Giant catapults, racing airplanes, bionic hands with moveable fingers and intricate light coding – in an exciting day of learning Year 9 students at St John the Evangelist Catholic High School Nowra challenged their imaginations in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) during their immersion day.
As this video shows, the resulting projects pushed the limits of their skill, innovation... and gravity!
Organised by the school, the aim of the immersion was to engage students in four different STEM activities, each testing and exposing them to different competencies.
The focus of the day was small group activities that required students to think on their feet, with an emphasis on collaborative teamwork, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking.
The young inventors were given four scenarios to tackle across the categories of bionics, coding, ‘skylap’ and catapult. The challenges included: designing fingers for a bionic hand to give independence back to patients who have lost a hand through injury or illness; devising an alphanumeric code using coloured lights that allowed them to send and receive messages; making a simple but fast aircraft; or constructing a catapult that was accurate over a distance.
In the changing landscape of today’s – and tomorrow’s – workforce, such skills may enhance employability when looking to apply for jobs. In contemporary Australia, STEM education is vital as it underpins our economic and social growth and will provide some of the most exciting employment opportunities for the children in our schools.
“This initiative helps children to understand that when they leave school, some careers may include all of the STEM subjects,” said St John’s teacher, Kristy Hall, “The aim of our immersion day was to help students to work through something from beginning to end without the time constraints of a normal lesson block.”
The Year 9 STEM immersion was planned to support the learning of students in the classroom and to promote an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths beyond the classroom context.
The benefits of offering such a day for students include:
- Challenging student perception around STEM
- Offering a different perspective and experience
- Opportunity to work with other students that they may not have collaborated with previously
- Having fun while learning differently
- Building resilience
- Promoting problem solving and thinking
- Learning by doing
- Creating a spark of interest in some students
- Incorporating the ideas of others into their own.
The scale of the day – 320 students took part this year – means that activities like these are open to a wider number of students.
What the Year 9 students said:
“It was actually kind of fun and challenged my thinking.”
“I didn’t think that I could work with people I didn’t know so well.”
“I learnt a lot more than I thought I would.”
“I didn’t think the activities would be as engaging as they were.”
“It was more fun than expected. Can we do one of these days each term?”
“I was surprised about the coding, but I enjoyed the activity as it was interesting.”
“Our science teachers wanted all of their students to have the opportunity to experience STEM in this wider context,” said organiser, St John's Science Coordinator, Charlie Coulson-Knight who, for many years, has involved students in STEM activities, initiatives and competitions.
“Next year we’re planning on moving the activity to Stage 4 (prior to students selecting their elective subjects), so another 350 students in Years 8 and 9 can take part, although some of the activities on the day may change.”
At the conclusion of the event, data was collected on the students’ perceptions. “From the feedback, 87 per cent of Year 9 students stated that their interest in STEM has increased as a result of this experience,” added Mr Coulson-Knight.
As students moved between their different challenges, enthusiasm rose. “This day was much better than a regular school day, we had to really collaborate in our teams, which was hard too as we had different ideas,” said Year 9 student Liam, whose first task involved developing a unique code.
“The catapult was not at all what I was expecting. We had to design, build, test and modify a large catapult; we had to think outside the box! The skylap was so much fun, as we were flying a plane inside 90 minutes that we built ourselves. The bionic hand was the most challenging and difficult of the tasks and required the most concentration.”