Young engineers use LEGO and coding to heat up their learning experience

14 July 2022

As regional Queenslanders shivered through the winter school holidays' eager young minds braved the cold to immerse themselves in all things heat and energy at the Young Engineers club workshops.

Hosted by CQUniversity in seven regional towns from the Whitsundays to the Sunshine Coast' the two-day workshops attracted 220 students from over 90 schools.

The students' who were aged between Year's 1 and 8' came together to explore absolute zero – the temperature at which gas particles stop moving – by combining the use of LEGO' hardware and coding.

CQUniversity Deputy Director of Online Systems and Future Proofing and Young Engineers coordinator Mr Pavle Jeric said absolute zero was the ideal theme for this year's series of winter workshops.

"Absolute zero' which is -273°C' has never been achieved in a laboratory setting' but scientists and engineers persevere' and they keep getting closer'" he explained.

"Our Young Engineers also had to persevere with coding challenges which were new for many.

"Similarly' students were given instructions to complete basic models' but then through trial and error had to iteratively improve on them and fix design flaws just like real scientists."

Mr Jeric said they investigated states of matter and energy to gain a better appreciation of how science' technology' engineering' arts' and mathematics (STEAM) power our society.

"The students also explored how changes in states of matter are important for understanding energy production and they learned how engineers often change and adapt their inventions to be multi-purpose by transforming lawn mowers into snow blowers and building LEGO ski-doos that were designed to travel over snow'" he said.

After the students fine-tuned their understanding of how gears work' they put their coding skills to the test by programing smart see-saws' traffic systems and utility vehicles.

The students were given free rein to create their own inventions' with a tilt sensor-activated projectile system being one of the most complex and creative designs.

Mr Jeric said the instructors were impressed with the knowledge the students had exhibited.

"As the instructors prepared to talk about how matter changes states from solid to liquid to gas' they were very impressed when the primary school students could already explain in detail what plasma was'" he recalled.

"We are sure some of the students will pursue their STEAM interests very far."

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