Page 40 - Australian Defence Magazine August 2018
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“The Centre uses the vector of
space science to approach STEM across the board.”
The student experience at VSSEC starts well before the visit with the program providing material to teachers and students in the lead up to their time at the centre.
“They have scale images of various plan- ets that they place along the radials to learnaboutscaling,estimation,andaver- aging – so you’re using the solar system as your vehicle, but actually you’re teaching mathematics.
“The Centre uses the vector of space sci- ence to approach STEM across the board.”
VSSEC’s presence in space education extends beyond the school classroom.
The Centre also runs a professional de- velopment program for teachers known as the Victorian STEM Teacher Train- ing Academy (ViSTTA), the capacity to teach the teachers.
“What we find is that some science and maths teachers are not confident in their teaching,” Biddington said. “ViSTTA is about bring teachers in and putting them into programs with mentors.
“We’re also going to Bremen in Germany this year for the International Aeronauti- cal Congress (which was held in Adelaide last year), where VSSEC teachers will con- duct a professional development program
for teachers from around the world. It’s through those sort of links that they have accesstotheESAandNASAforimagery and resources.”
VSSEC, however, is facing the challenge of overcoming limitations set by current funding levels. Whilst the Centre was built off an initial government investment of $7
million in 2007, VSSEC’s current operations would represent an initial invest- ment value of between $16- 20 million.
“It’s not funded to do any- thing more than it is doing,” Biddington said. “That’s frustrating for the Centre’s
management, because there’s so much more they want to do, but the resources aren’t there. So we want to take it and move it to a new horizon of capability.”
One avenue VSSEC is pursuing is a proj- ect that will see schoolchildren across the state build three CubeSats and process data, which could form the basis for aca- demic research papers.
“The thought is to have tech schools work on the engineering element and the second- ary colleges take the data and process it. There’s no reason why that data could not be written up into academic papers. You’re seeing a cross-pollination possibility there.
We’re calling it VESP – Victorian Educa- tion Satellite Program.”
VSSEC’s expertise and reputation have given Victoria a widely-recognised strength in space science education. The Centre has formed partnerships with Hamilton Secondary College in Adelaide and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, which both use VSSEC’s model to engage students in space science. Education will undoubtedly characterise the state’s rela- tionship with the national space agency.
Biddington also sounded a word of warn- ing about the danger of placing high expec- tations on the national space agency.
“Let’s not get too excited about the space economy,” he said. “No matter what govern- ment may wish, the Australian component will grow but will always be comparatively small.
“There’ll be a great temptation to blame government for not supporting failed SMEs, and some are bound to fail. How- ever, the bit where I think the space agency can make an enormous difference is that it can, for the first time, develop a national space narrative for Australia that pulls to- gether the civil, military, education, and commercial dimensions.
“If we do that, we have something the en- tire nation can get behind.”
Note: Brett Biddington will be speaking at ADM’s STEM and Defence Summit this month in Canberra on August 21.
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