News

Mars no limit for earthling engineers


10 August 2012

Professor Salah Sukkarieh and his team were awarded $1.3 million to bring futuristic technologies to life for the Education 2020 project.
Professor Salah Sukkarieh and his team were awarded $1.3 million to bring futuristic technologies to life for the Education 2020 project.

Exploring Mars with roving robotics may become a virtual reality for remote and rural students as part of a program underpinning the National Broadband Network (NBN)-Enabled Education and Skills Services Program, announced yesterday by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).

Students will be able to remotely control robots similar to those sent to Mars from their classrooms says Professor Salah Sukkarieh, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics's Director of Research and Innovation.

Professor Sukkarieh and his team were awarded $1.3 million to bring futuristic technologies to life as the centre piece of the 'Education 2020: enabling learning in science, engineering and mathematics' project.

The project's aim is to entice students to study science, engineering and mathematics in early years at high school and to foster interest in careers in these areas.

"Our participation in the project involves building space robots, tele-operation software and designing new online engineering education curriculum material for high school and university students across Australia," says Professor Salah Sukkarieh, himself a former mechatronic engineering student at the University who completed his PhD in aerospace systems and now teaches space robotics.

"Using the NBN, students will be able to control the robots, which will be located at the Powerhouse Museum. We already have experimental Mars Rovers housed there and can already control them remotely via our labs on campus."

'Education 2020' is one of a number of programs the University is involved in focused on encouraging study in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), areas that have been identified as a priority by the Australian Government. Next month the University, in partnership with Google, will be delivering workshops for high school teachers to increase their knowledge and ability to promote and teach computer science and computational thinking in classrooms.

Professor Archie Johnston, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, and chair of ATSE's Education Forum, acknowledges the importance of raising participation rates in STEM subjects, "we hope that initiatives such as 'Education 2020' will capture the imagination of students and increase the uptake in these areas at school, creating a flow-on effect through to university and, ultimately, address the national skills shortage in these crucial fields".

The 'Education 2020' project will be delivered in conjunction with the University of NSW and Sydney's leading science, technology and design museum, the Powerhouse in Sydney.


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Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 9351 2579, 0401 361 701, victoria.hollick@sydney.edu.au