Student-programmed MARS Rovers take over 'Civic Precinct' in miniME challenge

28 Nov 2018

Nearly 550 primary school children from 18 schools across the region competed in the miniME Challenge at The Forum today, taking part in a STEM competition involving robotics and coding.

Part of a Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter, City of Newcastle and Obelisk Systems partnership, the Challenge is the culmination of Phase One of the miniME Program, which saw the expansion of STEM activities, including robotics and coding programs, into 18 primary schools in Newcastle. Another 17 schools are expected to participate in Phase Two.

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Each school received two StarLAB Sensor + Mars Rover Bundles*, a tailored curriculum as well as support to enable teacher delivery of the cutting-edge STEM and coding platform as part of the project.

Today, students put their coding skills into action on a purpose-built track modelled on Newcastle’s Civic Precinct. The Challenge activity saw teams manoeuvre their rovers through the maze-like course while undertaking science experiments to collect environmental impact data.

RDA Hunter’s Director of Regional Development Trevor John said the partnership between RDA Hunter, City of Newcastle, Obelisk Systems and local primary schools had delivered a range of skills to students while introducing them to important issues, such as environmental protection.

“The City's support has directly enabled hundreds of Hunter students to access equipment and activities that will teach them all-important STEM skills," he said. "This will inspire them to pursue further STEM study in preparation for their careers and begin to understand environmental issues that will affect their future.”

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Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the miniME school engagement program was about inspiring careers and creating jobs at home in Newcastle.
 
"Our vision is for Newcastle to be a smart, liveable and sustainable global city. This program is helping to instil these values in the next generation as students learn how technology can be used to address issues such as protecting our environment," said the Lord Mayor.
 
"This program offers young people hands-on, interactive learning and will equip them for future careers that will originate out of a city of innovation."
 
Founder of Obelisk Systems Lewis Quill said the company was excited to bring the StarLAB STEM platform to Newcastle primary school students.

“Phase One of miniME has been an exciting project for us to work on," he said. "Combining our coding platforms with science experiments and data collection applications has improved student engagement in our programs and enabled students to utilise the Rovers to contribute to real-world solutions. It’s gratifying to see our technology making a real impact on students learning.”

Participating schools in 2018/19 include: Newcastle East Public School, Newcastle Grammar School – Park Campus, New Lambton Public School, St Joseph’s Primary School Merewether, Hamilton North Public School, Islington Public School, Waratah Public School, St Philips Christian College – Junior School, Waratah West Public School, Mayfield East Public School, Hunter Christian School, Mayfield West Public School, Tighes Hill Public School, Wallsend Public School, Plattsburg Public School, Heaton Public School, Glendore Public School, Minmi Public School. Additional schools will be added during 2019/2020.

Expressions of Interest are now being accepted for an additional 17 Newcastle-based schools to participate in Phase Two which will run from February to June 2019.

The miniME program is supported by City of Newcastle as part of its Smart City initiatives, which has received $5 million in grant funding from the Australian Government through its Smart Cities and Suburbs program.  The miniME program was developed by Obelisk Systems and RDA Hunter to contribute to the Smart Mobility and Smart Environment objectives of Newcastle's Smart City strategy.
 
* The StarLab Coding platform is a complete solution for teaching coding and STEM subjects in the classroom, which can be programmed by students using Scratch and Python.

* The Mars Rover expansion adds robotics to the StarLAB coding platform. It allows students to build their own Rover, drive it, collect data and get their experiments moving.