With the support of Ford Australia, the hub offers equipment, programs and mentorship to help young Australians explore opportunities in STEAM.
Boasting cutting-edge equipment, including a laser-cutting machine and a computer numerically controlled (CNC) laser-cutter, the hub officially opened in November 2017.
“We probably think of it a bit like a makerspace, where our students can come and put their ideas into reality,” vocational education and training teacher Richard Ellson says.
Students typically visit the hub with their teachers for a month at a time, to work with the specialist equipment and Ford engineers.
Ellson says the engineers, mostly graduates, work with students to workshop ideas and help them figure out what’s possible.
“When we first started there was a lot of reluctance with the engineers, it’s a big thing to have to walk into a classroom full of kids when you’re not used to it,” Ellson admits.
“And what we’ve found, now that we’ve done a number of these classes, that there’s more and more engineers wanting to become involved, because they’re actually seeing how engaged the students are and even the engineers are saying, ‘can we keep doing this? Can we come back next week? I want to see the end result’,” he adds.
According to Ellson, having a real-life engineer in the classroom really captures students’ enthusiasm and helps them see the relevance of what they are learning.
“I think there’s only so much you can do for [some] kids that’s going to get them interested.
“Whereas when they have someone actually come in from the outside world, that makes a huge difference,” he says.
“And because the engineers are involved in it, and they’re excited about it, the kids just pick up on that and run with it.
“It’s a really powerful thing to experience in a classroom.”
A recent project completed by students, was to design and build a ‘gravity car’, aiming to create the car which travelled the furthest when released down a ramp.
Students began with research, watching a documentary about a real-world record attempt with a full-size vehicle.
“But after that we go through and look at the design of the car, so they get a bit of free time to come up with some weird and wonderful ideas so you see where they’re at, and then you pull it back a bit and say ‘right guys, we’ve got a few constraints now, this is the material we’re working with,’ and go through all of those issues,” Ellson explains.
“Then we came up with designs, transferred those designs into AutoCAD, which is a fairly standard draughting package out in the engineering world.”
Ellson says the visiting engineers were blown away by the fact Year 7 and 8 students were tinkering with AutoCAD, a program they weren’t introduced to until university.
The project has been a hit with kids so far.
“Through the whole project you watch the kids walk into the class and go, ‘hmmm, not too sure about this,’ [but] once they get their teeth into it, they don’t want to go home at the end of class ... their engagement levels are huge.”