Drone STEM Project

Our Year 8.1 students began their second STEM unit for the year at the start of this term. The driving question for the unit is, “How can people and technology improve society?’ The students will be using our Parrot Mambo drones and drone technology in general to investigate this question.

The project was launched last week in their Science class with the students working with their teacher, Miss Ruan, and our technical guru, Mr Ben Johnson. Miss Ruan led the students through the process of unpacking the driving question, while Mr Johnson took the girls through the basics of the Parrot Mambo.

In Maths the students will be developing their skills in using and analysing data. They will look at how different companies use drones to gather and analyse data as well as making comparisons between drone companies based on available data. Companies like PrecisionHawk are leading the world in using AI to make analysing data more efficient.

In Science it will be all about ecosystems and how drone technology is enabling society to monitor and manage ecosystems more efficiently. The students will be required to program their drone to map out the ecosystem that exists within our magnificent front garden. They will also look at drone companies like DroneSeed that are emerging in the agriculture industry.

In Technology all Year 8 students are involved in using the drones through their unit, ‘Engineered Systems’. This unit will run until the end of 2019, so there will be opportunities for all Year 8 students to learn to code the drones and explore how drones are humans are changing the way we view our world.

Initially we had planned for this project to be purely a STEM project, however, with the vast amount of innovation happening with drone mapping, Mrs King was keen to get the students exploring this question in their Geography class.

We are looking forward to sharing more of this project as it develops over the coming weeks.


Year 11 Biology

On Tuesday the 11th of June, twenty-four Year 11 Biology students visited the Lachlan Wetlands in Centennial Parklands.

The purpose of our excursion was to measure abiotic and biotic factors within the wetlands and collect data for an ecosystem depth study. From this we could analyse any trends and develop an inquiry question to investigate further with secondary research.

We worked in groups of four to collect quadrant data along a pre-established path. Some groups collected data about air conditions such as light intensity and humidity, and other groups collected data about soil conditions such as pH and moisture. We also counted bat populations, estimated canopy cover and used an identification chart to observe plant diversity in the under storey.

After lunch, we considered how human activities can affect fruit bat populations such as extreme heat and noise pollution from major events that happen within the Park. The excursion was an eye-opening experience as our education officer told us that 50,000 bats live in Lachlan Wetlands and that they are very affected by the noise from music festivals and temperature fluctuations from climate change.

Many of us also fed ducks bread in parks as children, but we found out that bread can sink to the bottom of ponds and decay, and that bread is also really unhealthy for ducks to eat. We concluded our day by brainstorming practical management strategies in groups to reduce human impacts on this ecosystem, and used clay to model our management plans.

STEAMPunk Project Update

Our 8.1 class was joined this morning by Rachel, a water engineer from UTS. Rachel spent some time sharing a little of her journey to becoming an engineer, before talking about some of the recent projects she has been involved with.

The idea behind the visit was to connect our students with someone working in the field they are investigating. The driving question, ‘How can we survive drought?’, connected with the work Rachel does, so she was able to move around to each group and discuss their ideas for responding to the question. This was invaluable feedback for the students as they progress towards their final product.

The students also had time to work on their projects and the arrival of a myriad of electronic equipment had the teams frantically working to connect sensors to their Microbits. The incorporation of sensors required a whole new level of expertise and we were fortunate Mr Johnson was available to guide the students through this next phase. There was even time to venture outside and test the soil moisture in the front garden!

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The project is developing well and we are starting to see the ideas become reality. With only three weeks to go there is much still to do as each group must create a presentation for the showcase and a supporting website.

STEAMPunk Girls Project Launch

As part of our ongoing commitment to incorporating STEM/STEAM projects into the curriculum our 8.1 students are participating in an initiative by STEAMPunk Girls from UTS.

The driving question for our project is, ‘How can we survive a drought?’. The project will run over the next four weeks and will be embedded across most of the subjects the students are studying in that period. 

The students will work in groups to respond to the driving question. The one requirement is they must include their Microbits into their solution. Each student has their own Microbit and they will need to work out how to code the Microbit to collect data as well as talking to other Microbits. How the group uses the data to respond to the driving question is up to them.

We launched the project with the 8.1 class yesterday and they were certainly buzzing with some great ideas. We started with an excerpt from the 7:30 Report  which looked at the harsh realities of life in drought affected parts of NSW and then the students worked in their groups to unpack the driving question.

The students were then issued with their Microbits and after a short demonstration from our Mathematics Coordinator, Chris Pocock, there was time to set up the Microbit and explore the capabilities of the device.

We will share the progress of each group as the project gets underway.

STEM Academy Project Update

The delivery and installation of our beehive signified the end of our STEM Academy project for 2018. The driving question for the project was, ‘Sustainability-Whose Responsibility?’ examined through the life cycle of the native stingless bee.

Elke from Native Stingless Bees has worked with us throughout the project to teach our students about native stingless bees and then help identify the best place to locate the hive.

The native stingless bees are much smaller than the bees most of us notice in our gardens and our the newest members of our community were soon out and about familiarising themselves with their new surroundings.

Our students still have a little work to do with the project. This is around communicating to our local community that there is now a native beehive close by. The girls have prepared posters and videos that will help get the message out there.

This project has been a great way to start our journey down the STEM road. We have a number of STEM projects in planning for 2019 and look forward to sharing the details of each in the weeks ahead. A full review of the current project will be posted once all evaluations have been completed.


Second Bee Workshop

Last Friday we had Elke from Native Stingless Bees visit for the second of our ‘Bee Workshops’. The focus of this workshop was the native stingless bee in preparation for the arrival of our hive in early Term 4.

Elke spent the first half of the session taking a close look at the characteristics of the native stingless bee and what was required for a hive to be successful. There was a lot of discussion around the work the girls had already done in Maths and Science to identify the ideal location for the hive.

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The second part of the session was out in the front garden to see where exactly the hive should be placed. Two locations have been identified as ideal for the hive and preparations will now be made to ensure everything is ready for delivery in October.


Raspberry Pi Devices Deployed

After a number of periods getting the Raspberry Pi devices ready for deployment our 7.1 Maths students have successfully places the devices around the College.

The data loggers will be used to identify the ideal position for our beehive that arrives later this term. Each group in the class is responsible for ensuring their device remains in place for the week. It is then the responsibility of the group to transfer the data from the device to their Macs for analysis.

Next week the class will be involved in two great workshops. Elke Haege from native Sydney Stingless Bees Sydney will be running a two hour workshop to prepare the students for the arrival of the beehive. They will be constructing ‘solo habitats’ and will then monitor these for any bee activity until the beehive is delivered.

Stuart Palmer will also be with us next week for a two hour STEM activity with the class. Stuart has been working with the CSIRO and is keen to trial some of the activities they have developed with our students.


STEM Academy Project Data Collection

Our Year 7 students began their work using the Raspberry Pi devices in their Maths class yesterday. They spent time familiarising themselves with the device before beginning to program the device to collect data for the ‘Bee Project’.

Using a Raspberry Pi is a great device offering so many opportunities for students to learn through making. Our students are working in teams using the Python programming language to set up the device. The devices have sensors attached so they will be able to collect data from various locations around the College.

The purpose of the data collection is to identify the best place for our hive of Sydney Stingless Bees to be located. The students will be incorporating the data and subsequent analysis into the work they are doing in Science to make an informed decision about the ideal location.


National Computer Science Schools Challenge

This year’s National Computer Science Schools Challenge commenced today. The Challenge run by Sydney University’s Grok Learning teaching students coding while challenging them to solve authentic problems.

2017 was the first time we exposed our students to this type of coding opportunity and we were encouraged that a handful of students took up the offer to participate. This year we have made a concerted effort to offer a number of coding opportunities to our students. The most recent being the App Developer course run by the Coder Academy in the second half of last term.

This year over 50 students will be taking on the Challenge. All students participating in the Year 7 STEM Academy project are involved as are the strongest Mathematics students in each of the remaining Year 7 classes. For the STEM Academy students there will be the added benefit of learning about the Python language which they will use to program their Raspberry Pi devices later in the term.

The NCSS Challenge has different levels designed to meet the needs of all students. Most Year 7 students are starting in the Beginner course while our Information Software and Technology students will be tackling the more demanding Intermediate course.

We have a very select group of coders who are taking on the Advanced Challenge involving Artificial Intelligence. The content in this course is well in advance of what is expected of most high school students.

STEM Academy Project Underway

Last Tuesday saw the launch of the much awaited STEM Academy Project. The launch took place at The Calyx situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens. The driving question behind the project is, ‘Sustainability: Whose Responsibility?’ with the students endeavouring to provide an answer to this question by investigating the life cycle of the Sydney Stingless Bee.

It was an exciting start to the project as the students from 7.1 ventured to the Gardens with our Science gurus, Mr Peck and Mr D’Archy. We were also joined by members of the STEM Academy team which made the day even more special.

The students participated in a two hour workshop entitled, ‘Purposeful Plants’, in this workshop they investigated a range of native plants and the adaptations they have that allow them to survive in the Australian environment. Aboriginal educators provided an Indigenous perspective on living with, and from, the native bushland and explain the different uses of these plants as foods, medicines and raw materials for tools and weapons. The way our indigenous communities connected with the land and their relationship with the native bees is central to the work the students will undertake in the project.

Following the workshop the students were taken on a guided tour of The Calyx. Currently the Calyx has a feature on pollination which was the perfect place to officially launch the project.

Following the launch the students returned to the College to create a short film called, ‘Purposeful Plants and Pollination’. These short films will be shared on a later post. This was a wonderful way to start what we hope will be an amazing learning journey for the 7.1 students.