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First in Engineering at Da Vinci Decathlon

The Year 7 Engineering team: Heidi Bartlett, Vinudhi Silva and Keira Waked

Meriden’s Year 7 students have taken out the Engineering category at the 2021 Da Vinci Decathlon. The win puts the girls ahead of the best and brightest from more than eighty schools across New South Wales.

Heidi Bartlett, Vinudhi Silva and Keira Waked made up the Year 7 Engineering dream team. They were tasked with designing and constructing a scale model of a mini golf course that incorporated the concept of chance, with “chance” being the overarching theme of this year’s event. The girls built their model using paper, cardboard, straws and plasticine and designed it to incorporate a system of tunnels hidden along a ramp, making the possibility of achieving a high score a matter of both chance and skill.

Dr Phoebe Poon, Coordinator of Learning Link – Gifted and Talented, said the girls’ performance speaks to their solid foundations in STEM disciplines and Lateral Learning principles.

“The Engineering task was particularly challenging as it required lateral thinking and collaborative problem-solving,” Dr Poon said.

“The outstanding success of our girls in Engineering can be attributed to their hard work and enthusiasm for innovation, together with the many hours they spent engaging with STEM technologies and concepts to develop important skills.”

To prepare for the decathlon’s Engineering component, the team practised building different types of models that were both functional and strong, deliberately limiting their access to resources to increase the level of challenge and experimentation.

Keira said, despite the broad nature of their preparation, the task they received on the day was a surprise.

“We weren’t expecting to build a mini golf course!” she said.

“The biggest challenge was figuring out a design that met the brief but we brainstormed together and then divided tasks according to our strengths. When constructing the course, it was crucial that we balanced the weight of the ball with the strength of our ramp to stop the course from collapsing. To incorporate the chance element, we made the tubing the same size as the ball and ensured the ball rolled through the course smoothly,” Keira said.

Vinudhi and Heidi agreed that the collaborative nature of their group was one of their greatest assets and was also what made the Da Vinci Decathlon a fun, interesting event.

The renowned decathlon is open to students from Year 5 to Year 11 and tasks are designed to extend students’ higher order thinking skills, problem solving abilities and creativity. Teams compete across ten disciplines: Engineering, Mathematics and Chess, Code Breaking, Art and Poetry, Science, English, Ideation, Creative Producers, Cartography and Legacy.

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