Team skills and young minds were tested on day one of the 2016 Darling Downs Science and Engineering Challenge at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). This event in Darling Downs is part of a series of challenges across Australia organised by the University of Newcastle.

Centenary Heights State High School came out on top after their final test called ‘The Bridge’. Josh Smith from Centenary Heights State High School’s bridge-building team enjoyed this activity. “It was brilliant to see everyone working so well on the activities: it has so much to do with teamwork and time management,” Josh said.

Other schools participating included Crow’s Nest State School, Faith Lutheran College, Laidley State High School, The Glennie School, St Mary’s College Ipswich, and Toowoomba State High School’s Mt Lofty campus, with around 30 students from each school taking part.

The students participated in seven activities which required scientific understanding and engineering principles. Teamwork and time-management were very important skills to be learnt on the day, with the tasks requiring students to work together to complete them within a limited time.

Year 10 student from Toowoomba State High School, Nina Ryan, said the challenge was also heavily involved with having to make do with the materials they were given. One challenge was to build a ‘Helter Skelter Shelter’. “Our challenge was to build two towers, one to bear a load and one to survive an earthquake,” Nina said, explaining that they had already learnt how to build bridges in their Science Quest unit at school. “Some of that knowledge was useful in understanding loads, but how you do it with limited materials is the hard part,” Nina said.

Head of USQ’s School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Professor Kevin McDougall said that the event gives supervisors (including academics, PhD students and other staff) the chance to see some of the region’s brightest students at work. “What you see is the students who are really engaged and active, and have a passion for science and engineering — these are the ones we want to see at university,” Professor McDougall said.

The challenge will run daily until Friday, June 3 with 30 schools participating. Participating schools include local and surrounding areas as far as Ipswich and Millmerran.

By Tara Chadwick
Images supplied by USQ Photography