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History in the making at Science and Engineering Challenge

Warwick SHS beats the bridge buster as thousands of students converge on the University of Southern Queensland

Cheers echoed across the stadium when a team defeated the ultimate Bridge Buster for the first time in the history of the Darling Downs Science and Engineering Challenge.

A trolley carrying 9kg of ingots safely made it across the test rig due to the considered bridge design of balsa, paddle-pop sticks, and cardboard by a Warwick State High School team.

Volunteer Graham Christensen has been a supervisor of the challenge for 19 years and couldn't believe it when the bridge design did what no one in the region had ever done before.

"This is the first time we have seen a trolly with that weight cross the test rig," Mr Christensen said.

"We have been waiting and waiting for this to happen. It was tremendous. The hands went up, and the schools cheered."

More than a thousand high-school students converged at the University of Southern Queensland this week for the annual Darling Downs Science and Engineering Challenge.

On each of the four days, Year 9 and 10 students engaged in fun and competitive activities involving science, engineering, and technology principles.

For St Ursula's College student Lily Cameron, it was a chance to work with her peers and learn new skills.

"Today has been about learning new skills, focusing on teamwork and broadening our understanding of science and engineering concepts," Lily said.

"I have enjoyed the practical activities and liked the whole day competing against other teams."

Activities included challenges such as The Bridge (building a light and strong bridge model), Confounding Communications (coding messages), ElectraCITY (providing low-cost electricity to a city's infrastructure), and Helter Skelter Shelter (building towers to withstand an earthquake).

Each day, eight different schools competed against each other. At the end of the four days, the team with the most points will receive a trophy and go on to compete at the State Final' Super Challenge'. This year’s winner was Toowoomba Christian College.

University of Southern Queensland Dean (Students) Professor Jim Nyland said the impact of this event was significant.

"This program provides a rich opportunity for interactive engagement between secondary students, teachers, academics, University staff, industry professionals and retired professionals," she said.

"Over the years, this Challenge has hosted more than 19,000 high school students giving them a first-hand, hands-on experience into the wonderful world of STEM."

This year, the University also hosted Year 5 and 6 students (Monday, May 22) for the first time for a Science and Engineering Discovery Day.

Science and Engineering.
Competing in the Science and Engineering Challenge at the University of Southern Queensland (back clockwise from left) St Ursula’s College students Charlotte Rhode, Lily Cameron, Ella Auld and Charlee Murdoch.