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Science sleuths to decide ‘Who gets the water?’


Zoe Satherley
31 May 2010
The region’s brightest young minds have the Northern Rivers Science and Engineering Challenge ahead of them at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus on Thursday, June 10.

One of the tasks during the annual event will run like this: “So, who gets the water?” the chief engineer will ask.

“That’s your choice,” the deputy will point out. “You tell us how much water you want and at what rate you want it, and this system will deliver it! Here, look at this scaled model.”

Proudly displaying a water distribution kit that consists of a frame, hangers, calibrated containers, hose, valves, T-joiners and manifolds, he will challenge the student team to develop a new, cutting-edge way of reticulating water around the nation.

Their task will be to design the connection of the components so as to deliver water at a pre-determined rate from upper reservoirs, to the lower target containers and thus play their vital part in finding a solution to the worst drought on record.

During the full day of activities at the Science and Engineering Challenge, students from high schools including Alstonville, Lismore, Mullumbimby, Richmond River, St John’s College Woodlawn, Kadina, Tenterfield and Woodenbong will get to test their creative, planning and design skills to the maximum.

Another fun activity will be building the chassis and axles for a light-weight car and attaching a balloon to the frame – the balloon’s deflation will be the car’s only propellant. The car will then be scored on three things – its ability to carry a nominated weight the furthest distance, its ability to avoid hazards and to stop on a target.

In another activity, students will need to construct a Styrofoam plane that will be flown from a launcher. Through variations in design of fuselage, wings, tail, rudders, flaps, elevators and ailerons, students will hope to build the best all-round aircraft. These craft will be tested for greatest flight distance, as well as flight accuracy and landing accuracy.

The Science and Engineering Challenge is hosted annually by Southern Cross University and Alstonville Rotary. It is held in the gymnasium space in P-Block. Winners are eligible to go on to the regional and possibly national finals.

The 2009 Challenge was won by Alstonville High School and the runners up were Lismore High School. Alstonville went on to compete in the Super Challenge at the University of Queensland, where they were placed second.

Head of Southern Cross University’s School of Environmental Science and Management, Professor Jerry Vanclay, said the field of science provided a wide-ranging and exciting career path, with plenty of well-paid job opportunities.

“There is an increasing demand for science graduates so events like this are very important in showing younger students the many different applications of scientific and engineering knowledge,” he said.

“It shows them also that science can be exciting and a lot of fun. Events like this are critical for helping young people develop an interest in science, and have the potential to motivate them to take their studies further in the future.

“We look forward to seeing many of these students enrolled in courses at Southern Cross University.”

Major sponsors of this year’s Challenge are Leighton Contractors, Ardill Payne & Partners, GHD, NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative, GEO-AM Consulting, Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology, RTA NSW Services, Reed Group and Engineers Australia.

Photo: Students from Lismore High (from left): Ned Cain, Eden Turkovic and Bryce Smith, try out their catapult at a previous Science and Engineering Challenge.