The Whacky Races

28 October 2010

In collaboration with the Compass Program, a group of Civil Engineering students - Robert De Cataldo, Alex Lester, Caitlin Walls and Andrew Yeo - from the Faculty of Engineering's Third Year Advanced Engineering course - coordinated by John Currie - worked with Marrickville High School to inspire their Year 9 students towards tertiary education and the Engineering profession.

The course required teams to contact High Schools within the Sydney region with the aim of going into these schools and taking science classes of either year 9 or year 10 students with the theme of promoting the Engineering Profession. We were told that previous teams had worked with schools partnered with the Compass Program and were keen to do the same as the team came to a decision aimed to inspire and work with kids who most needed direction towards higher aspirations, particularly tertiary education, a main goal of the Compass Program.

The team undertook three lessons with the student, two were held at Marrickville High school and the third was held at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Engineering as part of an arranged excursion. The idea of having the responsibility over a large group of adolescents and the fact that none of us had any initial teaching experience was incredibly daunting. This was throwing us into the deep end.

As part of the lessons, the students were taught about motion and were allocated a group project to construct miniature cars that were to be raced, judged and tested as part of a competition at the University. This stimulated creativity, fun and a desire to win whilst allowing the students to apply what they had been taught. This also introduced to them what Engineering is all about, the application of science to design and create anything and everything. The winners were awarded prizes in the form of movie tickets and all students received University drink bottles and stationary courtesy of Compass. It was a remarkable feeling observing, metaphorically, the little light bulbs switching on atop the students' heads.

The excursion into the University of Sydney was the highlight of the course. This gave Marrickville High School students exposure and the chance to observe the University and the culture and lifestyle of its students. We believe the University in itself was a source of inspiration and hopefully made many of them feel and think "I want to be here someday". The team frequently discussed with the students the vast array of opportunities available to them and conveyed the message that a little bit of hard work can take them to far places, to anywhere.

Overall, it was an incredibly rewarding experience for the team, having learnt and gained as many insights as we taught. Therefore we would like to deeply thank the Compass team, particularly Miriam Pellicano, Senior Project Officer and Caroline O'Neill, Project Support Officer as well as Trish Dimasi, Faculty of Engineering Marketing Officer, and John Currie, ENGG3062 (Technology Education) course coordinator, all of which without, none of this could have happened.