National Science Week

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:31): I rise to support this excellent motion by Dr Richard Harvey, the member for Newland:

That this house—

(a) recognises that National Science Week is held from 10 to 18 August 2019;

(b) acknowledges the important impact that National Science Week has in promoting and celebrating science across all age groups;

(c) recognises the important role that science plays in the South Australian economy; and

(d) acknowledges the work being undertaken by the state government to increase participation in STEM subjects for students to ensure that young South Australians have the skills for the jobs of the future.

In regard to National Science Week, I want to concentrate my early comments on STEM and STEM projects in my electorate of Hammond. Recently, I had the privilege of attending and opening new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) infrastructure in my electorate of Hammond. The new facilities are at Murray Bridge primary school—or Murray Bridge North School, as some would know it—at a cost of $1 million; Murray Bridge High School, at a cost of $2.5 million; and Mannum Community College, at a cost of $3.5 million.

These contemporary facilities will support cutting-edge teaching and learning approaches to help prepare students for future jobs in a range of industries. While every project will look different, the program will see the establishment of many adaptable spaces, which will be ideal for collaborative group work, small breakout groups and individual thinking.

These projects are part of a $250 million investment by the state government to provide 139 of our schools with contemporary facilities for teaching and learning in STEM. We know that 75 per cent of the fastest growing industries need some form of science, technology, engineering or maths skills. It is important that rural and regional students receive similar opportunities for education and learning to those of their city cousins.

Given the exciting new opportunities in industries such as defence and space, continued investment in new STEM facilities will ensure rural and regional students will share in this exciting future. STEM learning looks very different from class to class and school to school. Some of the examples of what students learning STEM may study are:

coding;

designing and building prototypes, like windmills, solar cars and water sampling technologies;

the Engineers Without Borders project, which designs and develops solutions for humanitarian problems like solar cookers, water filtration systems and solar lighting;

agri-science and agricultural engineering;

robotics;

working with local industries and communities such as Lockheed Martin and Parafield Airport; and

developing technical and engineering skills to troubleshoot the source of a problem, repair a machine or debug an operating system.

As you can see, these topics and skills are vastly different from the traditional skills of years past and will ensure that our rural and regional students continue to keep pace by gaining the skills needed to secure the jobs of the future. I am proud to be part of a government investing in rural and regional education, ensuring that no matter where you live in South Australia, you will enjoy the opportunities provided by these new and emerging industries.

I acknowledge the investment in both the regions and in the city to make sure that all students get the ability to be the best that they can be with these new facilities being opened up. Certainly, in regard to my electorate, I was proud to open the Murray Bridge North facilities with the Minister for Education, John Gardner. The students in one room were using a small iPad to drive a ball on the floor, so not only was there a bit of science involved but it was all good fun as well. There are also some excellent breakout facilities and rooms there for students to learn those STEM subjects.

In more recent times, I opened the facilities at Murray Bridge and also went there for a robotics competition day, when students from different schools could piece together a robot that had different tasks, like moving objects over a small barrier and moving the robot to and fro, using phone technology to drive it. I still have a bit to learn about driving a robot, from my brief experience, but it certainly teaches students the skills that they will need into the future as robotics become more and more part of our lives.

Speaking of robots, only the other day I was in the Disability Unit in Murray Bridge High School meeting Pepper, their almost lifelike robot, and saw the great interaction between Pepper the robot and the students. The robot even reacted with me, which was something different, once I had the script and knew what it would listen to and what it would not listen to. I was pleased to hear, when I asked Pepper if robots would completely replace humans, that Pepper decided that, no, they would not; they are here to help us.

There is great development there at Murray Bridge High School and there is more going on with $20 million worth of development. At Mannum Community College the other day, I opened the facilities in my own right, as I did at Murray Bridge. There are some great open-space rooms now, great breakout facilities again, and great opportunities for students heading into the future. I was very privileged to be there to do that.

I want to talk about some of the matters that the member for Flinders talked about, regarding the excellent information he had about the Apollo landings and the Apollo spacecraft. I had the privilege of going to Cape Canaveral way back in 1984. They actually have a spare Saturn V rocket. the huge rocket that launched these astronauts up into space. The reason they had one left over was that there was always a spare in case something dramatic happened on the launchpad. That is the courage that all these astronauts have whenever they do something like that.

We saw that terrible tragedy years later and there was always the thought of something going bang on the launch strip, with all those many hundreds of tonnes of fuel. You could just imagine the thrust sitting up the top of a big rocket going where not many men had been, and you have to commend their courage for doing that. It was something to see this Saturn V rocket on the haul road, with the crawler tractors that would move it around and so on.

The member for Flinders was correct, and the Apollo 13 movie showed how they had to work out on the ground—how to get a square object in a round hole with what they had on the spacecraft—just so that those fellows could get home. They did it, and it is a tribute to science that they got home. Certainly, in light of the Apollo missions and the role that the dish at Parkes played, it was a great movie, but I am not sure how much leeway was given to the producers in some of the reality of what happened.

Obviously, they had to guess when the Moon appeared again on the right side of the Earth so that they could keep up their frequencies. There was a bit of luck and a lot of management to make sure they could get that communication. One thing I noticed in The Dish, one of those bloopers, was that in one scene you see a stack of hay in the background. I do not believe they were making big square bales in 1969, but that is just something I picked up; not everyone would pick it up. Otherwise, it was a great presentation of our role in the space mission.

In the time I have left, I would like to acknowledge our own astronaut, Andy Thomas, from Adelaide and what he has done in going into space, living in space and doing Moon walks. As I said before, I commend anyone who has the courage to do that, and he did it multiple times. I heard him speak the other day at Adelaide University, and he is just a fantastic speaker. He was brief and to the point, but you were not left wondering about what he got up to and the opportunities for people into the future. I certainly commend the motion by the member for Newland. May many more people learn the opportunities they will get through science, technology, engineering and maths across the board.