Students click on to Mars program

Scottsdale High School teacher Karen Makinen and students Bronte Hall, 13, James Heyward, 12, Benike Saville, 15, and Kiana Crichton, 15, manoeuvre the robot. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER
Scottsdale High School teacher Karen Makinen and students Bronte Hall, 13, James Heyward, 12, Benike Saville, 15, and Kiana Crichton, 15, manoeuvre the robot. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER

SCOTTSDALE High School science lessons became a lot more interesting yesterday, as students helped to control a robot in a simulated Mars environment in Sydney, all with the click of a mouse from their classroom.

Using TV and projector screens, the students had one view of the Mars rover at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum and another of the scientists, also at the museum, taking them through the lesson.

The four year 7 and 10 students were part of the first Tasmanian team to take part in the national interactive launch of the virtual science education program The Mars Lab, which is a combined project of the University of New South Wales, Sydney University, the museum and made possible with the National Broadband Network.

They were joined by students from Willunga High School in South Australia and Presbyterian Ladies College and Duval High School in Armidale, NSW.

Scottsdale principal Natalie Odgers said being part of the program was a great opportunity for the school.

"One of our school priorities is around science and the encouragement to make learning really engaging for students, and this has allowed that," she said. School science leader Karen Makinen said the program was very different from the traditional textbook learning but such hands-on scientific study would open up educational opportunities and challenges for the students.

Year 10 student Kiana Crichton, 15, agreed that the science lesson was more interesting than normal.

"It's been really interesting to see it and take part," she said.

Project manager Carole Oliver, of the Australian Centre for Astro-biology, said she got behind the project to build the interest of students in science, maths and engineering.