Creativity and empowerment through STEAM for Schools program

Leighann Ness Wilson reflects on one of The Cube’s STEAM for Schools programs ‘Prototyping towards an age friendly city: LittleBits’

A few weeks ago we met RoboDog: a robotic companion whose tail lights up and sends a signal for medical attention if it senses its owner is unwell.  We also met the founders of ICU productions who make bionic eyes for the visually impaired and heard a design pitch for a tech-enabled water collection system.

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These were just three responses to the question: How might we prototype for an Age Friendly City? This was posed to a group of year 5 students from the Sunshine Coast region during our STEAM for Schools workshop at The Cube.

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STEM Girl Power Camp at The Cube

The Cube and QUT’s Design Lab teamed up in March to host an exciting workshop program at QUT Gardens Point campus as part of the second annual STEM Girl Power Camp. The workshop coincided with annual World Science Festival (WSF) activities held in Brisbane.

Sixty regional high-achieving Year 10 girls and 10 teachers discovered the power of design in science, technology and enterprise innovation through workshops and presentations from STEAM leaders and experts in their field.

The STEM Girl Power Camp is an important initiative of Advancing education: An action plan for education in Queensland to address the lower participation rates of girls in STEM subjects and careers.

Program co-ordinators Natalie Wright (QUT Design Lab) and Jacina Leong (QUT The Cube) said they embraced the opportunity to provide such a diverse workshop program, revealing design’s critical role in STEM education. It also showcased the city campus and the varied opportunities available for regional girls to study at QUT.

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Putting the fun back into physics!

On Saturday 7 January, 4,200 visitors flocked to The Cube for an extra dose of physics fun to celebrate the opening of the Physics Observatory Summer Holiday Program.

We presented a range of Physics-inspired workshops including Hula Hooping by Vulcana Women’s Circus, live science shows by Street Science, a 3D flight simulator game facilitated by the QUT STEM for Schools team and Physics 101 workshops from QUT Physics Society. The live science shows by QUT Alumni Steve Liddell were a massive hit! Kids were amazed by Steve’s science experiments including exploding balloons with liquid nitrogen and a real hand-held fireball.

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Activities from Physics Observatory Holiday Program also ran throughout the day including Physics Wiz Treasure Hunt which allowed families to discover hidden elements of the Holiday Program. Kids were also awarded a ‘Physics Wiz’ sticker! Other activities included Ball Run, which encouraged kids to compare how far and fast balls can travel using tubes and everyday materials on a magnetic wall. Take to the Sky was another popular (paper plane making) activity, which got kids thinking about gravitational forces and how fast and far their planes could fly.

Holiday fun at The Cube

We also announced the winners of the ‘Life on Mars’ Competition. Kids were asked to draw what they imagined life on Mars might look like incorporating what they know about STEM. Banjo Seaniger (8 years) won an Xbox One and Runners up Shaun Gareth (13 years) and Mikayla Daley (12 years) won admission to one of The Cube’s 2017 holiday programs.

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Thanks for everyone who joined us for Physics Fun Day and for those who couldn’t make it Physics Observatory Holiday Program continues everyday 10am-4pm until Sunday 15 January. Check out this video for a taste of the program.

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3, 2, 1, LEGO … !

On Saturday 19 November, The Cube played host once again to FIRST® LEGO® League, welcoming 360 students and their team coaches, parents, teachers and peers to QUT’s Science and Engineering Centre. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants was palpable and just one of the reasons FIRST® LEGO® League is a highlight of the year, transforming the Science and Engineering Centre into a hive of activity!

This year’s challenge was based on the theme: ANIMAL ALLIES. Teams of up to 10 students researched, programmed, and prepared from August through November ‘to think of people and animals as allies in the quest to make life better for everyone’. The tournament involved:

  • 360 students 
  • 220 parents, teachers, grandparents, peers, siblings … 
  • 108 (2.5 minute) robot game rounds 
  • 52 staff and volunteers 
  • 41 team coaches
  • 36 teams from 22 locations (see team map below)
  • 36 robots 
  • 12 award recipients
  • 6 robot game tables
  • 4 practice tables
  • 4 concurrent activities (Robot Game, Robot Design, Project, Core Values)
  • 4 national qualifiers 
  • And many LEGO pieces! 

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One of the team coaches, Jackie Child, captured the spirit of the tournament experience in her article, Our FIRST LEGO League Journey.

Twelve awards were presented this year to the following teams:

Champions Award – iCode 22
Robot Performance – OLA Cybermonkeys
Robot Design (Mechanical Design) – Robros
Robot Design (Programming) – RobotIGGS
Robot Design (Strategy and Innovation) – Lego Central
Project (Research) – MGH Robots 2
Project (Innovation) – iCode New Dawn
Project (Presentation) – Sharks
Core Values (Gracious Professionalism) – Lasiorhinus krefftii Mark II
Core Values (Teamwork) – Hillbrook Team 1
Core Values (Inspiration) – Omega Dragons
Judge Award – Padua College 1 

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Those selected for the Nationals at Macquarie University, Sydney, on 10 December, are: 

  • iCode 22
  • iCode New Dawn
  • Padua College 2
  • OLA Cybermonkeys 

Congratulations again to all participating teams – until next year!

Jacina Leong and Elise Wilkinson – Co–Directors, FIRST LEGO League, and Public Programs, The Cube

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Public Programs: the year that has been …

Leighann Ness Wilson reflects on her role over the last six months, as The Cube’s first STEAM Education Officer.

My name is Leighann Ness Wilson and I’ve had the privilege of being The Cube’s very first STEAM Education Officer. With a Bachelor of Built Environment from QUT and over ten years’ experience in commercial Interior Design, it wasn’t until having my own children that I decided it was time to pursue my underlying goal to become an educator. My role at The Cube has allowed me to combine two of my passions: design and education. The practicums within my Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning, combined with my new role at QUT, have given me a profound sense of fulfilment. I find the combination of education and creativity both emotionally and professionally inspiring.

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The Physics Observatory (aka Physics Playroom 2.0)

The Cube team have been hard at work this year re-developing The Physics Playroom, one of The Cube’s first screen projects. This new iteration The Physics Observatory, is due to be released sometime in the next six months. In this series of blog posts The Cube’s Digital Interactive Designer, Simon Harrison, will share with us some of the teams’ learnings about physics.

When we decided to update this project to make it even more relevant to high school students, I stumbled upon some interesting facts and became fascinated by tales of physicists, great thinkers and even watchmakers of times gone by.

The original Physics Playroom featured an interesting rotating mechanical solar system. I discovered this device is called an orrery – a clockwork representation of the orbits of the planets that make our solar system. Using only cogs and gears it was possible to accurately simulate the motions of distant planetary bodies, incredibly this was achieved over 300 years ago!

 

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The orrery from the original Physics Playroom

The first orrery was created by a pair of very talented watchmakers from London called George Graham and Thomas Tompion, It was presented to Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery in 1704.

Our orrery has been lovingly crafted using the latest in 3D simulation software and up to the minute data from NASA, however, it looks almost identical to an Orrery from the past. I bet George and Thomas would love to come to The Cube and have a play with ours!

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The new orrery during construction

The new orrery features all the planets (including Pluto, we can’t let it go!) and a selection of planetary moons, all rotating around the sun. If the planets were to rotate at real-time speed, it would take 90,560 days for Pluto to make a single complete orbit, that is almost 250 years! So we have included a speed control to help accelerate and visualise the orbits.

As always we strive to lace our interactives with STEM related curriculum links and the orrery is no exception, our team of STEM teachers and researchers will be creating school workshops and programs linking the orrery to elements included in both the Science and Mathematics learning areas of the Australian National Curriculum. More details about school/holiday programs coming soon.

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The final orrery in the observatory

And next time we’ll discuss how we managed gravity and how much an elephant may weigh on the surface of the Sun.

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Robotics in the classroom: looking at curriculum links and FIRST® LEGO® League

Last week, The Cube hosted Robotics in the classroom, a professional development workshop for educators, facilitated by Peter Kellett. Peter provided a hands-on look at how LEGO Education EV3 robotics can be used in the curriculum, with a focus on FIRST® LEGO® League and other FIRST® programs.

As an educator in the field of classroom ICT, Peter discussed unit development, structure and assessment techniques using his robotics program at Grace Lutheran College as a case study. Read more

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Off the Shelf: Reimagining libraries with Watson Road State School students

Earlier this year, The Cube’s public program team undertook the Off The Shelf program, part one of which involved engaging with students from Watson Road State School in a series of workshops centred around the idea of the changing role of libraries as social and educational hubs. Students engaged with these ideas through hands-on STEAM activities using littleBits as prototyping tools.

Watson Road State School Principal Cathy Forbes shares her experience of the project:

Cathy: The littleBits project at Watson Road State School has provided students with the opportunity to work collaboratively and think differently. The open-ended nature of the task meant that students felt confident to try out new ideas, knowing that there were no right or wrong answers.

Students were given a challenge: to design a library of the future. They saw this as a real-life and authentic task, which encouraged self-directed learning and the application of knowledge and learning by experience.

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This project stepped way from traditional classroom learning and introduced 21st century problem solving skills to students in an engaging way. Students were motivated and enthusiastic about their participation in the challenge.

The cross-curricular connections in the project are very strong. Students were required to collect data and research, and were asked to apply the information to plan their prototypes and conceptualise their design. The design-and-make nature of the project, as well as links to science and engineering, met requirements in the key learning area of technology, in which students use design thinking and technologies to generate and produce designed solutions for authentic needs and opportunities.

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Students were encouraged to collaboratively apply their knowledge and practical skills and processes when using technologies to create innovative solutions that meet current and future needs. The practical nature of the project engaged students in critical and creative thinking, including understanding interrelationships in systems when solving complex problems. A systematic approach to experimentation, problem solving, prototyping and evaluation instilled the value of planning and reviewing processes to realise ideas.

Links to English were reinforced with students interpreting descriptions and research. They were required to read and give instructions, generate and explore ideas with others, write design briefs and specifications, and participate in group discussions. Students communicated their ideas and proposals to an audience. By learning the literacy of technologies, students understand that language varies according to context and they increase their ability to use language flexibly.

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Technologies vocabulary is often technical and includes specific terms for concepts, processes and production. Students learn to understand that much technological information is presented in the form of drawings, diagrams, flow charts, models, tables and graphs. They also learn the importance of listening, talking and discussing in technologies processes, especially in articulating, questioning and evaluating ideas.

The project provided students with an opportunity that they would not ordinarily have had. QUT and Brisbane City Council Library staff facilitated self-directed learning whilst providing expert guidance to students and staff. The project was a wonderful success.

Image Credit: Kate O’Sullivan

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Creative Lab: Capturing a day of teaching and learning

On 2 May 2015, The Cube hosted Creative Lab, a two-day professional development program designed to connect educators, curriculum writers and academics to STEAM learning experiences through hands-on workshops.

Conceived by the Queensland Museum in partnership with QUT The Cube, the program provided a platform to further the institutions’ commitment to creative, innovative ways of learning and teaching.

For day two of Creative Lab, The Cube delivered four workshops developed and facilitated by The Cube’s public programs team, pre-service teachers, alumni and current students from the Faculty of Education, Creative Industries and Science and Engineering Faculties, games industry veteran Matt Ditton, and digital media artist/curator Lubi Thomas. Each workshop provided an opportunity to experience different technologies through a STEAM learning framework.

Creative Lab aimed to spark inspiration, conversation and an understanding about the value of STEAM, how it can be implemented within the classroom and how cultural and tertiary institutions can support this growing momentum. For a snapshot of Creative Lab Day 2 at The Cube, watch our video of the day below:

Creative Lab (STEM to STEAM: 21st Century Learning) from CubePP on Vimeo.

Image and video by Kate O’Sullivan.

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Creative Lab: from the perspective of… Jess Schofield

Pre-service teacher Jess Schofield shares her experience at Creative Lab, held at The Cube and Queensland Museum last month.

Jess: The Creative Lab program at QUT The Cube was a chance for educators from various fields to collaborate on ways to implement STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) in the classroom. As a pre-service teacher in the areas of mathematics and English the sessions were a great way to further open my mind to ways technology can be utilised across all disciplines in education.

I have been a facilitator of the LEGO Education programs at The Cube since their inception in 2013. At Creative Lab, I had the opportunity to facilitate the Design Engineering sessions using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 technology. This tool allows for all disciplines of STEAM to come together under the banner of problem-solving and project based learning.

I’ve had many discussions in recent months about what problem-solving can be defined as and how these skills can be acquired in a classroom situation. In maths, we often give students “worded questions” and label it as “problem-solving” or “real-life”. But in reality, the only problem they have to solve is to interpret the words and uncover the routine, knowledge-based problem.

At Creative Lab, I had conversations with teachers and curriculum writers about how true problem-solving should involve open-ended questions, creative responses and multiple answers. The Design Engineering workshop was a space to further explore this and the EV3 robots proved a perfect tool to guide that exploration.

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Design Engineering at Creative Lab was a space where networking took place and ideas were shared throughout the room. The participants had varying levels of experience, came from a variety of educational fields and each had their own expectations and outcomes from the session. Challenges were set to have robots manoeuvre objects within a Mars exploration context and using a combination of programming skills and physical design features. Although each of the eight groups was set the same challenge, eight very different solutions were presented. Participants went through the process of brainstorming, prototyping, testing, improving then giving and receiving critical feedback. There was a focus on teamwork and playing to strengths of individuals.

The conversations that were had around STEAM in the classroom were beneficial to all participants. We had the opportunity to share our own experiences of how the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robots have been used within our own schools and contexts, how they could be used in the future and make connections with colleagues to draw on the strengths and expertise of others.

As a pre-service teacher, Creative Lab was most beneficial for the networks and connections made with fellow teachers and education professionals and to gather ideas to implement robotics in high school classrooms. I feel competent in my knowledge of robotics and I’ve facilitated a wide variety of workshops to many audiences in the past. Moving forward, my goal is to implement long term robotics programs in high school settings. Creative Lab was the first step towards that goal. The program gave me the connections and resources to continue implementing STEAM, problem-solving and project-based learning in my future teaching and learning.