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Science and Engineering Challenge

Can you construct a tower capable to sustain some load in static and earthquake conditions, using only 8 straws, 4 pieces of A4 paper and 3 meters of masking tape?


This is the challenge that Daniela Ionescu and Wayne Smith were invited to advise, supervise and mark.


On Monday, 22 August, over 100 year 9 and 10 students from eight schools in Bendigo and Woodend met at BSE Stadium to participate in the Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC). SEC in conjunction with SMART (Science, Maths And Real Technology) runs a range of programs that focuses on inspiring students to consider a future career in science and engineering.


Up to 4 in a group, the students were subjected to various challenges involving different science and engineering aspects. Students participated in a fun day involving hands-on STEM activities such as:

  • building an earthquake-proof tower, providing electricity to a city,

  • building a Mars buggy with a suspension system,

  • developing an efficient pathway to connect towns,

  • designing codes to send messages along fibre optic rods using only flashes of coloured light,

  • building a water turbine to produce electricity,

  • designing a bionic hand, and last but not the least

  • constructing a bridge with capacity to sustain the load of a moving trolley loaded with ingots.

Points were awarded based on each group’s performance in their activities and accounted towards the final score of each school.


The challenge is a nationwide STEM outreach program run by the University of Newcastle since 2000 in partnership with Rotary clubs, universities and industry sponsors. In Bendigo, the SEC was run by the Rotary Clubs of Bendigo South and Bendigo Sandhurst and were sponsored by the VIC Roads, Coliban Water and Peter Ryall Trust Fund. A number of Rotarians from Bendigo cluster were asked to assist on the day with advice, supervision and marking of various activities.


The students’ commitment to each task was phenomenal and they should be very proud of their performance. Congratulations to all students involved!

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