STELR from the 'Kangaroo Country'

M. Jamaluddin Jamal has written a small book about the STELR program after attending the STELR 5-day training workshop held last November in Bandung, Indonesia on behalf of the South East Asia Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO).

The purpose of the book was to share what he learnt with his fellow teachers at SMPN 9 School in Bontang, Indonesia. The book’s title literally  translates to ‘Best Practice – STELR Inspiration Science from Country Kangaroo’.

He was sponsored to attend the workshop by an Orica subsidiary company, PT Kaltim Nitrate. Last year, Orica also sponsored a class set of STELR Renewable Energy equipment for his school and three others in Bontang, bringing the total number of schools supported by Orica in Bontang to nine.

 M. Jamaluddin Jamal (left) is pictured here with Mr Rahmat Haryono who works with PT Kaltim Nitrate's community liaison and corporate social responsibility.

M. Jamaluddin Jamal (left) is pictured here with Mr Rahmat Haryono who works with PT Kaltim Nitrate's community liaison and corporate social responsibility.

Sydney Markets solar

Today, Sydney markets announced that they have switched on Australia’s largest rooftop solar installation. Autonomous Energy recently completed construction of a solar panel array covering a carpark and this, combined with existing rooftop solar panels, brings their total number of solar panels to 8600. This gives the market the capacity to generate more that 3MW, enough energy to power about 730 homes annually. They estimate the reduction in emissions is the equivalent to 4900 tonnes of CO2 each year.

As the market still has plenty of unused roof surface, there are plans to expand its solar arrays in the future.

market roof snip.PNG

Sydney Markets also has an extensive recycling program and sends waste to be processed in a bioreactor to produce additional renewable electricity.

Zayed Future Energy Prize Finalists

Tenison Woods College in Mt Gambier was the host school for the most recent STELR teacher professional learning day. The school recently purchased STELR Renewable Energy and STELR Sustainable Housing class sets. During my visit to Mt Gambier, Sustainability Coordinator, Tom Linnell, explained how students in the school are working with contractors and tradespeople to design clean energy projects to be installed in the school. These include a solar PV array, a wind turbine and a micro-hydro demonstration project.

The school recently won the Mt Gambier Chamber of Commerce Environment and Sustainability Outstanding Business Award in 2017 and were also short–listed for the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize for 2018. During the recent summer holidays, members of the College community travelled to the United Arab Emirates for Abu Dhabi’s ‘Sustainability Week’. Although Tenison Woods College was not ultimately the recipient of the major prize, they sat they will build on the experience and further the College’s awareness and action in the areas of sustainability and student leadership.

Another STELR school, Huonville High School in Tasmania, won the 2017 Zayed Future Energy Global High schools winner (Oceania) in 2017.

Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship project

We are celebrating International Women's Day (March 8) by releasing a sneak preview compilation from our videos of inspiring female scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. These videos, along with accompanying curriculum materials, will be published on the STELR website in the coming months.

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government’s Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Program

Spreading the STELR message in Jakarta

STELR equipment was used in a workshop held on February 24 at the Mutiara Harapan Islamic School in South West Jakarta. The theme of the workshop was Community Building, as the school’s commitment is to build a better society. The program’s overarching theme this year is ‘Our 21st Century Classrooms’.

MH Islamic school.jpg

The workshop was attended by 60 local primary school teachers. It was conducted by Maftuchah Sari, a Physics and Chemistry teacher at the school. Last year Maftuchah Sari attended a five-day STELR STEM teacher-training workshop in Bandung Indonesia and we are very pleased to see that she is spreading the word to primary teachers in her region.

Long-time STELR sponsor Orica, donated one STELR Electricity and Energy student and teacher kit to the school as part of their Global Community program.

Western STELR

Western STELR - the brainchild of ATSE Fellow, Professor Barney Glover, Vice Chancellor of Western Sydney University (WSU), a long-time supporter of STELR - launched on 20 February 2018 in Paramatta.

The program is a partnership between WSU, ATSE and their NSW Division Committee, the NSW Department of Education and supported by the Institute of Education, University College London.

WSU is supporting 10 secondary schools in Western Sydney to participate in the STELR program. This takes the number of NSW schools using at least one STELR equipment pack and associated curriculum materials to over 200. The schools who were supported include: Ashcroft HS, Arthur Phillip HS, Blacktown Boys HS, Doonside Technology HS, Erskine Park HS, Fairvale HS, James Meehan HS, Leumeah HS, Mount Annan HS and Paramatta HS.

WSU will also use STELR kits and curriculum packages in training their Master of Teaching (STEM) and Master of Teaching (secondary science) students. 

 Professor Glover and students from Fairvale High School

Professor Glover and students from Fairvale High School


Powering electric cars – battery or capacitor?

The Guardian has recently reported about researchers in the UK have developed a new polymer to make supercapacitors that could one day replace batteries in electric cars. They claim that the technology could result in electric cars that could travel as far as petrol and diesel vehicles. Another significant advantage is that they could be charged up very quickly; in 10 minutes, compared to the 8 hours it takes to charge lithium-ion batteries in today’s electric vehicles.

The research teams believe that the polymer is more ‘energy dense’ than lithium ion batteries holding 180 watt-hours per kilogram compared with 100 – 120 watt-hours per kilogram for lithium ion.

At this stage, the new polymer has only been used on a very small scale to power a tiny fan or LED. This new technology is yet to be scaled-up for use on vehicles and its cost effectiveness and sustainability have not been tested.

 The underside of the STELR solar car showing the (blue) capacitor.

The underside of the STELR solar car showing the (blue) capacitor.

Users of the STELR Solar Car kits will know that they are fitted with a conventional capacitor that can be charged up from the solar panels or a battery. This allows the solar car to be powered either directly from the Sun or from the capacitors stored charge.

You can hear an interview about the use of supercapacitors to store electrical energy in your home that was aired on ABC Radio Melbourne on 7 March 2018 here.

Queensland Government STEM Awards for Teachers and Students

Awards of $5000 each are on offer across six categories in this year’s Peter Doherty Awards for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education. The Peter Doherty awards recognise students, teachers, schools (both state and non-state), volunteers, mentors and organisations that demonstrate an outstanding and innovative contribution to STEM education in Queensland.

2018 marks the 15th year of the awards named after Professor Peter Doherty, a Brisbane-born Nobel Prize-winning scientist who was educated at Indooroopilly State High School and the University of Queensland.

Students can nominate themselves or schools can nominate students on their behalf.

Awards are offered across the following six categories:

  • Outstanding Senior STEM Student Awards
  • Outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Senior STEM Student Awards
  • Outstanding Teacher of STEM Awards
  •  Outstanding STEM Support Officer Awards
  • STEM Education Partnership Awards
  • Outstanding School  STEM Awards
 In 2002, Australia Post issues a stamp featuring Peter Doherty AC

In 2002, Australia Post issues a stamp featuring Peter Doherty AC

Nominations are now open and close COB Monday 26 March 2018. Winners will be announced at the awards presentation ceremony on Friday 10 August 2018. For more information on how to apply click here.

Battery Technology: Australian innovations

The demand for storage batteries is increasing, both for the storage of renewable energy and to power electric vehicles.

While light-weight batteries are important for portable devices and to a lesser extent, electric vehicles, weight and size constrictions are not as important for many stationary storage options.

Many Australian companies and universities are leading the way in research and development of alternative battery technologies.

Flow batteries

These use liquids rather than solids for the cathode and anode of the battery. The energy storage capacity depends on the amount of liquid. So the bigger the volume of liquid, the more energy that can be stored. If more power is needed, a bigger tank of liquid can be fitted to the system. These batteries can be completely discharged without effecting their ability to be recharged. Two different companies in Australia, Redflow and VSUN Energy are developing a zinc –bromine and a vanadium-based flow battery respectively.

Reusing vehicle batteries

Lithium ion batteries used in electric cars are considered to be at the end of their life when they can only be charged to 80% of their original capacity. This is because their driving range is reduced to 80% and anything below this is deemed unacceptable. However, there are other applications where 80% capacity is acceptable. Relectrify is a start-up company that is looking to help facilitate the transitioning of batteries into a second life as affordable and sustainable household energy storage.

You can read more about these and other battery innovations in this article from The Conversation

Virtual Power plant

Virtual Power Plants made the news last week when the South Australian Government announced that it was set to create the world’s largest virtual power plant. The plan is to provide up to 50,000 households with solar panels and a storage battery. The power generated by the households would not be used directly by those households; instead, it would be fed back into the grid, having the same effect as building a new a 250-megawatt power plant. This is 2.5 times the power of the Tesla Neoen big battery commissioned at Hornsdale in SA last year.  As a pay-back for ‘hosting’ the solar panels and batteries, householders would expect to receive a 30% discount on their electricity bills.

The plan will begin with a trial involving the installation of solar panels and Tesla batteries into 1,100 Housing Trust homes in Adelaide.

A smaller virtual power plant began its trial in Canberra late last year with 250 households participating.

SA virtual power.PNG

The official plan for the SA virtual power plant is here. It includes a short explanatory animation.

Related news:  Big batteries for Victoria and the Northern Territory