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St Mary’s student beams about all things science

WHAT do ice-cream, glandular fever, sunburn and Walt Disney all have in common?

Leticia Fuller of Maryborough and her nine state counterparts who attended a three-day science experience at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Toowoomba.

Still beaming with excitement, Ms Fuller shared details of her experience with her sponsor, the Rotary Club of Maryborough Sunrise, at a recent breakfast meeting.

Rotary Sunrise President Glenda Pitman said the club sponsored Ms Fuller by covering the program cost.rotary

“Leticia is a very conscientious and hard-working student,” Mrs Pitman said.

“It’s wonderful to hear such an eloquent and enthusiastic student talk about her experiences. She is obviously passionate about science and a great ambassador for Rotary.”

Leticia told Rotarians her experience in Toowoomba was “absolutely amazing!”

“We studied all different science things from engineering and hematology to agronomy and astronomy,” the Year 9 St Mary’s College student said.

“During the event we made soft-serve ice-cream using liquid nitrogen, cream, milk and vanilla essence.

“We also went into different science and medical laboratories to see what university labs look like.

“In the medical lab we looked at hematology and did a full DNA test. Within the samples I had, I diagnosed someone with malaria, glandular fever and diabetes.

“With agronomy, the study of plants, we looked at wheat, barley and sugarcane and the different sorts of root crops as well as photosynthesis and how changing the C02 levels, temperature and colour of light can affect how fast and slow they grow.

“We also looked at UV radiation. Even when it’s cloudy UV radiation is still there so you can still get sun burnt, just not as bad. We had clear UV beads and when we were inside a building they were completely clear and see-through but when we went into the sun, depending on the strength they changed colour to vibrant pink, purple or yellow.

“Even sitting in a car, if you have windows that aren’t tinted the UV is coming through so you can still get sun burnt. We learnt how it causes skin cancer and kills cells within us.”

Ms Fuller said engineering activities included designing the keyboard of a laptop computer using a circuit board, paper and a pencil so that when keys drawn on the paper were pressed they connected to the computer.

“It’s amazing to see what you can do with a computer. You wouldn’t think a computer could take your life so far but it does.

“One of our instructors used to work for Walt Disney Productions. She was one of those who did all the animations in movies and showed us in depth how they’re all created.

“We also looked at computer programming games and created our own programs while were there.”

Ms Fuller hopes her interest in all things science will lead to a career in pediatric nursing.

The ConocoPhillips Science Experience is designed to provide Year 9 and 10 students who have an interest in science with an opportunity to engage in a wide range of fascinating science activities under the guidance of scientists who love their work.

The event takes place in over 35 universities and tertiary institutions across Australia.

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Photo:  Maryborough’s St Mary’s College Year 9 student Leticia Fuller joins other science enthusiasts at this year’s ConocoPhillips Science Experience.

Media Contact: Jocelyn Watts, Email: jocey@jocelynwatts.com; Phone: 0403 191 958

Queensland

Riverside college wins top science gong for Queensland

MARYBOROUGH’S Riverside Christian College has won the right to represent Queensland at the Australian Super Challenge in Newcastle later this year.

queensland

Riverside Christian College science students will represent Queensland in the Australian Super Challenge.

The team of Years 9 and 10 students clocked up a massive total of 1330.45 points at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast Science and Engineering Challenge held at the Hervey Bay PCYC in May. Fraser Coast Anglican College followed in second place with 816 points.

Challenge team leader Chris Hendry said because organisers had been unable to secure a committee to host the Queensland Super Challenge this year, the highest scoring winning team from all of the state’s regional events in 2015 would represent Queensland at the national titles.

“I am delighted to announce the winning school is Riverside Christian College of the Fraser Coast,” Mr Hendry said.

“Should Riverside Christian College decline the opportunity to attend the national final in Newcastle on October 30, the second placed winner – Chinchilla State High School from the Darling Downs on 1261.80 points – will be invited.

“I’d like to thank all schools that participated in our program this year.”

Riverside Christian College teacher Hans Schmidt said staff were “totally over the moon” after hearing the news of their win yesterday (July 7).

“It’s awesome! The students will be so excited. They’re on school holiday at the moment so they don’t know yet but the staff do and we’re all very excited.

“After winning the regional title in May we all felt we did a good job so there was a glimmer of hope but you just don’t know. All of Queensland was competing so no one really expected to win.

“Something quite extreme would have to happen for us to not go.

“We have seen an increase in student interest in physics and other engineering related subjects in Years 11 and 12 since our involvement with the challenge. It is a brilliantly organised event at all stages of the competition by both volunteer groups and sponsors.”

The annual Science and Engineering Challenge runs in every Australian state and territory. In 2014 more than 22,000 students participated nationally.

It is now a regular part of the school year and is highly valued by science and technology teachers.

University of Southern Queensland runs the challenge in conjunction with the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Science and Information Technology, and Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment.

The Department of Industry (DOI) provides core funding for the challenge.

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Photo:  Riverside Christian College students arrive at the Hervey Bay PCYC for the regional USQ Fraser Coast Science and Engineering Challenge in May.

Dr Alexander Kist

Dr Alexander Kist wins national award with SPIDER

UNIVERSITY of Southern Queensland’s Dr Alexander Kist has been honoured with a prestigious award for his work developing an online tool that enhances learning experiences for external engineering students.

Dr Kist was awarded the 2014 Australian Council of Engineering Deans Award for Engineering Education Excellence last week at the Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference in New Zealand.

“I’m quite excited to receive this award,” Dr Kist said.

“Some excellent people have won it in the past so to be recognised alongside them is quite exciting.”

The $5000 prize was awarded for excellence in learning outcomes via degree programs or other significant initiatives that have produced outstanding and enduring outcomes.

Dr Kist said when he joined USQ Toowoomba in 2006 he found about 80 percent of his students were studying externally from throughout Australia and overseas.

“This posed challenges for teaching in terms of finding ways to provide continuing feedback, creating a sense of community and ensuring the development of transferable skills such as communication and critical evaluation skills,” Dr Kist said.

“Therefore, I embarked on a journey to create an online learning tool called Select, Prepare and Investigate, Discuss, Evaluate and Reflect (SPIDER) to provide equitable learning opportunities for external engineering students.

“SPIDER is based on a learning activity and assessment strategy, which incorporates many of the key activities associated with student seminars and workshops.

“The tool’s main features include its ability to manage seminars and technical topic selection, content preparation, capacity for students to perform investigative and background research, discussions, peer evaluation, and reflection.

“SPIDER has evolved into a comprehensive learning activity rather than a simple assessment task in which student activities are constructively aligned and students are allowed to practice generic skills and build domain knowledge independent of their study mode.”

Dr Kist said SPIDER has had a profound impact on the way students engaged with their course’s subject matter.

“Using my own evaluation instrument (Kist, 2010), I found that as a result of SPIDER, 82 percent of students believed they learned practical skills that will help in their workplace, 89 percent believed they were better equipped to write reports and 87 percent believed they would handle presentations better in the future.

“In addition, 90 percent of respondents indicated they enjoyed these activities while 80 percent wanted to see similar activities in other courses.

“This was particularly encouraging as 60 percent of the respondents were working full-time and 27.5 percent working part-time, had an average age of 30 and reported a considerable amount of work experience.”

Dr Kist said SPIDER had also fostered student development by stimulating curiosity and independence in learning by giving students the opportunity to research content independently and share their findings with peers.

“Evidence shows the SPIDER approach inspires and motivates students through high-level communication, presentation and interpersonal skills,” he said.

“Benefits include sustained higher student engagement and better student outcomes as evidenced by sustained positive student feedback and improved grades from external students.

“Data suggests SPIDER helps students learn skills that are relevant to their professional life and makes them more of an asset to industry.”

Dr Kist said some of his USQ colleagues were now adapting the tool for use in three additional courses.

“Just recently a professional practice course with 500 students used the tool to provide feedback as part of students’ final year project presentations.”

As well as last week’s award, Dr Kist’s work in developing SPIDER has also been recognised by USQ with the University’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2011, and nationally through an OLT Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in 2013.

 

Photo by David Martinelli: Dr Alexander Kist, Senior Lecturer (Telecommunications), USQ School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.