STEM subjects to blossom under The Future Project

6 March 2014

Dr John Kavanagh, chemical engineering, who will be working with students
Dr John Kavanagh, chemical engineering, who will be working with students

Two of Sydney's highly regarded educational institutions have joined forces on a world-first project aimed at revolutionising the way science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are taught in high schools.

The King's School and The University of Sydney will work collaboratively on The Future Project, an initiative that sees the University's engineering researchers physically integrated into the school's new laboratories.

'The Future Project' will be based in the school's new purpose built Science Centre and aims to motivate and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

"We wanted to see students collaborating with real-life scientists and engineers, solving real-world problems and communicating this research to the broader public," says Brad Papworth who along with teaching colleague Roger Kennett spearhead the project.

Five years in the planning, the new centre includes 18 laboratories, an agricultural 'garden' complete with a geodesic glasshouse and crop-trial beds for use by researchers-in-residences as well as students.

Headmaster of The King's School, Dr Tim Hawkes said The Future Project was designed to forge links between high school students, researchers and scientists and will also be accessible to students at other high schools in Sydney's Greater West.

"We wanted to move beyond the traditional expressions of school science into genuine collaboration with those involved in cutting-edge discovery. We wanted to move beyond exam preparation into life preparation. We want to move from today's problems to tomorrow's solutions," said Dr Hawkes.

Professor Archie Johnston, Engineering and Information Technologies dean said the University recognised the visionary direction of The Future Project.

"The Future Project has all the hallmarks of changing the way high schools could work with tertiary institutions to improve Australia's world rankings in STEM areas.

This initiative, along with the recently established University of Sydney STEM teacher enrichment academy, will bring cutting-edge STEM thinking and practice to classrooms nationwide and inspire leadership thinking," states Professor Johnston.

"Researchers in engineering have several hands-on research projects slated for students of The Future Project including the extraction of valuable by products from fruit processing and production, which could assist in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease."

Dr John Kavanagh, Director of Undergraduate Laboratories in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will work with students on a number of projects such as the extraction of antioxidants from oranges looking for anti-cancer properties and the production of vitamin K2 for preventing osteoporosis and cardio vascular disease.

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