Workshops at St John’s College shining light on engineers

PUTTING IT TO THE TEST: St John's College students testing their boats to see which could hold the highest number of marbles. Photo ORLANDER RUMING
PUTTING IT TO THE TEST: St John's College students testing their boats to see which could hold the highest number of marbles. Photo ORLANDER RUMING

Breaking down stereotypes and encouraging people to consider different career options were the goals of a recent trip to Dubbo from Engineers Without Borders.

The UNSW chapter of the organisation visited St John’s College recently as part of their outreach program.

Lynelle Rohe, who is studying to become a civil engineer, said the program was generally targeted at schools with a high Aboriginal or female population.

“Some people, especially girls, can get a little intimidated because they think it’s just men, and men just with hard hats on construction sites. We want to try and change that because engineering is part of almost every aspect of society,” she said.

Ms Rohe said she wanted to change the ideas around engineering to show it was more community focused and demonstrate the ways engineering could help populations to solve their problems.

The St John’s students learnt about renewable energy and floating houses in Cambodia, which they then turned into experiments. Both practical workshops were designed to make the students work together and use their problem solving skills.

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Students had to get their handmade fans to move in the "wind" to see how many of the lights would work. Photo: ORLANDER RUMING

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Students had to get their handmade fans to move in the "wind" to see how many of the lights would work. Photo: ORLANDER RUMING

Teacher Mark O’Sullivan said there had been a shift from purely textbook learning, to more practical, hands-on workshops.

“We’re trying to get more girls involved early on [in science, technology, engineering and maths] because they get put off early on and never take it to a higher level which is a real shame,” he said.

“We’re trying to keep that engagement and enthusiasm. It’s good to get different activities and different projects that they’re involved in ad show them what goes on.

“The problem solving aspect of it is something that we’re trying to build in the curriculum nowadays which hasn’t really been there in the past.”

Mr O’Sullivan said he wanted to show the students how the subjects they were studying would help them in their future careers.

For Brian Au, engineering was a way to combine two of the subjects he liked at school: science and maths.

“Plus I always liked building stuff which engineering can help you do and you get a lot of choice in what you want to do in engineering, there’s all types. And I always loved playing with Lego as a kid,” he said.

Ms Rohe said for her it was the practical side that drew her into the subject.

“I always thought it was amazing that you could build all these structures and how they could stand,” she said.

“You’re not just learning a lot of theory, you’re actually putting that into practice. You’re using it every day and it can help people.”

The recent visit to St John’s College was about the third time Engineers Without Borders had visited the school.