RAY COLLINS: National Champions

A few weeks back I wrote about the achievements of three of our secondary schools, St Mary’s, Gateshead, All Saints College, St Peter’s Campus, Maitland and St Pius X, Adamstown, who had earnt the right to represent NSW in the National Finals of the Science and Engineering Challenge to be held at the University of Newcastle. They were the only schools to make the final from NSW.

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.
Over 800 schools and more than 24,000 students from across Australia took part in the various state based competitions and our three schools competed in the finals against 5 other schools from The Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania.

I was able to attend the final activity, bridge building, which is the climax to the day. The students have to construct bridges made of light-weight materials and these are then tested by having a small trolley run over the bridges until they collapse. In each run various weights are added to the trolley to ascertain how much weight the bridge can hold.

This was fascinating to watch as the various teams hoped that theirs would be the strongest bridge.

The overall winner of the national final was All Saints College, St Peter’s Campus, Maitland who were behind in the point-score right up until the final points were announced.

To say they were excited would be an understatement. The same could be said of their teachers, Ken Jordan, TAS Coordinator, and Vicki Grogan, Science Coordinator whose efforts in encouraging the students in their study of the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) were suitably rewarded on Friday. Acting Principal of St Peter’s, Pam Kedwell, the Director of Schools, Assistant Director of Schools, Gerard Mowbray and Education Officer, Secondary Curriculum Carmel Tapley, were also very excited by St Peter’s win.
To see the staff and students from St Peter's then form a circle and sing with great gusto their school hymn, Sub Tuum, was very special.

I would like to congratulate all involved in ensuring our students have these opportunities to explore their learning in a creative and innovative setting. I particularly acknowledge the University of Newcastle for all they do in providing these challenges for our students. It no doubt engenders in them a keenness to explore these areas of study with renewed enthusiasm.

Carmel Tapley has been a great advocate for our schools to be involved in this challenge and the various other STEM related activities and challenges that our schools can access. I commend her passion for developing our students’ knowledge and skills in these key areas of study.
Most of all I extend my sincere thanks to all the teachers involved in preparing our schools for this exciting challenge. To have three schools involved in the finals as the only schools representing NSW is an extraordinary feat. St Joseph’s High School Aberdeen had also featured in the State final of the challenge so our schools are certainly making their mark.

Well done to all. 

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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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