Australian Student Wins Top Prize

 Meghana Bollimpalli, Oliver Nicholls, and Dhruvik Parikh won the top awards at the Intel ISEF 2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC/CHRIS AYERS PHOTOGRAPHY.

Meghana Bollimpalli, Oliver Nicholls, and Dhruvik Parikh won the top awards at the Intel ISEF 2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC/CHRIS AYERS PHOTOGRAPHY.

Congratulations to Oliver Nicholls who was awarded first place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania earlier this month.

Oliver is from STELR school, Barker College in Hornsby, NSW and he designed a drone-like, robotic window cleaner for commercial buildings.

The fair is the largest pre-university science competition in the world. Oliver received the Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000 USD named in honour of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.

Find out more at the Society for Science and the Public website.

Australian Science Olympiads

Help us find Australia's next Science Olympians.

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Sitting the Australian Science Olympiad Exams is the first step in being selected to represent Australia at the International Science Olympiads. Australian Science Innovators are on the lookout for Year 10-11 students who enjoy going beyond school science and have what it takes to take on the ultimate science challenge in August. Students can sit more than one discipline (Biology, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Science and Physics) and could be one step closer to reaching their Science Olympiad dreams.

Hurry, registrations close 18 July 2018.

Access FREE teacher resources here:  

Learn more at

Honour for 'Big Data' Expert

Congratulations to ATSE Fellow, Professor Svetha Venkatesh who was recently inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

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Professor Venkatesh is the Director of the Centre for Pattern Recognition and Data Analytics (PRaDA) at Deakin University. Her work has resulted in a number of start-up companies including:

  • iCetana which uses artificial intelligence to monitor large video surveillance networks to find anomalies and detect potential security threats.
  • Toby Playpad app which allows parents to provides therapy for children with autism and monitor their progress.

Science Writing Competition for Students

The University of New South Wales is hosting the Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing.

The 2018 Theme is ‘Technology & Tomorrow’

It is an essay competition aimed at students in years 7 to 10 from all states in Australia, which asks students to write an essay (800 words or less) about the impacts of a particular technology on society. Teachers' notes, information for parents and consent forms as well as hints and tips for students are found on the website.

Applications close on 28 August, so there is plenty of time to get you students involved.

The prizes are named for Australia's first Nobel Laureates, William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg.

The Griffith STEM Showcase - May and June 2018

An opportunity for students, parents and teachers in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The Griffith University Sciences Group is once again hitting the road to encourage students to future-proof their career by studying STEM. The showcase is touring Cairns, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay and Darwin. Interactive evenings are being held to help you to gain an understanding of the exciting STEM-related degrees offered at Griffith University's Brisbane, Gold Coast and Logan campuses.

Cairns – 10 May 2018
Toowoomba – 15 May 2018
Mackay – 29 May 2018
Rockhampton - 30 May 2018
Darwin – 13 June 2018 

TIME:        3:30 pm to 7 pm with presentations at 4 pm and 6 pm
COST:      FREE                   

Register at -

STELR - 10 years on

10 years ago, Chief Scientist of Australia and former ATSE President Dr Alan Finkel spearheaded STELR – an ATSE initiative bringing relevant applications of STEM to secondary schools.
He reflects on a decade of STELR’s pioneering success.

I had only just been elected a Fellow of ATSE. I agreed to attend the education committee meeting. In front of us was a stack of papers describing the 200 or so known extracurricular science and technology activities for Australian school students.

 Alan Finkel at Kilbreda College in 2010

Alan Finkel at Kilbreda College in 2010

The problem? Performance and participation rates were down; there were insufficient primary and secondary school teachers with a science degree; job security in science careers was perceived by high school students to be marginal; and the science curriculum at schools did not engage the interest of many of our brightest students.

The challenge? A contribution by ATSE, perhaps by recommending or backing one or more of the existing programs.

So with the naivety of a new recruit, I asked: what’s the point? If collectively these 200 activities had not helped so far, we needed to do something different.

The key, I discovered, was relevance. Our kids were growing up in a wealthy, comfortable society. Complacency was knocking at the door. Far from being under pressure from their parents to be a doctor or a lawyer (which was the encouragement I had from my immigrant parents), their parents were encouraging them to follow their passion.

Passion often comes from a calling for the arts, music or sport, but for many young people, it comes from the dream of growing up to solve real-world problems.

Wondering what was in the minds of our school students, I found the answers in the 2006 Australian Childhood Foundation survey of what concerned 14 year-olds. Top of the list was the death of parents, second was being bullied at school and third was climate change.

The Education Committee agreed it was appropriate for ATSE to develop a program, and that it should be at a national scale. We further decided that to truly engage the students, there should be a hands-on component. We had to develop a kit of equipment for every school. But equipment, context and content were not enough.

We knew teachers were central, thus there was a need to provide professional development.

The program had had two goals. First, to capture the interest of engaged students who might consider a science or engineering career. Second, to introduce all students to real-world science and technology, so that even if they did not choose a science or engineering career, at least they had an appreciation for the power of science.

To meet the second goal, it was essential that the decision to participate was at the school level, so that when the school put up its hand to take part, every student in Year 8 or Year 9 was in the program.

But equipment, context and content were not enough. We knew teachers were central, thus there was a need to provide professional development.

In a presentation to ATSE Fellows in 2007, I said:

  • When conventional experiments are taught, students often ask, “So what?” STELR will use extremely relevant technology to teach fundamental principles of science. 
  • A classic billiard ball experiment is just science; a STELR wind turbine experiment is science with a job prospect.
  • Advances in science rely on technology, so why not use technology to help teach science?

I am delighted that there are now approximately 630 Australian STELR schools (nearly a quarter of all secondary schools in Australia) and nearly 40 international STELR schools.

As a footnote, today I am chairing a project for the State, Territory and Commonwealth Education Ministers to look into optimising the ways in which schools partner with industry to teach STEM. I’ve participated in consultations in every state and territory and, among many themes, one that consistently emerges is the need for science teaching to have relevance. And so it was, and so it is, and so it will be.

Adapted from an article written by Alan Finkel and published in ATSE’s magazine, Focus, Number 206, April 2018.

Global Day of the Engineer

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Wednesday 4 April is Global Day of the Engineer, being hosted by DiscoverE (formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation). Their website includes heaps of resources to help engage students in activities that help explain the work of engineers. You can discover 10 reasons to love engineering, read  engineering career profiles and case studies of cool engineering projects.

Or just say thank you to an engineer that you know!


Rube Goldberg machines and music

The band, OK Go have their own education website called OK GO Sandbox, where they explain how they made the videos that accompany three songs:

The One Moment

This Too Shall Pass


In particular the video accompanying This Too Shall Pass features a Rube Goldberg Machine giving great examples of energy transfers and transformations. The resource includes a Q&A about the making of the videos, as well as student challenges. In addition to being useful for teaching energy concepts, there are some great activities based around sound in particular and they help to put the Arts into STEM….. STEAM.

 We want to give teachers whatever tools they need to connect the joy, wonder, and fun in our videos to the underlying concepts that their students are learning.  DAMIAN KULASH, OK GO

We want to give teachers whatever tools they need to connect the joy, wonder, and fun in our videos to the underlying concepts that their students are learning.


National Youth Science Forum Year 12 Program

Applications now open for 2019

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) Year 12 Program is a 12-day residential program designed to give students a broader understanding of the diverse study and career options available in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to encourage them to continue their studies in these fields.

Applications are now open for the next program which will be held during January 2019. Teachers may wish to encourage students who are currently in Year 11 to apply to attend.

There will be three separate sessions held, two in Canberra and one in Brisbane.

A suite of videos explaining the program and giving feedback from both teachers and students can be found here.

You can find out about eligibility and how to apply here

Applications close on 31 May 2018.

Aurizon Community Giving Fund

An opportunity for schools in Newcastle, southern Western Australia and Queensland wishing to apply for funding for STELR equipment.

Since 2011, transport business Aurizon, has been giving back to its local communities, supporting hundreds of community groups in the areas of health and wellbeing, community safety, environment and education.

The 2018 Aurizon Community Giving Fund is now open and cash grant of up to $20,000 can be applied for if you are situated within the areas that Aurizon operates including:

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  • Hunter/Newcastle in NSW
  • Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Perth and Esperance in WA
  • North, Central, South-East and South-West Qld.

You can see more details here

Applications close on Friday 27 April, 2018.