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Science and Engineering Challenge

Bridges and buildings. That’s engineering, right?

Well, so we thought. That is until I, along with 31 other Year 10 students went to the regional heats of the Science and Engineering Challenge. On 22 March, after a train ride to South Bank Piazza, we met with industry experts and like-minded students from seven other schools across Southeast Queensland. Ahead lay a competition comprising a range of practical activities designed to showcase the wide and varied fields within engineering. We were divided into eight teams and each assigned a colour. As we undertook the different challenges, it was drawn to our attention just how our interests would come to play within these career pathways – something I’m sure all Year 10s are pondering. With each of our individual teams bringing home points, CHAC overall was successful – winning our regional heat for the second consecutive year. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say a big thank you to the College’s Exceptional Scientists’ Program for offering us yet another opportunity to broaden our STEM horizons. It was a fantastic day, and we all had a blast.
Anna Coldham-Fussell, Year 10

Green Team

Annelies Alcorn, Luke Pearce, Chris O’Brien and Ryan King

We had to use string to connect screws on a board with the goal of having the most string remaining after connecting the screws. There were twelve tasks that we had to complete: some had one string; some had two; some had to follow black pathways on the board and some did not. These tasks were designed to simulate how train lines connect towns together in the most efficient route to conserve track. On the board, there were black lines that, for some of the tasks, had to be followed. These lines simulated how the tracks must be followed to stop them going through houses, mountains or other obstacles. Our group worked efficiently and with vigour, completing up to challenge ten of twelve. Only one team this year finished all twelve activities. The Stringways challenge was fun and a tricky problem-solving task. Overall the day was amazing, our group had a great time.

Red Team

Anna Coldham-Fussell, Ella Greenaway, Anneke Galwey and Emma Cooney

Eight straws, eight pieces of paper, and three metres of tape. The task: construct a tower of 70 cm height, but still strong enough to withstand up to 500 g of weight. You have 20 minutes. Helter Skelter Shelter comprised much deliberation and frenzied prototyping, as well as the very fundamentals of civil engineering. With criteria which hinged upon two very different principles, our group was given a taste of the design process, nurturing problem solving and strategising.

After careful analysis of the scoring sheet, our group decided to compete for height, instead of ability to hold greater weights. Our first challenge was based purely on creating a tower of the greatest height while withstanding as much weight as possible. Although our tower could only withstand one weight, it scored more points than other groups. In the second challenge, we had an added task; the tower not only had to be tall and withstand weight but also needed to be able to survive an earthquake simulator test. We went about the same approach aiming for height with a similar design and to our surprise it still withstood the weight during the earthquake test, scoring many more points. Overall, it was a great experience, with the bonus of our group winning this challenge.

Blue Team

Ethan Cheung, Jordan Routledge, Griffin Vann-Wildman and Mihir Chopde

The Science and Engineering challenge aimed to provide an insight into what it’s like to work at STEM jobs. Our group – the blue group – participated in two activities: Grasping at Straws and Confounding Communication. We particularly enjoyed the Grasping at Straws activity. It involved creating a bionic hand from basic materials – straws, string, paddle-pop sticks and other common materials. This bionic hand had to be functional. It needed to have manoeuvrable digits and required the ability to pick up designated objects. It was great fun to design and build the bionic hand, and it provided an insight into the challenges that engineers encounter when constructing mechanisms – in this case, a functioning hand.

Yellow Team

Julia Ralston, Julia Hona, Yasmin Ward and Liana Davies

As a part of the Yellow Team, our first activity required us to build a functioning water turbine out of Styrofoam, paddle pop sticks and some masking tape. We brainstormed a design before working together to build a fully functioning turbine. After approximately 40 minutes, we tested our design multiple times under the makeshift water tap, and gained a final score of 260 (along with extra points for naming our turbine!).

Our second activity was ElectraCity, which involved connecting sections of an interactive board with cables so that energy could be supplied effectively around the entire city. We put our minds to the test as we tried to find the most cost-efficient solution to each situation we were given. We were given five different types of wires with varying resistances, lengths and costs. There were 30 buildings within the city and we were required to light up 25 or more for each scenario, with some buildings having more importance earning us more points. The activity used maths and logical thinking to create the most efficient connections. ElectraCity models civil engineering which is a discipline that deals with the construction and maintenance of cities and is a STEM profession. Overall, it was a very fun day and we learnt a lot about future career paths and how STEM influences our daily lives.

Purple Team

Hannah Elmes, Elise Manson, Isaac Reed and Kayla Evans

Our group was tasked with designing and building a water turbine that would generate the greatest amount of power as the water flowed over it. With our materials limited to polystyrene, paddle pop sticks and plastic straws, it was necessary to think creatively and apply engineering concepts to meet the design brief. Through trial and error, we found that the way the water hit the turbine and the weight on the blades played significant roles in the amount of electricity generated. Our final design utilised these concepts, resulting in our team having the highest score of the day with 395 points. It was a challenging, yet fun experience that we all thoroughly enjoyed

Pink Team

Mackenzie Riemann, Ben Harms, Tim Christie and Billy Byrne

We participated in the Flat-Pack challenge. It was overall a thrilling experience with CHAC coming home at the end of the day with a victory. By the end of the day, in the eight colour divisions, CHAC had two victories as well as many second places. The Flat-pack challenge was a particularly educational experience as we found out, and will be greatly beneficial to our engineering and science studies at school. As well, we had a fun day away from school. We thank the ESP program at CHAC for the opportunity to be involved in such an event, and hope to see further CHAC success in the future.

Orange Team

Emily Smith, Ella Blacker, Joanna Findlay and Kasey Gill

We participated in the Communications challenge, where we had to communicate a message using coloured lights to students separated from us by a curtain. We were required to create coloured codes for shapes, symbols and letters. We were marked on both accuracy and speed, and we are pleased to report that, with a combined score from another CHAC group, we won the challenge! The challenge offered an opportunity to use creative and logical thinking as well as teamwork skills.

Silver Team

Hermione Knowles-Green, Samantha Milne, Hannah Hammill and Navneet Singh

We were the dedicated Bridge builders of the day, a role held in high esteem by all those present at the competition. Our objective was to create an appropriately-sized bridge to fit a special rig. It has to be strong enough to support an increasing weight carried by a trolley which ran over a metal track supported by the deck of our bridge. This forced us to really work together to form the most successful structure. Seemingly difficult enough, we were also only permitted to use specific materials limited to some balsa wood, paddle pop sticks, paper clips, straws, string and sticky tape. Going into the challenge, we had prepared some ideas regarding the design of our bridge, but after some time (and after countless meticulous measurements) we found our ideas to be not as successful as we’d hoped. Triangles played a significant role in our planning due to their strength and shape, but our limited resources and required precision challenged the basic design we had hoped to utilise. Therefore, instead of going for the more generic, rectangular prism shaped bridge, we turned ours into a triangular prism and in doing so maintained the strength and stability of the triangle. This was extremely successful as it was robust enough to place the metal deck across for the cart to move along.

After a stressful yet fulfilling day of designing, making and testing our bridge, and after most of scores from the other challenges had been tallied, it was time to test each bridge in front of everyone. There was no denying the levels of adrenaline pulsing through both the crowd and the bridge builders, as scores were close. Our bridge was successful, achieving enough points for CHAC to win the entire competition.

Individual comments

A highlight of my day was discussing my future with a biomedical engineer, as she gave me excellent advice about the difference between universities that offer a biomedical engineering course. I am grateful for this opportunity and hope to be involved in similar challenges in the future.

Annelies Alcorn, Year 10

I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to participate in the Science and Engineering challenge this year. The knowledge and insight that I have gained into both the science and engineering sectors is truly invaluable.

Ella Greenaway, Year 10