Research shows that engaging children in real experiments, in real situations, has the potential to ignite their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and addresses the immediate and urgent need that exists within these disciplines.
The RAL for Schools research project is making it possible for school students to participate in these hands-on, real-time, real world experiments, through Remote Access Laboratory (RAL) technology.
Using the ever increasing capabilities of the Internet, students can remotely access real life experiments without the expense of each school purchasing the equipment or paying for technical experts to conduct the experiments. It is also extremely safe, as children will have the opportunity to conduct and view the experiment remotely, using real-time video feeds.
This project will enhance lifelong learning within education and contributes to the retention of teachers, by providing a program of ongoing professional and skills development.
Phase one of this project involved a three-and-a-half hour session, run with two teams of children between the ages of eight and fourteen. The children were asked to evaluate the performance of a Meccano SpyKee robot, then design and construct a racing circuit to navigate the robot through.
Once the race courses were completed, the children were taken to a different location on the USQ Toowoomba campus where large monitors displayed web camera images capturing real-time views of the courses they had just created. Cameras built into the SpyKee robot also provided the drivers with a robot-eye view of the track.
The next step in was to make this experiment truly remote, which the team did by running the session again from Japan. The Japanese students remotely accessed the technology located at the Toowoomba campus and engaged in the same challenging activity as their domestic counterparts.
Phase two of this project is scheduled to commence in the latter half of this year. Participating schools will participate in more varied experiments, accessed remotely from their classrooms. These experiments will supplement their existing curriculum and add interest and excitement to their regular lessons.
'Using this technology, children in remote or disadvantaged schools will be able to engage in the same kind of learning activities as those in better resourced schools’, Mr Fogarty said, one of the researchers from the Faculty of Education.
The RAL project is a joint initiative between the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Engineering.
The Research team includes:
To find out more about this project, please contact Dr Warren Midgley.