Orica sponsorship for Casula HS students

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Students from Casula High School headed off to China to participate in the ‘Belt and Road’ Teenage Maker Camp and Teacher workshop. The workshop, in Beijing, runs from 17 to 22 December and is hosted by the Ministry if science and technology of the People’s Republic of China and the China Association for Science and Technology.

The Belt and Road is an initiative of the Chinese government to develop infrastructure connections between Asia and Europe.

The competition aims to strengthen communications and cooperation between China and countries along the Belt and Road and also to inspire innovation in young people in the region.

Through our connections with learned science and technology academies and our principal sponsor Orica, STELR was able to assist with organising for Orica to sponsor a team of Casula High School girls to attend the maker camp. Casula High School has been a STELR School since 2013 and we would like to thank Ken Silburn, Head Teacher Science, for assisting with organising the trip.

New STELR resources now on-line

Water in the 21st century

The teacher and student books for the new STELR module, Water in the 21st Century are now on-line and available to be downloaded by teachers

An equipment kit to accompany this module is in development and will be available in 2018. However, many of the activities can be completed with everyday equipment items.

This STELR module was produced as part of the Southern Cross University Project Inspiring Science and Mathematics Education and was partially funded by the Australian Government Department of Education through the Australian Maths and Science Partnerships Program.

The student book has also been translated into Indonesian.

Climate change and health

A slide show about the effect of climate change on vector-borne diseases such as malaria is available here.

Smart window glass

New technologies sometimes arise when two (or more) existing technologies are combined. This is such a story.

Thermochromic windows (sometimes called ‘smart windows) are ones that respond to heat by becoming tinted, thus filtering out sunlight on hot days, reducing energy consumption and enhancing the comfort of occupants.

There are also solar windows that can convert solar energy to electrical energy. These windows usually only convert a very small fraction of the visible light allowing the majority to pass through providing enough light for the building occupants to see. The result is a very low efficiency in the conversion of solar energy to electrical energy.

Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the USA have combined these two technologies to develop thermochromic windows that convert the absorbed sunlight into electricity as they darken. The resulting product acts as an efficient solar cell when it is very sunny and a good window when it is not.

Image credit: Denis Schroeder/NREL

Image credit: Denis Schroeder/NREL

The original paper was published in Nature Communications.

STELR Presents STEM training for South-East Asian teachers

Last week STELR presented a 5-day training workshop on behalf of the South East Asia Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO). The training was held in Bandung, Indonesia, where SEAMEO’s regional centre for Quality Improvement of Teachers and Education Personnel (QITEP) in science is based. Over 40 teachers attended from nine different countries including Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, as well as two countries out of the region, Maldives and Pakistan.

STELR staff, Peter Pentland and Pennie Stoyles presented sessions along with Dr Greg Smith from Charles Darwin University, Connie Cirkony from Deakin University and Simone Blom from Southern Cross University. Greg, Connie and Simone are education professionals who have been involved in writing for STELR over the past few years.

The sessions focused on developing conceptual understandings through representations, inquiry-based learning and hands-on activities to promote collaborative learning and working scientifically.


STELR would like to acknowledge Orica who has sponsored class sets of STELR equipment to a further four schools in Bontang, Indonesia and to thank their Orica subsidiary, PT Kaltim Nitrate, who sponsored teachers from these four new schools to attend the training.

The STELR STEM Training workshop also received grant funding from the Australia-Indonesia Institute of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

STELR presenters and teachers from Bontang, Indonesia

STELR presenters and teachers from Bontang, Indonesia

New STELR Multimeters


STELR is happy to announce that from 2018, the current STELR multimeters are being replaced with updated ranging multimeters,

The new multimeters can detect and measure any DC voltage within the range of 0 – 1000V and resistance from 0 – 40 M ohm, without having to select a specific range on the rotary dial.

As current cannot be measured using one setting, there are three settings: microamps, milliamps and amps.

Although not required as part of STELR activities, the meters can also be used to measure AC voltage, capacitance, and frequency and for testing transistors and diodes.

Detailed instructions for the use of the new multimeters will be published on the STELR Website in time for the new school year.

Pink greenhouses

Plants grown in this 'smart' greenhouse fared as well or better than plants grown in conventional greenhouses. (Photo by Nick Gonzales)

Plants grown in this 'smart' greenhouse fared as well or better than plants grown in conventional greenhouses. (Photo by Nick Gonzales)

Researchers at the University of California have developed electricity-generating solar greenhouses that are magenta coloured. The magenta luminescent dye in the roof panels selectively absorbs light of specific wavelengths and transfers the energy to a new type of photovoltaic cell called Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs). Light in the green and blue part of the spectrum is absorbed to generate electricity more efficiently than conventional PV systems. While plants do not utilise green light (which is why they look green) they do use blue light, so the researchers were interested to find out if the plants raised in the ‘pinkhouses’ were as healthy as those grown in conventional greenhouses. They found that, in most cases, plants grew as well in the ‘pinkhouses’ and some even grew better. An additional bonus was that the ‘pinkhouse’-raised plants required 5% less water.

You can see a video explaining the technology here. The original article was published in the journal, Earth’s Future.

GE unveils its largest onshore wind turbine

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GE Renewable Energy has unveiled its new 4.8–158 onshore wind turbine, its largest high- efficiency turbine to date, targeting low to medium wind speed sites, such as those found in Australia.

The new 4.8MW wind turbine, GE's first onshore entry in the 4MW space, is equipped with a 158-metre diameter rotor and a range of tip heights up to 240 meters.

It features high-tech blades, improved loads and controls, and taller, more cost-effective towers. Danish company, LM Wind Power, developed the 77-meter-long blades. The carbon blades enable flexibility, allowing GE to offer its customers a high-efficiency product while continuing to drive down levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).

The turbine meets a lower standard of noise emission levels, achieving a 104-dB level during normal operations, and facilitates up-tower repairs and troubleshooting with an up-tower electrical system.

GE Renewable Energy, with more than 22,000 employees in more than 55 countries, has installed more than 400 gigawatts (GW) of capacity globally.

In June last year STELR News reported that LM Wind Power had developed the world’s longest wind turbine blade (88.4 metres). It is used for offshore wind turbines.

Prime Minister's Prizes for Science

STELR would like to congratulate all the winners of the 2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science.

In particular we would like to congratulate Mr Brett McKay from Kirrawee High School which has been a STELR school since 2012. Brett received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools for his achievements in inspiring his students to love science and to use it in their daily lives. Brett told us that he uses the STELR Renewable Energy Equipment to link the curriculum to relevant and everyday contexts that engage the students.

We would also like to congratulate ATSE Fellow, Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds AO, who won the 2017 Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation. As a young dental researcher, Eric discovered a protein in dairy milk that repairs and strengthens teeth. Today, that protein, sold as Recaldent, is used by millions of people every day as they chew gum and visit the dentist. Products using Recaldent have generated sales of over $2 billion to date, and it has been estimated they’ve saved over $12 billion in dental treatment costs worldwide. Eric's research team at the University of Melbourne  have also developed a test and vaccine for severe gum disease which are now being commercialised by CSL and their partners.

A full list of winners can be seen here.

Lithium mining in WA

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is investing around $20 million into a project producing lithium concentrate – an essential component in electric vehicles and battery storage.

Located about 120km south of Port Hedland in Western Australia, the Pilgangoora open pit lithium mine will produce lithium concentrate that can support a full range of lithium products used in products such as lithium batteries.

Lithium is a vital component in battery storage. Increasing the supply of lithium will help to drive the uptake of clean energy technologies, such as electric cars and battery storage.

This is the Government’s first investment in a mining project of its kind in Western Australia.Construction of the mine is expected to commence in early 2018.

Screen-printing batteries

Ultra-thin, flexible screen-printed batteries for cheap portable devices and intermittent renewable energy are coming closer closer to reality because of a joint University of NSW-University of Queensland project to further develop technology by battery energy storage firm Printed Energy and bring it to market.

Printed Energy is a Brisbane company with patented technologies in printing batteries and photovoltaics and a laboratory in Arizona focused on energy storage and materials science.

The $12 million project received a grant of $2 million from the Cooperative Research Centres Projects scheme.

Printed Energy’s solid state batteries are a thin, flexible format – printed in a roll-to-roll process like a newspaper – that can be adapted to almost any shape. It has potential applications in powering everything from disposable medical devices, smart cards and wearable electronics to large-scale solar panels and energy storage.

“The highly innovative and unique nature of this technology makes it ideal for powering sensors, devices for the Internet or Things, disposable healthcare devices and eventually, even for large-scale application to help manage the intermittent nature of electricity generated by solar panels,” said Mr Rodger Whitby, CEO of Printed Energy.

Professor Mark Hoffman FTSE, UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, agreed.

“Storage has been the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to renewable energy. The world is crying out for storage solutions, and this partnership has the potential to deliver on that urgent need. What’s exciting is that this technology also has immediate applications in wearables and small-scale devices.”

Professor Chris Greig FTSE, Director of University of Queensland’s Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and the UQ Energy Initiative, is also excited about the potential.

“Australia has seen a decline in manufacturing industries in recent decades. This technology represents not just an opportunity for us to be involved in cutting-edge science and innovation, but presents a real opportunity for the next generation of Australian manufacturing.

“Our mission is to foster and facilitate advances in science and engineering which are technologically, economically and socially sustainable. This project fits the bill perfectly and the range of applications is probably only limited by our imaginations,” he added.

First applications of the technology will be in small-scale devices, with development work in large-scale uses to be explored by the partners over the next three years.