Students from high schools all over Victoria learned that there is more to science than just test tubes when they participated in RMIT’s Science Experience.
Over three full days in January, the keen students received an extensive taste of what it might be like to study science at RMIT, with tours and experiments over the City and Bundoora campuses, as well as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC).
Comedian and television performer Rod Quantock opened the event with his brief but hilarious history of science and the universe.
Groups were then bussed to Bundoora, where they received hands-on demonstrations in the fields of Chinese medicine, biology, anatomy and nursing.
During the visit to the Chinese medicine labs, students made a herbal remedy face cleanser useful in treating acne. Some also volunteered to be treated with an ’ear pellet’ – a tiny ball bearing taped to a particular area of the earlobe and when pressure is applied, can relieve the symptoms of stress.
One enthusiastic student was heard to ask, “Can you make one of these that will make me go faster?“
During the a visit to the nursing labs, students were introduced to ’Simulation Man’ – a $100k breathing, pulsing mannequin complete with heart beats and dilating pupils. Students also learned about pulse oximetry; had their heart monitored with an ECG; and used a UV light to determine how well they cleaned their hands.
A tour of the anatomy labs was also on the program (not for the faint hearted), and in the biology labs students were taught how to use pipettes as they collected DNA extracted from E.coli. Fascinating fact of the day: if a human DNA was stretched out end to end it would reach to the sun and back to the earth over 30 times.
At the City campus, students undertook forensic finger printing in the chemistry labs; soil testing in the environmental science labs; sampled chemical engineering; and in the physics labs programmed their own digital thermometer to determine who had the warmest hands.
Students were also taken to CSIRO and VSSEC to receive firsthand experience of what it might be like to work as a scientist in the real world.
At CSIRO, students learned that the polymer bank note was invented there in 1990, and Wi-Fi in 2000.
Research Scientist Professor Deb Lau inspired the students with her presentation detailing her impressive career journey, spanning from science to the arts, and told of her fascination with ’unknown unknowns’.
Students were given a tour of the chemistry labs where polymers are made, the organic chemistry labs where drugs are manufactured, and then toured the gas processing research facility.
At VSSEC, students were thrown the big astrophysics questions such as: Where are we? What happens next? And where did all this stuff come from?
After pondering these questions, students then undertook the astronaut fitness testing program and later dressed in space suits to sample life on Mars.
On the final day, students cemented newly formed friendships over pizza and were entertained by their team leaders who performed a number of unusual science experiments.
Event coordinator Sarah Morley said Science Experience is a very valuable program for both aspiring scientists and RMIT’s student volunteers.
"The RMIT Science Experience gives school students a greater insight into science and engineering in a fun learning environment, where they can discover the diverse range of programs on offer,“ said Sarah.
"The hands-on activities on the City and Bundoora campuses are a great way for students to get excited about science, and the CSIRO tour really demonstrated how far a career in science can take them.“