The most common understanding of the term STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM can be a confusing title because it seeks to group a range of subjects which are distinct, yet have fundamental commonalities in their underlying principles.
Scientists study natural phenomena and create formulae to explain, or predict, the behaviour of light, sound, chemicals, energy, organic and inorganic materials, and the universe.
Technologists use Engineering, Science and Mathematics to make an existing task, process or item, safer, more efficient or more cost effective.
Engineers use a combination of Mathematics, Technology and Science, to design and build things and systems, in a safe and reliable way, at the lowest reasonable cost.
Mathematicians study the relationships between numbers to create formulae. Formulae can be used to create “models” of behaviour of the physical world and are utilised in Science, Technology and Engineering.
To assist in their fields, STEM professionals often use computers to solve complex tasks. Computers are becoming more common in every day life and their use is becoming crucial to all kinds of careers. The four basic computational skills that students should develop are:
The concept of using a number of simple commands to create more complex operations. This includes the concepts of which instructions to use, and the order, or sequencing of the instructions is required, to achieve a desired outcome.
The concept and use of the “test” instruction to modify the results, or perform a different operation, based on the values of the input data. Students need to understand which test to use, how many tests are needed and when to perform a test.
Repeating or “Loop” Operations
The concept and use of a loop to repeat a number of operations to achieve something. e.g. A 10 cm square can be drawn by repeating the following command, 4 times, “draw a line 10 cm long, then turn 90 degrees to the right.”
A subroutine is a set of instructions that calculates values, implements features, that are used repeatedly in a program.
e.g. printing, getting a command or data, calculating the square root of a number, etc. Students need to understand how to send a value or values to a subroutine and how a subroutine can send or “return” a value or values to the main program.
The Engineering Design Process
When Engineers need to solve a problem, they use a process known as the Engineering Design Process. This process can lead to new technology which solves a new problem, or solves an already solved problem in a new way. The Engineering Design Process is similar to the Scientific Method used by Scientists.
The first step of the Engineering Design Process is Ideation. In this phase the team considers what problem they are looking to address, and what Mathematics, Science and/or Engineering principles might be able to help them solve the problem. During this phase it is important to think through the following:
What is the problem?
Who has the problem?
Why is it important to solve?
Now it is time to start thinking about solutions. It’s best to brainstorm solutions and generate as many ideas as possible. It doesn’t matter how weird or wacky the suggestions are. Once this is done, each of these ideas should be discussed and measured against the original problem. Does it meet the requirements of the user? Are there parts of the idea which might work with another idea? The goal should be to collect one or more great ideas which are worth exploring further. These ideas will be refined and improved throughout the project.
A prototype is a test of the solution. It may not be the final version of the technology, but it should demonstrate the key elements of the solution and allow the design team to see how the solution might work.
The design process involves multiple iterations and redesigns of your solution. You will likely test your solution, find new problems, make changes, and test new solutions before settling on a final design.
To complete your project you will need to prepare to show it to others, so that they may understand the problem you are trying to solve, your process and your solution. Professional Engineers always do the same, thoroughly documenting their solutions. This presentation should not just be about the final solution that you came up with, but the whole design process. It should include ideas you tried, other things you might have liked to do with more time and ways you think your solution could been better.
The 5 Criterias of Judging
There are 5 criteria that the Judges use to score the projects, over the two rounds of virtual project presentations.
Explain the problem they are trying to solve
Student should be able to explain why they chose the problem, who the solution is likely to benefit and talk about other similar solutions which they researched during the ideation phase of their project.
Describe the benefits of their solution
Students should address the specific benefits of their solution, how it will solve the problem, and why it would be preferable to other similar solutions, if applicable.
Explain the formulae or equations used
Students should be able to show the principles of any Mathematics used to formulate their solution, to a level appropriate for their age group. It is suggested that younger students may want to use a worked example as a memory aid.
Explain the scientific principles used
Students should be able to briefly describe the theory behind any scientific principles they have used to formulate their solution. Use of sources is encouraged. Older students should be able to talk about any flaws or limitations in applying the principles to their problem.
Describe any improvements to their solution
Students should have thought about any improvements that they would like to make given extra time or resources. They should be able to talk about why these improvements would be beneficial.
Teams will be divided into 4 categories based on year group:
i.e. A team of year 5 and 6 students is eligible, but a team of year 8 and 9 students is not.
Project Submission Details
How to enter
The Project Showcase and Awards Ceremony will be run on Saturday 30th October 2021 at Curtin University. Student teams will be required to set up a project display (science fair) on the day and the teams will have the opportunity to present their STEM project to a panel of judges. These judges will assess the merit of their projects during the day to determine the award winners. To make this happen each team will need to register to attend (free) and provide the following details.
To make this happen the Register Now link will require you/your team to provide:
- The School Name, Year Group, Team Name.
- Teacher name, email and mobile number.
- Project Description 150 words (this is your project “pitch” describing your project from concept to solution).
- A minimum of 10 photographs in a file like Word or PowerPoint showcasing your working model / prototype – please make sure these are good quality images in either JPEG, PNG or PDF format.
- Video footage of your working model/prototype (optional) – this can be recorded using a mobile phone.
IMPORTANT: Regional and remote student teams will need good quality images and video as these will be used to showcase your project during the Project Showcase and Awards Ceremony on the 30th October 2021 on the event screens.
We will need parental approval if any students are featured in photos or videos.
Project Showcase and Awards Ceremony
This is a very special day in the GCA calendar and therefore there will be a lot of displays and fun STEM activities to engage both students and parents/teachers. We highly recommend the participation of parents in this celebration of their child’s achievements and innovation.
At this event, the category winners will be announced by our Patron, Professor Lyn Beazley AO. You will hear from the WA Government, our GCA Ambassadors, Sponsors, and the Game Changer Awards Chair.
- Date & Time: Saturday 30th October 2021 – 9.00am to 300pm (set up from 8.30am).
- Format: Science fair displays (1 x table and 1 x pinboard per group) and 2-3 judging rounds where students will need to “pitch” their STEM project idea.
- Awards and prizes will go to: The “Best Project” and “Best Use of STEM” and “Best Presentation”
- Additional prizes will also be presented to schools and individuals during the event.