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What & why?

Australia has a chronic shortage of scientists and engineers. Currently, Rotary supports and encourages young people who have started into a science oriented career via the well known Science and Engineering Forums. This new program is aimed at Year 9/10 students and its objective is to encourage young people to consider adding science subjects to their list for Years 11 & 12. This is achieved in an environment that involves fun, excitement and competition.

Does it work?

The Challenge was conceived at Newcastle University and has been developed, in conjunction with Rotary clubs, over the last five years. It has spread widely throughout country New South Wales and has spread interstate as far as Tasmania, Northern Territory and Western Australia. In 2005, 9840 students from 332 schools took part. In 2006, even more regions are becoming involved. In fact, as both teachers and students talk about it to their peers, there is a rush to become apart of the Challenge.

How does it work?

Schools are invited to send classes, on a chosen day, to a suitable venue where they compete, in teams of three or four classmates, against teams from up to seven other schools. They are assigned to take part in one or two of a large range of scientific or engineering projects during a specified time. All the materials and equipment are supplied. The Challenges are all hands-on. They require common sense and logic and, while all are based on basic scientific principles, students do not require scientific knowledge to complete them. All are measurable, so winners can be identified.

At the end of the day, school scores are totalled and the regional winner is announced. Later in the year, the 56 Regional winners are invited to attend and compete in a Super Challenge and the winning teams from this are then invited to take part in a Grand Challenge.

How do Rotarians contribute?

Firstly, by establishing or joining a Regional Committee (there are 30 of these, Australia wide). These Committees are responsible for scheduling, advertising and running the Challenge in their area. In a practical sense, Rotarians are needed at the Challenge site to provide supervision and crowd control plus a sausage sizzle. Fund raising to cover the costs of things such as materials, transport and advertising is another area in which clubs can be involved. Finding sponsors to help with this is also helpful. Liaison with local High Schools to encourage participation is also an important role for Clubs. The structure, management system, and Rotarian involvement for the Science Challenge is remarkably like that of RYDA though not yet as sophisticated.

What next?

 If you are interested, use your copy of the Challenge DVD to share the idea with your club members. If you wish, speakers are available to come and discuss it with your members. You can arrange this with an email to