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Bringing science to life for students with special needs

Over the last 3 days, we have been running our Superpower Pilot Program with students from our Special Needs Partner Schools. The students have loved the Program where they got to tour various facilities within Monash University. Have a read below, where one of our Pre-Service Teachers has written what the day involved and the experiences student had.

I used to think “science would be a very hard subject for students with special needs” and how wrong I was. For the past three days, students from three special education schools - Ashwood School, Glenallen School, and Monash Special Developmental School - have kept surprising me with their insights about latest science development.

The students have participated in the Superpower Pilot Program offered by Monash Tech School. The program provides them with a chance to explore sustainable energy and understand innovative technology.

The students were first introduced to the FLEET project, a research program aimed to minimize energy loss in electronic devices. They learned about superconductors (i.e. an electronic piece with nearly zero resistance) and observed their “magic” property: a superconductor floats over strong magnets and slides on top of them like a roller-coaster. This demonstration inspired students to ask interesting questions about its application in our lives, such as why we don't have hover cars.

Students visited Woodside Innovation Centre to check out the application of 3D Printing in energy production and surgery techniques. The students were excited to hold models made by 3D printers, checking out the structure of, for example, a jet engine. The team of researchers at Woodside allowed them to see that 3D Printing is more than just printing little plastic elements and there are a lot of different materials that can be used for 3D printing, such as metal, and silicone. They were more excited when they saw that an interactive ocean model, created by computer simulation, was projected on the table.

The power of simulation was also shown in the CAVE, a room with a circular wall of TV screens. Wearing 3D glasses, the students observed the wind pattern in Melbourne and learned the benefits of installing a wind farm over a coal-fired power station. After this informative section, students took an exciting tour to the tombs in Egypt, the surface of Mars, and a look at Mars from a satellite dishes in space. The 3D video gave the students, a look at where scientists believe there has been water on Mars, and the arctic spot located on Mars. Plus a nearly authentic experience of space travelling where they giggled as they felt disoriented.

Ashwood students were also lucky enough to travel across the road to CSIRO and learn about flexible solar cells, and the potential they have for sustainable energy in the future. They loved learning about the different uses for solar panels, and that they could have a portable charger for their phones powered by the sun.

Finally, the students were provided with a hands-on experience to explore different types of energy. The Superpower Pilot Program has incorporated a series of activities to help students to understand energy transformation and renewable energy. Using gadgets like heat cameras and sound detectors, students measured the energy produced by solar cars, rubber bands, and rubber cups. Also, the creative tasks enabled them to build models of a wind turbine and a sustainable house.

“I like everything”, said one student after the day. I completely agreed with him. Many thanks to Monash Tech School, for giving me a great opportunity to join the Superpower Project and working with these amazing children.

written by Tian Pu

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