Students invited to let off STEAM

As part of the ABC’s War on Waste campaign the broadcaster is asking students to use their STEAM skills to create solutions to Australia’s waste problems.

Students will need to identify and research one waste problem identified in ABC TV’s War on Waste and come up with a 90-second pitch for a solution that has been designed using STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) thinking.

Australia is ranked fifth highest for generating the most municipal waste in the world. Our waste is growing at double the rate of our population with 52 mega tonnes generated a year.

Students can find plenty of ideas to help them get started in the War on Waste digibook and lots of great resources and teaching aids for primary and secondary.

Students have to film a 90-second pitch that identifies a waste problem, explains why we need to solve it, describes how the student/s are going to solve it and tells us about their design.

The winner will be interviewed by the ABC about their entry and the interview will be published on ABC Splash. The winning entry and one runner-up entry will win 30 reusuable cups for their class.

The competition closes 1 September, 5pm.

Breathing easier

Asthma Week (1-7 September) raises awareness of the chronic condition that affects more than 2 million Australians and most classes would include at least one sufferer.

Asthma Australia holds “Dress Blue for Asthma” during the week, where schools are encouraged to register and raise funds for asthma research and awareness.

“Dress Blue for Asthma” was introduced in 2012 by Basil and Corina Epiha, who lost their eight-year-old son Bryn to asthma.

“On July 2 2011, our family’s world was turned upside down,” they said. “Our eldest son went to the toilet and was sick. A couple of seconds later he collapsed. It was very fast – he wasn’t in pain.”

Asthma Australia runs workshops and online courses to help teachers recognise the signs and symptoms of asthma, be trained in the national asthma first aid protocol and examine processes and policies to support quality asthma management at your site. This training remains current for three years.

Registration entitles the school to receive a Dress Blue for Asthma kit, which will include everything you need to start promoting your event, including posters and balloons.

Don't be blinded by science

The fall in the number of students studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is an ongoing issue in Western countries, including Australia.

We are disproportionately dependent on skilled migration and a recent report by Engineers Australia recommends a range of action be taken, with a focus on skilled migration, school education and workforce development more generally.

The findings of the report Engineers Make Things Happen shows less than 6 per cent of girls nationally studied physics in Year 12, with advanced maths numbers almost as bad: 6.2 per cent for girls and 11.5 per cent for boys.

In an article for the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit, Professor Jan van Driel, from its Graduate School of Education, said: “Common in many STEM initiatives around the world is the idea that students can be motivated by working on authentic problems, and that this motivation leads to the development of knowledge and skills.”

Professor Van Driel identified a Netherlands initiative as notable example.

Students study a subject called Research and Design, which is taught alongside the existing STEM subjects from Years 7 to 12. Students work in small teams on projects that are negotiated with local industry or government, and supervised by teachers.

“This initiative is one of many in recent years, which altogether have contributed to a huge increase in Dutch students in secondary schools choosing a ‘science profile’,” he wrote. “Also, the number of students enrolling in engineering undergraduate programs at universities has gone up, with around a 50 per cent increase among female students.”