Northern Rivers Science and Engineering Challenge

The 2019 Northern Rivers Science and Engineering Challenge which was held in June were a huge success with over 700 High School students attending Southern Cross University's Lismore campus over the 3 days.

They travelled from Grafton and the Tweed region to participate in an exciting range of "design and build" Science and Engineering activities.

The winning schools over the 3 days were:

  • 19th June: Summerland Christian College
  • 20th June: Cape Byron Steiner School
  • 21st June: Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School.

Congratulations to all 24 High Schools for participating in the Challenge and we look forward to seeing you again in 2020.


Challenge activities

Duration   Overview



Build a small bridge from balsa, pins, tape, paddle pop sticks etc. Points are awarded for strength and load-carrying capacity (tested with dynamic loads).



The aim of this half-day activity is to develop rail networks that convey trains in the most efficient way possible. The higher the efficiency of linkage (i.e. minimum travel distance) the more points your team earns.


Grasping at Straws

Students are required to design, build and use a 'bionic hand' built from PVC pipe, string, straws, and timber coffee stirrers.  Each group will then assess the effectiveness of their construction in several tests.


Confounding Communications

Each group of students will be provided with 2 terminals, which they will use to communicate with each other using various coloured light transmitted through an optical fibre. Students will be assessed on their speed and accuracy.


Return to Mars

This activity requires students to construct a vehicle to quickly transverse an undulating surface. Students will use rubber bands for the suspension system.


Future Power

Students plug “power stations” into a large board and then control the supply of power to a variety of infrastructure on the other side of the board.  The infrastructure is represented by lines of switches which are turned on or off by the students.


Flat Pack

Students design and construct a table and two chairs for a well-known furniture company's new homeware range of furniture. They must be cost effective (proftable), easily transportable and strong enough to withstand the weight of Ginger (the cat) and Spot (the dog) sleeping and playing on them.


Helter Skelter Shelter

Students construct a tall earthquake-proof tower using only basic materials, sound engineering principles, and ingenuity. At the end of the session the towers are put to the test on an earthquake simulator.

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