Mad for Madmaker

20 October 2015

Students across Australia have gone mad for Madmaker, an online STEM challenge launched this week by the University of Sydney.

More than 120 high schools, 300 hundred teachers and 1500 students across the country are taking part in the six-week challenge that is more about learning than winning.

Aimed at Year 9 high school students MadMaker is the brainchild of electrical and information technologies engineer Dr Abelardo Pardo and his team at the University of Sydney.

MadMaker is about showing and teaching participants in fun, engaging way about embedded systems and how they are used in our everyday life.

“The STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – are central to the development of many objects we now take for granted, such as computers, mobile phones, biomedical instruments, GPS systems and many robotic devices,” says Dr Pardo.

“During the MadMaker challenge students use STEM subjects to solve real-world problems in an exciting new way – exploring and designing systems with the popular and user-friendly Arduino Esplora board.”

As part of the challenge students work in pairs using the board connected to a regular computer. The board includes sensors for temperature, sound, light and movement, as well as a joystick. The application to write programs is open source and can be installed on a conventional computer.

 “We picked Arduino Esplora boards because they are an introductory level device, inexpensive but powerful tool to learn with. If the schools or students want to continue exploring and designing after the six week program, the costs of the kits are not prohibitive, around about $85,” says Dr Pardo a specialist in technology based learning.

The MadMaker challenge was designed to entice students who may not have previously seen a future career in engineering, technology or science-related fields.

”We wanted to design a STEM teaching tool that would really fit the needs of schools so we conducted numerous  sessions termed ‘participatory design’ programs with high school teachers.

“Through these sessions we were able to design a challenge that fitted the needs of both the teachers and their students and not something we thought they needed.

“Feedback so far from the students has been terrific, with a high level of engagement from science and math teachers, as well as female students,” says technical project lead, Owen Brasier also from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering.

The University of Sydney project is officially named the Embedded System Design Challenge and is partially funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training through the Australian Maths and Science Part Teacher Training Workshops, and the STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy at The University of Sydney.

Victoria Hollick

Media and Public Relations Adviser
  • Level 5 School of Information Technologies Building J12

Related articles

13 August 2015

Resetting the table to halt expanding waistlines

Can farmers, producers and regulators work together at all points of the food supply chain to help curb Australia’s growing obesity problem?

27 August 2015

Eureka Prize for Associate Professor Michael J. Biercuk

Associate Professor Biercuk was recognised with the prestigious prize for contributions at the leading edge of quantum science research.

14 August 2015

Scientists should take a leaf out of wellness bloggers' books

How can we distinguish credible wellness information from unfounded pseudoscience? And why is it that wellness gurus are often taken more seriously than scientists? Jackie Randles writes.

14 August 2015

18 of our most exciting scientists on Twitter

It's National Science Week this week from 15-23 August and for all you science lovers, we have created a list of the University of Sydney's most exciting scientists on Twitter.

11 August 2015

How Einstein could help unlock the mysteries of space travel

Warp drives might be the stuff of science fiction, but they could be a step closer to reality if we look to Einstein's theory of gravity, according to a University of Sydney researcher.

11 August 2015

Proof is in the breakfast cereal

The science of snap, crackle and pop has expanded beyond the breakfast bowl with an international research team using puffed rice cereal to explain the movement and crushing of porous materials when compressed.

06 August 2015

University of Sydney celebrates Sydney Science Festival

From Einstein's theory of gravity to Aboriginal astronomical knowledge, University of Sydney researchers are proving there's no single formula for exploring a love of science this National Science Week. 

12 August 2015

How mobile phones could save us from obesity

A world-first intervention designed by Charles Perkins Centre researchers specifically for young people found mobile phones could improve health and halt weight gain. 

10 August 2015

Starchy carbs, not a Paleo diet, advanced the human race

Starchy carbohydrates were a major factor in the evolution of the human brain, according to a new study co-authored by researchers from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.

10 August 2015

Big data maps world's ocean floor

Scientists from the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences have led the creation of the world's first digital map of the seafloor's geology.