14th February 2012

First-hand experience of building bridges, producing power and constructing a propeller for a time machine is firing enthusiasm for careers in science and engineering among high school students visiting QUT this week.

QUT's city campus is hosting more than 200 year 9 and 10 students for the Science and Engineering Challenge on Tuesday and Wednesday (February 14 and 15) where they will spend the day testing their knowledge and piting their skills against teams from other schools to solve a variety of scientific and engineering challenges.

The experience was pivotal in helping former St Patrick's College student Jack Gaffney decide to study engineering at QUT. Now about to start his third year of a Bachelor of Civil Engineering, Jack has volunteered to assist the latest batch of students have a go at the challenges.

"I did the challenge in 2006 when I was in year 9 - we had to make dam wall that could take the most weight out of sugar cubes - that's what made it fun," said Jack, who is working as an undergraduate structural engineer on the Bruce Highway near his home town of Gympie during these holidays.

Using everyday items the teams must design and build planes, bridges, vehicles, eco-houses, and power generators. The challenges are designed to use maths, science and physics on "real life" projects which relate to science and engineering careers.

Every year about 23,000 students from all over Australia take part. The winners from each state and territory compete in the Super Challenge Series in Queensland in August.

QUT Science and Engineering Faculty's Professor Doug Hargreaves said Engineers Australia estimated Australia already needed another 20,000-plus professional engineers and that number will increase.

"More students need to take up maths, science and physics subjects in primary and secondary schools to enter technical careers and ensure Australian-based skills for renewable energy industries, resources, infrastructure and other sectors," he said.

"Programs like the Science and Engineering Challenge help interest students in these subjects. This is one strategy needed to encourage our young people to choose and excel in technical subjects so that they are part of Australia's future technical workforce."

The challenges are:

Gold Fever Bridge building - delivering dynamic load
Mission to Mars Suspension systems - vehicle construction using tension
Eco-Habitech Ecological scale home - reduction of carbon emissions in extreme conditions
Flight of the Navigator Styrofoam plane - flight and landing accuracy
Engineering Game Doll's chair - costs vs. income: prototyping, production and evaluation
Future Power Produce power as cheaply as possible.
Confounding Comms Design an efficient code to send messages with pulse of coloured light.
Back to the Future II Design, construct propeller to accelerate and decelerate a time machine

Participating Schools

Tuesday 14 February

Somerville House (South Brisbane)
St Laurence's College
Mount Gravatt State High School
Kelvin Grove State College
Balmoral State High School
Lourdes Hill College (Hawthorne)
Iona College
Rochedale State High School

Wednesday 15 February
Grace Lutheran College
Pine Rivers State High School
Brisbane Boys' College
Redeemer Lutheran College
AB Paterson - Arundel
Brisbane State High School
Our Lady's College - Annerley

Simone Long, regional chair, QUT Challenge organising committee - 0406 663 081
Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2999.

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