RAY COLLINS: Science and Engineering Challenge Students Leading the Way

One of the beautiful things about working in school education is the opportunity you have to observe, hear about or be involved in something special.

This week I had one of those experiences, although my involvement was only through the medium of an email trail alerting me to an event held at Newcastle University.

The Science and Engineering Challenge is a program developed by the university to provide school students with experience in aspects of Science and Engineering which they would not usually encounter in their school environment.

In the early days of the Challenge participants were, in the main, drawn from local schools in the Hunter and Central Coast areas.

Last year, the Science and Engineering Challenge involved more than 24,000 students from over 800 schools across Australia, including selective schools, high fee-charging schools, single sex schools as well as co-educational comprehensive schools.

The Challenge engages students in activities that encourage what are now known as the “STEM” subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Since it began, schools from our diocese have featured in the National Finals every year and this year will be no exception with St Mary’s High School Gateshead, St Pius X High School, Adamstown and St Peter’s Campus, All Saints College, Maitland being three of the four schools that will represent NSW in the National Finals to be held in Newcastle on 30 October. That is a mighty achievement.

We wish these schools well in the challenge where they will face schools from every state.

While this situation is very pleasing and a source of pride for the schools taking part in the finals as well as the wider diocesan community, I have been made aware of a circumstance surrounding the competition which engenders in us even greater pride in our students who participated in the state finals.

St Mary’s Gateshead was competing against a group of schools that included Yass High School. On Thursday the school received the following email from a student from Yass High School.

The email read:

“To whom it may concern,

I'd like to congratulate the representatives from Saint Mary's who went to the Science and Engineering Challenge on the 27th of August.

I would like to let the school know that the students who represented the school did so amazingly. I am a student from Yass High who competed on the blue team doing the challenge a Hover Frenzy. Throughout the day I had some difficulties with members of my team becoming ill, however the Saint Mary's students who did the same challenge offered to help with any problems I was having with the different components of the challenge, which included cleaning and packing up. I do not know the names of these students however I'm doing this hoping they can get some recognition for the help they gave me on the day of competition.

I understand that it is a competition however they went beyond to help me, when they didn't have to.

You should be proud of how these 4 students conducted themselves.”

The Science Coordinator at St Mary’s, Shane Abell, in his response to the student, summed it up beautifully when he wrote:

“Just as I am proud of my students you must also be congratulated on your manner and determination given the difficult circumstances that you encountered during the event.”

That is what school education is about, the broad spectrum of education that develops the whole person to be the best he or she can be, ready to engage with and contribute to the community in which s/he lives. It speaks for itself.

 

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Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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