and our interpretation and evaluation skills. Once the bionic arm was constructed, we were allowed to play around with the different moving parts and motors to test the maximum weight it could lift and compare this to the theoretical carry weight. This was done in 50-gram increments and my group’s bionic arm had the ability to lift 450 grams, which was an increase from our initial 408 grams theoretical maximum carry weight. In the next workshop, we learnt how robots will be the future in rescuing people from dangerous situations. To accompany this discovery, our goal was to rescue a little Lego person from some rubble using Python code to move the bionic arm. This was extremely challenging as the code was very specific and complex but enhanced my knowledge and forced me to think critically. Overall, the STEM excursion at QUT was an engaging, interesting and enriching experience, that increased my knowledge and inspired me to continue a path in STEM.

Hannah Robinson, Year 9

Last Friday, 27 Year 9 students were given the opportunity to travel to QUT to learn about bionic arms and coding. We started the day by learning the logistics of using the bionic arm and the importance of this in our future and current world. We then were given the chance to build and create our very own bionic arm. I found this particularly challenging, but it gave me the chance to experience new things that I had never tried before. We then headed down to the Cube, QUT’s large interactive screen. Here we were able to code an e-waste robot. My group managed to create a virtual robot that was able to sort, gather and deposit plastics. From here we went to lunch where we were blessed with QUT’s cafeteria and lolly shop. Although not particularly to do with science, this part of the day gave us the chance to experience the university lifestyle. After lunch, we attempted to program the arm to successfully save and pick up a Lego person who had been buried under rubble. After several unsuccessful attempts and negative outcomes for our Lego person, we finally managed to create a semi-successful moving arm. Overall, this day helped to show me the importance of coding and programming in a modern world as well as the independence that a university lifestyle gives you. I think that coding will play a huge part in the future and I think that it’s especially important that women and girls are given opportunities in this area. I am very grateful for this experience, and although it was challenging, I have definitely come away with more knowledge than I went with.

Jasmine Balfour, Year 9

This year, along with a selected group of students, I attended QUT’s STEM workshop on mechatronics. This experience was extremely interesting with a nice balance of fun and work. It was a good way to show our skills and learn many new things outside of our normal classrooms.

We were first briefed on our topic by our workshop ambassadors as they stepped us through the basics of mechatronics and how they are helping change the lives of those who thought they may not be able to move one or more of their limbs again. We then set off to build our own bionic arm. It was a slow process of precision and patience. We could choose whatever size parts we wanted, which would affect how easy it would be to lift a certain mass. After completing our robot, we calculated the heaviest mass that it should be able to lift and tested these calculations by coding the robot to pick up a certain weight and adding to the mass each time it could lift it. Our calculations were wrong as our arm only picked up 200g when it should have been able to hold 400g. This miscalculation could have been due to the quality of the motors that were allowing the arm to move different parts.

To finish the first half of the day, our ambassadors walked us down to the Cube, which is a facility in QUT that can be used by any member of the public. It is a series of interactive screens down at ground level, but above them, a large screen that connects them all, reaching the ceiling. On this day, we used their Cube program called Code a Bot, where we had to code a robot to pick up either plastic, metal or glass and put it in the correct bin, as there were many. It was a difficult process because the robot had to be coded in every way possible, meaning that if we gave it an order and it couldn’t complete it, it needed an “if” code so that it would know what to do in every situation. No groups were able to efficiently get their robot to put rubbish in bins, but it was very enjoyable to try.

We then went back to the workshop where new ambassadors showed us how to code our bionic arms to do a series of motions. For example, we had to code our robot to pick up a Lego man from a pile of blocks and return him to safety.

Overall, it was a great learning experience that helped us to understand mechatronics and how much of the world relies on engineers and Science. These people are always looking for new things to make our lives easier and solve some of our biggest problems. This trip gave me great insight into engineering and life at QUT. Thank you for the amazing opportunity.

Maggie, Ngan, Year 9

At the end of the day, we listened to speeches that inspired us to think about pursuing a career in engineering–especially after hearing that there is such a small percentage of girls in this field of solving problems, creating buildings and new electronics. We learnt a lot about engineering and saw some of the facilities that QUT has to offer, but most importantly we learned, had fun and were inspired.

Abbey Jackson, Year 9

During the workshops, we learnt about engineering, more specifically electronic engineering, coding, mechatronics (mechanical electronics) and how robots are slowly being incorporated into our lives. After lots of learning and truckloads of laughter, it was time to go. We all had an extremely enjoyable experience and can’t wait for future STEM workshops. We would like to thank Mrs Ellyett and Ms Grigg for taking us out to QUT and putting up with 27 teenagers all day! A massive thank you to QUT and their amazing ambassadors for making this an incredible experience and teaching us many valuable lessons.

Tayah Uren, Year 9