UC tech projects open young minds to science

07 July 2016

UC has won funding for two projects that aim to bring science and technology to young people and local communities.

Brandy Alger, project lead of Resilient and Sustainable Pop-Up Housing

Brandy Alger, project lead of 'Resilient and Sustainable Pop-Up Housing' says her event is a friendly competition to design a resilient and sustainable pop-up model house using TinkerCAD and a laser cutter.

The University of Canterbury has won funding for two projects that aim to bring science and technology to young people and local communities, as part of the government’s 2016 Unlocking Curious Minds fund.

The Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund is seen as a great way to develop the curiosity of young people about how the world works.

Brandy Alger, project lead of ‘Resilient and Sustainable Pop-Up Housing’, which was awarded $20,573 in funding, says her event will be open to Year 10 students from around Christchurch. It’s a friendly competition to design a resilient and sustainable pop-up model house using TinkerCAD and a laser cutter.

“The purpose of this project is to encourage students in high school to think about earthquake resilience in all aspects. By having the students create their own sustainable and resilient pop-up houses from computer automated design to fabrication allows students to fully understand the connection between physics, math, and social sciences. Students will be able to test their models on a shake table to simulate an earthquake and comprehend the effect their design would have on the community,” Alger says.

Using real-world examples, input from researchers, industry experts and collaborators from Fab Lab and Ara, students will be able to learn about external forces, designing for resilience and finishing with a test of their very own creations on a shake table at the University of Canterbury. This program encourages young people to design in virtual space, similar to Kerbal Space Program and Minecraft.

Curious Minds funding will also help support Jill Pears, who is undertaking a doctorate of Education (EdD), to work with girls, aged 10 to 12, to develop their computational thinking.

The project ‘Developing girls’ computational thinking using robotics’ was awarded $23,459 in funding. She says the ultimate aim is to have girls and women contributing to the computational world as much as boys and men.

“This project promotes the participation of girls in science, technology and engineering (STEM), through developing computational thinking using robotics. Potentially, a STEM career choice by girls could result in a wider range of thinking, development and applications for solving life issues and would give them enhanced life choices. The target group includes Maori and Pasifika girls because these girls are currently massively under-represented in STEM higher education and STEM-related careers,” Pears says.

Curious Minds is a cross-agency programme of work led by MBIE, the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. The Fund offered two levels of grants in the 2016 round: up to $30,000 for local projects, and up to $150,000 for regional or national projects.

For further information please contact:
Margaret Agnew, Senior External Relations Advisor, University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 2775 | Mobile: 027 5030 168 | margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz
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