Sun-powered learning fun

Students at St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton, raced solar cars in December as part of the Apollo Cup 2K19. The race was a three-week project initiative designed by the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy team through a partnership with the University of Sydney.

The project was aimed at all Year 8 students within the college (75 students), while also engaging students from Year 9 and 10 STEM. Students in the two weeks before the race day had their normal Science, Technology and Mathematics classes, but were presented with a series of planned exercises aimed at engaging and reinforcing concepts used to successfully construct a solar racing car.

Within Science classes, students looked at the impact of variables, and through experimentation identified the best combination to produce the fastest car. Within Mathematics, students looked at using geometric reasoning and congruency in the production of logos and design, and within Mandatory Technology, students designed a structure capable of harnessing the most amount of sun for solar panels.

Teams in Mandatory Technology grouping allowed students to become “experts” in a particular area and then feed this information back to other members of their group. Each student was responsible for either the design and 3D modelling of a solar panel holder within a CAD software package, a solar race car, a solar panel holder or a flag to cheer their car on. Students collaborated and shared resources through Moodle.

The K–12 Administration Coordinator at St Catherine’s, Aaron Campbell, said the Apollo Cup allowed students to participate and find connections between the subjects they study daily, Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Technology.

“Students were engaged throughout the entire day and really enjoyed the experience,” Mr Campbell said. “Many students who normally found Mathematics difficult had said they had learnt a lot and enjoyed being able to see links between subjects for the first time.

“St Catherine’s STEM Academy team (consisting of Aaron Campbell, Tony Edwards, Joanna Towers, Nicole Woods and Richard Turnbull) are appreciative of the support provided by the University of Sydney STEM Teacher enrichment academy in the training of staff.”

Mr Campbell also thanked St Catherine’s P&F, which provided financial assistance in the purchasing of equipment required to be used by the students on the day.

“The event was very enjoyable for all involved and the hope is it will continue to expand in future years,” he said.

Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle