The University of Newcastle received a major funding boost last night for its innovative program that encourages high school students' interest in science and engineering.
The renowned Science and Engineering Challenge has been given a $250,000 sponsorship by the Australian Constructors Association (ACA) to take its success to an even greater level.
Professor John O'Connor, Head of the University of Newcastle's School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said the generous support of the ACA builds on eight years of success for the Challenge.
"Since its inception, the Challenge has steadily grown from a local event to one involving more than 20,000 students from high schools across Australia, and most recently Singapore," Professor O'Connor said.
"The Challenge has great success in boosting enrolment in secondary high school physics, science and mathematics and is one way of addressing the global skill shortages in the science and engineering fields.
"The ACA's sponsorship will allow us to enhance our current activities and provide much-needed support for the future development of the Challenge."
Developed by the University's Faculty of Science and Information Technology and Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, the Challenge involves teams of students working together to achieve a range of science-based tasks.
The initiative teaches students the value of team work and problem solving as they compete in a variety of activities including building bridges, making catapults, navigating virtual mazes and decrypting codes.
"Our challenges always involve a twist to make them more complex," Professor O'Connor said. "For example, we don't just ask them to make an item the fastest – we ask them to make it the fastest and the lightest."
The sponsorship was formally announced last night at the Australian Construction Achievement Award dinner at Doltone House in Sydney.
University of Newcastle Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations), Professor Kevin McConkey, accepted the sponsorship cheque.
"The ACA's generous support of the Science and Engineering Challenge is a welcome and generous investment in the future of the science and engineering industries in Australia," Professor McConkey said.
"Its contribution will compliment the ongoing support for the Challenge from Rotary International, Engineers Australia and the Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research."