The Science and Engineering Challenge is a nationwide STEM program presented by the University of Newcastle in partnership with various clubs, universities and sponsors. Students experience aspects of science and engineering that they would not usually see in their school environment. They compete against other schools in fun and engaging hands-on activities such as designing an earthquake-proof tower, building a hovercraft or bridge, or providing electricity to a city. Typically eight schools of 32 students (256 students in total) compete in a Challenge Day. Points are awarded based on their performance and the school with the highest point score at the end of the day is the winner. Eight winning schools from around Australia are invited to compete at a one-day National Final each year. In 2019, CHAC qualified for the National Finals, but unfortunately was unable to attend as they were held in Bunbury, W.A. This year CHAC won its Challenge Day.
RED TEAM: Aidan Branch, Thomas Molesworth, Mateo Mullens, Matthew Ralston
On Thursday 13 February, a group of 32 CHAC students boarded the train to the city to explore and learn about the world of science. This time though, it was a competition. Seven schools, including ours, ventured into the QUT campus where we split into teams to compete to gain the highest number of points and bragging rights.
The first task our team undertook, Future Power, illustrated how Australia and its industries and sectors controlled and sourced energy. In this activity, we had to supply power to Future City, a bustling town in need of an energy supply to run. 12 scenarios were used, in which we had to find the cheapest combination of energy supplies, before delivering the electricity into the power grid to gain points. To do this we used switches and dials, which controlled the load and the flow. However, if the difference between the load and supply was too large, then the system would overload, and the town would shut down only for us to start again. We found that it was only with concentrating and teamwork, in particular communicating quickly and accurately when to flick switches and turn dials, that we could succeed in delivering the electricity to Future City and gain points for CHAC.
In the afternoon session, we were tasked with designing and building a water turbine. We were given one and a half hours to design, build and test our turbine, with the highest number of points gained from one test taken as our final score. It was difficult to design a turbine, as we were given limited resources; three Styrofoam trays, ten paddle-pop sticks and four metres of masking tape. Once we had built our turbine, it had to be secured to an axle for testing in the testing rig. The rig used a pump to shoot water at the turbine and used an Arduino to measure the number of revolutions the axle completed. We determined the best ratio of weight, mass and surface area on which the water would land on and our final test recorded a large 1420 points. It was a fun, challenging and enjoyable experience in which we learnt how to apply our knowledge to create real designs.
To finish the day off, we watched the bridges built by other teams be tested under weights. In spectacular fashion and fist-clenching excitement, they all eventually collapsed with great spectacle. We thank Ms Ellyett and all the staff who allowed us to go, QUT and all the people who helped to run it. It was a fantastic and interesting day, and we all had a blast.
PINK TEAM: Alison De La Cruz, Lilly Ford, Ambryn Parenti, Mia Plevey
The QUT STEM and engineering Challenge Day was an interactive, insightful and engaging day shared with Year 10 students from other schools. Our group chose a full-day experience designing and constructing a remote-controlled hovercraft. Aero-dynamic models such as aero-planes, helicopters and boats formed the basis of our design. Working in teams of four, we constructed our hovercraft using an electronic lift fan, two propellers, a Styrofoam tray and even a tube skirt for the hover effect. Our hovercraft, nicknamed 'KM', passed both the speed test and an obstacle course which increased in difficulty. KM passed successfully. All CHAC teams competed with focus and strategy, ensuring CHAC was the overall winning school on the day. Thank you to Ms Ellyett for organising this challenging STEM opportunity.
BLUE TEAM: Amelia Beveridge, Andriana Caltabiano, Libby Elliott, Cordelia Jeffery-McNamara
The first session of the QUT Science and Engineering Competition tasked the ‘blue’ teams to create two towers from various materials as part of the Helter Skelter Challenge. The first tower – created using four sheets of A4 printing paper, eight paper straws, three metres of tape and a wooden base – underwent static testing of numerous weights; the results from the first tower allowed students to learn from their idea’s strengths and flaws, so that they could create their second tower with an idea of what kind of structure would be most successful. The second tower was built with the same materials, except its purpose was to withstand both weight and an artificial earthquake. Overall, the Helter Skelter Challenge encouraged our team to cooperate on designing, creating and reflecting on our towers, which enhanced our capabilities of working in a team.
YELLOW TEAM: Victoria Anderson-Bond, Claire Barker, Mikayla Davies, Amelie Wiemers
The Science and Engineering Challenge at QUT was a testing yet undeniably amazing day for all involved. Competing against teams from schools across Brisbane, our team undertook two challenges, the first of which was to create a bionic hand out of straws, string, coffee stirrers, masking tape, rubber bands and a piece of PVC pipe. The goal was to produce a hand that looked and acted like a human hand – five fingers that could grasp objects and spring backwards, palm and size. Though we were pressed for time and faced several setbacks, our team banded together and built a hand that successfully completed almost all the checks given to us to test our creation.
After a short lunch break, our group returned to compete in the next challenge – Stringways. We had to connect small nails on a board with different coloured string in a set of scenarios, some of which we couldn’t cross coloured string, had to follow set lines on the board and could only connect blue or red towns in an alternating order. It was a lot of fun and we managed to complete all 12 scenarios, which had not been done that morning or the day before. All in all, we enjoyed this day to develop our engineering and scientific skills, and to learn more about opportunities we had if we chose to follow a career in science or engineering.
ORANGE TEAM: Charlie Fraser, Abbey Jackson, Liley Smith, Bethany Walsh
During the Science and Engineering Challenge, the orange team participated in two events; building a turbine and future power. Our first event – building a turbine – required us to build a lightweight and efficient hydro-power turbine out of Styrofoam and paddle pop sticks within 45 minutes. Our turbine would then do a test run in a hydro-power simulator and give us a score on its performance. Our team enjoyed the friendly competition amongst the other schools, and we were very proud of our final product. This event tested our engineering skills in a challenging, yet enjoyable way.
The second event we participated in was future power. This required our team to use an electronic board with different power sources to simulate powering a real-life city. We were given a set of scenarios which we then had to carry out on the power board. It was very technical as we constantly had to be super careful not to overload the city and start again. This tested our communication skills and it required lots of patience, but it was still enjoyable. Our team was delighted to be offered this opportunity and we were very proud to take home a win.
GREEN TEAM: Damon Andrews, Ella Cunningham, Tristan Minott, Patrick Malloy
Last week, a group of very privileged Year 10 students participated in the QUT Science and Engineering Challenge. After arriving at QUT, we were divided into our teams and set off determined to uphold the standards of the previous Cannon Hill Anglican College teams who had been so successful. We were placed in the green team and were set to undertake our first task named ‘stringways’.
Stringways aimed to develop train networks in a series of towns in the most efficient way possible. The activity involved a large wooden board with 78 screws attached (each representing a town). The towns were connected by lengths of coloured string that represented a railway track. The string was round around the screws and the hope was to connect all towns with the most string left over at the end. Points were awarded for string leftover and points were deducted for any towns missed in the network. With many other complex rules, the green team managed to prevail and have great success in our teamwork and problem-solving skills.
We were lucky enough to compete in the Grasping at Straws activity in the afternoon session of the challenge. In this activity, we were required to create a functioning hand out of recycled materials including straws, masking tape, string and cotton wool. The aim of the activity was to be able to pick up certain objects with the hand and articulate letters in sign language, which proved to be an extremely difficult task for all teams. During this activity, we found that communication, teamwork and determination together helped us to achieve the best results. Although the sign language component proved very challenging for our team, we found the most promising results in the grasping part of the activity and were able to pick up most of the objects in the motor skills component of the challenge. Overall, we were all very happy with our team’s collective efforts and were grateful to have been a part of such an amazing experience!
PURPLE TEAM: Alice Dagwell, Libby Donnan, Charlotte Hansen, Hannah Robinson
The first activity the purple group participated in was a communication challenge, “Confounding Communications” where the team was split in half – one side receiving and one side sending signals. Two beams of optic fibres were set up across the table, each attached to the switchboard with buttons, which when pressed, sent a specific coloured light across the optic fibre. Each team was given multiple symbols which they would have to communicate through the formation of a code using the colours. For example, a ‘dash’ may have been communicated by 2 yellow flashes. A black curtain was drawn horizontally across the table and the senders had to communicate the given symbols to the receivers who had to write it down. The challenge was scored based upon time and accuracy. Our team achieved 100% accuracy in all the challenges set and our time significantly improved as we familiarised ourselves with the challenge. This activity relied on advanced communication skills and clarity within the team. Additionally, our team created other information that could be said such as ‘start again’ and ‘didn’t understand’ to enhance our accuracy. Moreover, we constructed a system where the receiver always communicated back what they saw to the senders for clarification and to ensure the senders knew when to move on to the next symbol. This was an extremely fun and insightful activity highlighting the importance of clear communication and teamwork.
SILVER TEAM: Lily Chippendale, Sarah Findlay, Maggie Ngan, Tayah Uren
On 13 February, 32 Year 10 students competed in the Brisbane round of the Science and Engineering Challenge. We split into groups of four and spent the day doing engineering activities to gain points for our school. We chose to participate in the full-day activity ‘Bridge’. True to its name, the aim of ‘Bridge’ was to build a bridge to carry as much weight as possible. Of course, in order to make this bridge, we needed the best materials. QUT provided each team with 10 meters of masking tape (sounds like a lot, but it’s not), three sheets of flimsy cardboard and 30 odd paddle pop sticks. And this is how Bridgette the Bridge was ‘born’. In two one and a half hour sessions, we designed, constructed, pulled apart, redesigned, reconstructed, and finalised our Bridge. With much love and care, we placed Bridgette before the judges and the testing began. Bridgette was able to carry five ingots (as well as the trolley). She tried her best, but carrying the super ingot proved to be too much, and with much sorrow and despair, she collapsed. On a lighter note, CHAC placed second in this event and went on to place first overall. A massive thank you to all the teams that participated in this challenge (from CHAC and the other schools), Mrs Ellyett and Mrs Stephens, as well as the amazing QUT staff and volunteers. Also thank you to the caterers provided by QUT – your lunches are the best!