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UC projects aim to inspire youth

UC projects aim to interest youth in 3D-holographic magma drilling, sport science and crafty maths

Three innovative University of Canterbury science projects featuring 3D-hologram magma drilling, sport science and crafty maths have won government funding to aid them in their aim to inspire curious young minds.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods recently announced over $2 million of funding for 33 innovative science projects through the 2018 Unlocking Curious Minds contestable Fund.

“Unlocking Curious Minds supports innovative science projects that engage New Zealanders, particularly young people, with science and technology in their everyday lives,” Dr Woods said.

The UC projects that won funding are:

The Big Experiment ($27,540)

The Big Experiment will use sport science to enable school students from Years 6-8 to become scientific researchers – collecting, analysing and presenting their own data on how children change as they grow.

Project leader Professor Nick Draper, School of Sport & Physical Education, says the aim of the project is to use sport as a medium through which to get primary school students involved in science and research.

“The schoolchildren will carry out the whole project from design to data collection and analysis, including a write-up for presentation at a conference at the University of Canterbury,” Prof Draper says.

“The tests will give insight into a number of key changes that occur as we grow, will be interesting and fun for the students to complete and administer, and will provide an excellent learning opportunity looking at factors that can go up and down with age, such as flexibility and resting heart rate as opposed to reaction times and sprint times.”

Children from Years 6-8 at four rural Canterbury schools will use eight technology-based sport-science tests to assess their own growth and development:

1. Vertical Jump

2. Reaction Time

3. Height and Flexibility

4. Resting Heart Rate and O2 Saturation

5. Grip Strength

6. Cricket Ball Throw

7. 800m Endurance Run

8. 30m Sprint

Magma drillers save planet Earth ($29,782).

This project, led by volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy, Geological Sciences, aims to inspire schoolchildren to study science and engineering by drilling into a volcano using a 3D interactive holographic game. The students will experience science through educated play by becoming the stars of the game titled “Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth”.

“We are on the cusp of a globally unprecedented feat of science and engineering. Scientists plan to intentionally drill into the magma chamber of Krafla, an Icelandic volcano, for the first time. This is a rare opportunity to use science to stimulate the imagination of all students, including those who are under-represented in STEM disciplines,” Assoc Prof Kennedy says.

“We’re going to invite Canterbury high-school students to participate in a journey into magma and the future of science and technology using a 3D-interactive holographic game. These students will play the role of scientists drilling into a magma chamber to extract its power.”

Using a simulated project-based learning activity, this project integrates 3D software video resources, skills, technology, and science know-how to develop interactive content suitable to run outside the classroom, he says. Students will choose the location, depth and budget of the drilling, based on the background video resources which summarise the scientific data.

“Drilling too deep could initiate an eruption and kill everyone. Get it right and you can cool down the magma chamber, reduce the risk of a large eruption, and make renewable energy.”

Maths Craft in class ($30,000)

After running a series of Maths Craft Festivals around New Zealand this year and talking to the participants, UC mathematicians Drs Jeanette McLeod and Phil Wilson saw a need for Maths Craft in schools, specially designed for students and teachers.

“We’re bringing Maths Craft to maths class! Maths is often overlooked as a subject of beauty and imagination. At our various Maths Craft events this year, we met many teachers, students and parents who were excited by the concept of using craft as gateway to mathematics, and asked us for ways to bring Maths Craft into schools. We have also been inundated by requests from teachers and schools – especially lower decile schools – to visit them and run activities,” Dr McLeod says.

“We have been in discussion with the Head of the School of Teacher Education at the University of Canterbury, Professor Letitia Fickel, about ways that Maths Craft can support maths teachers who are struggling both with their own mathematical confidence and in finding ways to engage their students with mathematics,” Dr Wilson says.

“So in what seems like an ideal solution to both problems, we have decided to run a pilot project in 2018 in which we teach maths teachers the maths behind a selection of crafts, facilitate them in creating lesson plans, and support them as they bring Maths Craft to maths class,” Dr McLeod says.

At the end of the programme, the Maths Craft team plan to hold another Festival in Christchurch and invite the teachers and students to participate as volunteers, to demonstrate the mathematics and craft they have learned to the general public.

“We’re keen to show people how maths underpins almost every aspect of today’s society. Whether it’s used in crafts, technology, business, science, social science or education, maths is vital.”


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