Physics and maths skills stretched to the limit!

December 15 / 173

RISE bungie winners Hamish McDougall (Marist Regional College Tasmania), Briggs McIntosh (Yiramalay/Wesley College) and Pacey Jackson (Worawa Aboriginal College) with their experimental subjects. Photo: Daryl Holland
RISE bungie winners Hamish McDougall (Marist Regional College Tasmania), Briggs McIntosh (Yiramalay/Wesley College) and Pacey Jackson (Worawa Aboriginal College) with their experimental subjects. Photo: Daryl Holland

Indigenous high school students put their maths and physics skills to the ultimate test with a precision bungie jumping competition at the University earlier this month.

Professor Roger Rassool, one of the coordinators of the Residential Indigenous Science Experience (RISE), said there was nothing like a competitive environment to spur innovation.

“The students were initially tasked with measuring the properties of an elastic band,” Professor Rassool said.

“Little did they know this basic maths and physics lesson would be put to such a high stakes test.”

University occupational health and safety rules forbade the students from launching themselves off the David Caro building to test their newfound bungie knowledge, so instead they used toys purchased from a local op shop.

There was fierce competition to see whose toy got closest to the ground (without actually hitting the ground) over an almost five metre drop.

Professor Rassool said in the end only a few centimetres separated the top two students and they awarded third prize to the student whose toy just grazed the ground.

“In physics, we accept a margin of error that’s either positive or negative, even though in this case the consequence of overshooting was a bit more severe,” he joked.

RISE is an annual program aimed at engaging Indigenous high school students in STEMM subjects. Each year, around 35 students are selected to take part in the residential program which is co-organised by the University and Dr Tony Chiovitti from the Gene Technology Access Centre.  They are supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous graduate students who volunteer to stay with them at Trinity College. 

“Our plan is to replace the three Rs of education with the three Es: Engage, Enthuse and Excite,” Professor Rassool said.

“We believe this program is lighting candles of opportunities for these students, and creating pathways to careers in science.”

Story by Daryl Holland

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