Every week students of Ross Goddard’s robotics project at Bundoora Secondary College arrive to what looks more like a high-tech workshop strewn with 3D printers, circuit boards, and wires, than a classroom. They have been greeted not only by Mr Goddard, but also In2science mentor, Alex Newsome.
Ross’ first experience with the In2science program was back in 2007. Based on past experiences, he knew what a great resource a mentor could be in the classroom, and having one for his year 8 robotics class was the perfect fit. “Knowing how good they are, the engagement with the kids, the level of knowledge, [and having] the kids see them every week, it’s very important.”
What Ross and the students set out to achieve with the project was ambitious. The students took the lead in designing and building a small army of battle-bots. Ross says, “This is at the cutting edge of what schools are doing with STEM… we’re using Sketchup, 3D printers, Arduino boards, and Autodesk to prototype the electronics without putting a soldering iron to a circuit board. You’ve got to be specific about what you want to achieve, and the In2science mentor has the skills to help lead that group.”
For Ross, one of the most valuable aspects of having Alex mentor his students has been his specialised knowledge, “We have no [advanced] knowledge in the school whatsoever about robotics and electrical engineering. Alex is at the opposite end, he knows everything.”
Alex Newsome is studying a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering (Honours) at La Trobe University, and this was his second placement as an In2science mentor. He knew how important it was to give the students the confidence to take risks. “I try to encourage the kids to have the confidence that you don’t need to know everything, you just need to know how to find everything. I think that’s helped a lot of them to have the confidence in themselves. They’d be much quicker to say, well here’s what I thought, and you go, well that’s half right [let’s build on that].”
According to Ross, Alex has been a valuable role model to the class, “having someone that’s so confident in what he’s doing, the kids see that and believe what can be achieved. That’s what In2science and what Alex give me. He gives us confidence that we can go into new areas and new technology.”
Alex has been helping the students to feel more capable in their project, “I’m seeing them get involved, starting to ask questions. I really want to highlight to the kids to have the confidence to pick something up and try it, [to give] it a shot and you will have learned something from it.”
Ross says that what a mentor has brought to the class can’t be replicated with any educational resource, “Alex makes things possible that would otherwise be difficult. Having a person like Alex sharing a goal with me and then sharing that goal with students – you can’t buy that. He’s a unique young man, a great resource, and I’m really impressed.”