Assistant Principal, Peter Antcliff, was excited to see student work in action, as integrating skills in science, technology, engineering and mechanics into the curriculum has been a focus area at St Mary’s over the past few years. “Our teachers are very passionate about STEM and we’re seeing the fruits through what the students are demonstrating today,” said Mr Antcliff. Mr Antcliff was also excited about the school's expanding into stage 6 (Years 11 and 12) from 2018. STEM classes at the school offer students greater study options moving into that stage of the curriculum.
One of the demonstrations, a scale bridge designed and constructed by a team of engineering students, recently took out the top prize in the regional competition for the National Science and Engineering Challenge. The bridge, weighing just 53g, held a load of more than 8900g, and took out the top honour and sent the team to the next round of the competition, the Super Challenge, hosted by the University of Newcastle from 25-27 August. The winning team included Year 9 and 10 STEM students, Joseph Delbridge, Claudia Lee, Jake Blue and Marcus Georgalas, who will go on to compete with the top eight schools from across the state, including St Peter’s, Maitland.
St Mary’s STEM students also recently took out the ‘fastest lap’ prize in the school division of the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival with their motorised bicycle. The vehicle was designed, constructed and wired by the school’s Electric Vehicle Team and reached speeds of up to 30km/hr. Jacob Hodges, a member of the Electric Vehicle Team, could see the value in the practical applications of STEM classes at St Mary’s for his future career choices. “I’m [thinking of] either becoming a teacher, or a career in the Army,” said Jacob.
Special guest and Member for Shortland, Ms Jill Hall, also addressed students on the importance of building STEM skills for their future career paths. “Science and engineering are skills you really need to concentrate on, in particular STEM, because that’s going to be the gateway for the future,” said Ms Hall. She encouraged students to engage in the field and develop skills and knowledge that will put them at the cutting edge in their chosen career path. “You will be the people who are making the decisions, developing the programs and the people whose skills will be needed, wanted and sought after by employers in the future,” said Ms Hall. Ms Hall also noted another important outcome of STEM was students' learning of life skills including problem solving, team work and lateral thinking.
Newcastle Regional Chair of the Science and Engineering Challenge, Brian Atkins, also praised the school’s commitment to teaching STEM, noting the long history Mary’s between St Mary’s and the Science and Engineering Challenge. St Mary’s was the winner of the first National Science and Engineering Challenge ten years ago.