Schools Plus - Smart Giving

Are you considering a STEM project for your school which involves purchasing STELR equipment?

The Schools Plus Smart Giving program, connects schools in disadvantaged communities across Australia with individuals, businesses and foundations who are passionate about education.

Schools in disadvantaged communities have the opportunity to design and develop a project exploring creative, progressive approaches in education and which aims to significantly improve students engagement in learning.

Successful projects will be funded for between $10,000 and $30,000 for individual schools and up to $50,000 for a school cluster project (5 - 10 schools).

Applications are now open and close at noon(AEST) on Friday 28 April 2017.


Aurizon Community Giving Fund 2017

Do you know a school that would like to apply for funding to purchase STELR  equipment?

Aurizon is Australia’s largest rail freight operator with almost 150 years of experience.
The Aurizon Community Giving Fund provides cash grants in local communities in which Aurizon operates and their employees reside:

  • North, Central, South West and South East Queensland
  • Hunter Valley/Newcastle
  • Melbourne
  • Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, and Perth in Western Australia

Funding categories include:

  • education support in areas such as literacy and numeracy, life education, apprenticeships and traineeships, and in particular, increasing and retaining skills in regional areas.
  • environment support including environmental education.

Applications close at 5pm Friday 28 April 2017.

New grants announced for Maker Projects

The Australian Government will provide $4 million over the next four years for eligible Australian schools and community organisations to set up dedicated maker spaces to offer students the ability to develop STEM skills through hands on experience in aspects of design, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Around 75 per cent of the jobs of the future will require qualifications in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.  Therefore it is crucial we equip Australian schools with the right tools to encourage young people to engage with a range of technologies that will prepare them for the workforce of the 21st Century.

Maker Projects will offer grants of between $2 000 and $5 000 for schools to cover the costs of tools, equipment such as STELR kits, specialised furniture and consumables needed to establish maker spaces that encourage STEM experimentation and tinkering in a supervised and accessible environment.

Maker Project grants will be allocated over the next four years to eligible applicants on a ‘first in basis’ until the annual allocation is exhausted.  

To apply and for more information visit

Call for inspiring teachers of science

Each year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best science teachers along with scientists and innovators, through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

There are two $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Excellence in Science Teachingprimary and secondary—awarded to teachers who are dedicated to effective and innovative science teaching.

Other prizes include

  • $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
  • $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • $50,000 Prize for New Innovators.

The awards will be presented at a gala dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra, where the leaders of science, industry, education and government will have the chance to meet the recipients.

Nominations close at 5 pm Canberra time, Wednesday 12 April 2017.

It’s simple to nominate in the first (shortlisting) stage, with an online form. If a nomination is shortlisted, further material will be required in the final stage.

For eligibility, selection criteria, nomination guidelines and forms, visit: or call 13 28 46.

To read more about past recipients and the awards dinner visit:

Solar Powered Trams?

The Victorian government has recently released tenders for large-scale solar plants, bringing forward $150 million of new capital investment and creating around 300 jobs in regional Victoria.

The Solar Certificate Tender will build up to 75 MW of new solar projects, which will generate enough power to supply more than 15,000 homes or a town the size of Mildura.

The government estimates that the new regional solar projects will deliver $150 million in new investments, create around 300 jobs and will result in a reduction of more than 80,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year, keeping Victoria on track to meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2050. It is predicted that the first large scale solar farm will be finalised by the end of 2018.

Around 35 MW of the new capacity will be linked to Melbourne’s trams, generating enough energy to power the entire tram network.

Photo Credit: Yarra Trams

Photo Credit: Yarra Trams

Victorian government has also recently announced the state’s 130,000 solar households would receive fair compensation for the power they provide to the grid with a minimum feed-in tariff rate of 11.3 c/kWh. This is more than twice the current 5 c/kWh feed-in tariff, and great news for homeowners and PV installers.

STELR Teacher in the Top 10

STELR would like to congratulate Dr Ken Silburn who has been shortlisted as one of the 10 finalists in the international Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize. The prize was first awarded in 2015 after being set up by the Varkey Foundation with an aim of shining a spotlight on the great work of and changing the way the world looks at teachers. The prize is valued at $US1 million and the winner will be announced on 19 March at the Global Education Skills Conference in Dubai.

Ken will be travelling to Dubai via India and he is taking STELR equipment to the Pitts Modern School in Gomia, India. Gomia is in the north-eastern state of Jharkhand and is the site of Orica’s India Explosives Limited factory.

The Pitts Modern School received STELR Renewable Energy Kits in 2015 with assistance from STELR principal sponsor, Orica. A teacher from the school Mr S. D. Prasad also received STELR professional learning when he travelled to the Philippines in 2015. Ken will be delivering STELR solar cars and other equipment for the school as well as working with teachers and students on STEM activities over two days.

Ken is the Head Teacher Science at Casula High School in NSW, which has been a STELR school since 2013. He is also president of the Metropolitan South West Science Teachers Association (LAZSTA), coordinator and founder of the iSTEM project and a member of the Mars One Advisory Board. He won the 2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

National Youth Science Forum for January 2018

2017 NYSF Group

2017 NYSF Group

Teachers may wish to encourage students currently in Year 11 to apply to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in January 2018. The program has expanded with an additional 200 places being made available next year. Two sessions will be held in Canberra and one in Brisbane.

Applications open on Wednesday 1 March and close on 31 May 2017.

You can see videos about the NYSF experience here:

Video 1      Video 2       Video 3

I had the privilege and pleasure to be invited to the NYSF Science Dinner in January this year and found it inspiring to meet some of the Year 11 students participating. They were all passionate about science and technology were obviously enjoying the new friendships they were making.

You can find out more at the NYSF website.

A new material in solar cell design

They’re flexible, cheap to produce and simple to make – which is why perovskites are the hottest new material in solar cell design. Engineers at the University of New South Wales have achieved a new world efficiency record in solar cell design.

Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, Senior Research Fellow at the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering and Program Manager for Perovskite Solar Cell Research at the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), has claimed for UNSW the highest efficiency rating with the largest perovskite solar cells to date.

She said her UNSW team had achieved a 12.1 per cent efficiency rating for a 16 cm2 perovskite solar cell, the largest single perovskite photovoltaic cell certified with the highest energy conversion efficiency, independently confirmed by the international testing centre in Bozeman, Montana.

“Perovskites came out of nowhere in 2009, with an efficiency rating of 3.8 per cent, and have since grown in leaps and bounds. These results place UNSW amongst the best groups in the world producing state-of-the-art high performance perovskite solar cells. And I think we can get to 24 per cent within a year or so.”

Perovskite is the fastest-advancing solar technology to date, and is attractive because the compound is cheap to produce and simple to manufacture, and can even be sprayed onto surfaces.

Although perovskites hold much promise for cost-effective solar energy, they are currently prone to fluctuating temperatures and moisture, making them last only a few months without protection. Dr Ho-Baillie’s team is working to extend perovskites durability.

Most of the world’s commercial solar cells are made from a refined, highly purified silicon crystal and, like the most efficient commercial silicon cells (known as PERC cells and invented at UNSW), need to be baked above 800˚C in multiple high temperature steps.

Perovskites are made at low temperatures and are 200 times thinner than silicon cells.

Perovskite is a mineral of calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3) that was discovered in the Ural Mountains in 1839 and named for Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski. Now the term ‘perovskite’ refers to any mineral with the same type of crystal structure as CaTiO3.

“We will capitalise on the advantages of perovskites and continue to tackle issues important for commercialisation, like scaling to larger areas and improving cell durability,” said ATSE Fellow, Professor Martin Green AM, Director of ACAP.

Anita Ho-Baillie with Martin Green.

Anita Ho-Baillie with Martin Green.

New STEM Careers Resource

Australia's Science Channel has launched the ultimate destination to give students the best start to finding a career.

Ultimate Careers is a FREE collection of tools, including a magazine, app and designated channel on Australia's Science Channel, designed to help your students discover their interests and investigate career options.

The app allows users to play a game to discover their interests and the types of careers they could pursue based on those interests. The Ultimate Careers magazine (previously Ultimate Science Guide) helps readers navigate the next step by offering study tips, highlighting success stories and outlining hot options for future careers; and the Ultimate Careers channel provides students with a selection of inspiring videos and articles from people working within STEM fields.

Opportunity for students in the Brisbane area

As part of the World Science Festival Brisbane, students or teams of students can enter the Energy Innovation Challenge. The competition involves submitting a pitch ideas about energy sustainability via an on-line entry. Successful pitches will be chosen to be presented in person at the World Science Festival.


If you are interested, expressions of interest must be submitted by Thursday 2 February 2017, with the pitch to be submitted by 24 February 2017.