STEM students showcase their MAD solutions for social impact

​Students from Mary MacKillop College, Nundah, with their team mentors

​ECO-friendly portable shelters for those doing it tough, a heart-rate app for lifesavers to monitor swimmers from the shore for early detection of distress, an automatic light switch to help reduce energy consumption in classrooms, and a robotic waste bin to help sort recyclables.

These were just some of the innovative student prototypes that were showcased online at the inaugural Brisbane Catholic Education Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Making a Difference (MAD) Showcase.

Going virtual for the first time, 150 students in 46 innovative teams from 19 Brisbane Catholic Education schools went online to share their MAD talents and solutions to address real-world problems and act for the common good using their STEM knowledge and abilities.

Brisbane Catholic Education Deputy Executive Director Dr Doug Ashleigh said, "it was fantastic to see how the students have used the design thinking process to develop innovative and creative solutions that have the potential for positive implications in our communities".

“The judges were absolutely blown away by all the teams and their outstanding work - it was a tough job to pick only three in each category, but we congratulate all students and mentors involved – it was an exciting and eye-opening day!" Dr Ashleigh said.

The showcase was the culmination of months of work by students in Years 3 to 12, who presented their projects with working models or digital prototypes, along with the submission of a video pitch showcasing and explaining their idea.

There were four categories – Primary, Secondary, Future is STEM and Executive Director Award – with the winning teams from the first three categories to represent Brisbane Catholic Education at the National STEM MAD event in November.

Mary MacKillop College, Nundah, Principal Josephine Griffiths said the College was delighted to participate in the initiative to not only showcase students' talents but because “Making a Difference" is at the heart of what we believe our students should be doing". 

“Designing a product, service, or opportunity that had a social justice endeavour - that's what really struck value for us in being a part of the STEM MAD showcase" Principal Griffiths said.

Mary MacKillop Year 10 student Chloe Klinberg and her team created a Forest Fire Alert for earlier notifications after she had experienced first-hand the devastation of a bush fire.

“This means a great deal to me because I used to live out in the bush, and my family has been affected by bush fires. We have lost cattle, horses, and land due to fire," Chloe said.

“We developed a smoke alarm system that would detect the smoke and send alerts to local fire stations and SES before a fire became disastrous."

“It would attach to a tree, be solar powered and completely weather proofed."

Chloe said the experience has been really motivating and rewarding, “knowing that something we've developed could potentially help others in the future."

All Saints Primary School, Albany Creek, Year 5 team, Helping Hands won the Primary School Award for their Multi-Bin prototype – a motorised rubbish bin with three compartments to sort the different types of plastics for recycling and help reduce the amount going into landfill.

Mentor and STEM teacher at All Saints Primary School Sarah Campbell said, “the students had heard frightening statistics about the amount of e-waste and soft plastics that are still not being recycled."

“They were concerned about the environmental impact these materials cause and wanted to find a way that would be easy for people to recycle in their own homes.

“The girls built the prototype entirely from Lego, with robotic mechanisms inside that allows you to select the type of rubbish for categorisation and correct placement as you insert it," Sarah said.

Congratulations to all students, mentors and the winning teams including All Saints Primary School, Albany Creek, who received the Brisbane Catholic Education Primary Award for their Multi-Bin, St Teresa's Catholic College, Noosaville, who received the Brisbane Catholic Education Secondary Award for their Check-in App, St Eugene College, Burpengary, who received the Brisbane Catholic Education Future STEM Award and Executive Directors Award for their heart monitor app Beach Mate, and St Vincent's Primary School, Clear Island Waters, who were a fourth team selected to represent for their Vision Mate helping those with impaired visibility.

STEM MAD National is supported by the Catholic Network Australia (CNA) and will be hosted in association with the CAN Forum from Melbourne on November 16. 

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