STEM Students Protect Local Lagoon

The winners of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) MAD (Making a Difference) National Showcase have been announced and St Virgil’s College has won!

Year 9, Oscar Brewer and Tadhg Morgan have competed on behalf of the College and have won the Contribution to Wildlife Conservation category against all primary and secondary Catholic schools in Australia. They were also in the top three in the secondary school category. The boys are incredibly passionate about their STEM project at Goulds Lagoon in Austins Ferry, which is located a kilometer away from the College grounds. During their project they identified many environmental damages to the Lagoon which is home to more than 82 local species of birds.

The Showcase, run by the Catholic Network Australia, is a celebration of student learning designed to acknowledge and promote STEM learning initiatives that address real-world problems and demonstrate the ability that students have to make a difference. This year's showcase was assessed on elements including the design process, links to STEM disciplines and capabilities, innovative application of scientific and mathematical concepts, engineering and communication principles, and the Catholic distinction of making a difference to others and their environment. Due to COVID-19 Oscar and Tadhg were unable to travel to Melbourne for the event, and made a four-minute presentation and a poster outlining the issue and their processes in finer detail.

“It feels great to be able to represent our school in this STEM competition. I enjoy being able to participate in an event that is more focused in the STEM area rather than an area that is more commonly focused on. The process involved in competing in this competition involves great perseverance and determination, with having such a short timeframe to complete the work for the competition. We also had to show all our steps to finding our solution that we presented in the competition.”  - Tadhg Morgan

With guidance from the St Virgil’s College Head of Digital Technology and STEM Coordinator, Bronwen Baume-Tarrant, Oscar and Tadhg conducted extensive research from books, council archives, pamphlets and scientific government research, while contacting experts at the Glenorchy City Council and the Natural Trust. Their project has an engineering design focus where they developed a solution to a major problem in their local area. The first aspect of their project was to create a stable, protective fence and a wooden sustainably sourced footpath around the wetlands. The second part of their project was to develop a bridge to help baby birds cross over the main road near the lagoon. Their solution to the latter was to build a ‘Speed Bump Baby Bird Tunnel', to ensure safety of wildlife when crossing from the River Derwent to Goulds Lagoon. 

Oscar and Tadhg started studying the topic in 2019, and Mrs Baume-Tarrant approached the boys this year to ask if they would like to expand on their project and compete in the Showcase. Both boys stated how crucial the support of Mrs Baume-Tarrant has been.

“I am so proud and the boys and the effort they’ve made towards making a difference. They didn’t receive any class time for the project, and gave up their own time at recess, lunch and after school. The quality of work they’ve completed is incredible and they have shown tremendous dedication to positively impact the local wildlife and improve the local community.” - Bronwen Baume-Tarrant.

The team won the Tasmanian regional component of the STEM MAD Showcase in October, and then adjusted their presentation after careful consultation from the judges and decided to delve further into their research and the interview process that took place for the national event.

Due to the hard work the team has been putting into this important local project, there has already been results. They have been raising funds with the Glenorchy City Council to replace the fence and the footpath surrounding Goulds Lagoon, and the Council is also exploring options of their ‘Speed Bump Baby-Bird Tunnel’. Being able to watch their project take shape has given the boys great pride in their local area and in their College community.