Posted by Joy McCaffrey on Feb 04, 2019
Rotarian Neil Hanington introduced our guest speaker for the evening, Professor Michael Fellows, together with his wife Professor Frances Rosamond. Neil gave an overview of Mike’s accomplishments to date.
Fran commenced by pointing out that Rotary has been heavily involved in the Science and Engineering Challenge since its inception.
In most regions, local Rotary clubs take the lead role in organising Challenge and Discovery Day events. They bring together local communities, businesses, schools, professional organisations and universities to support the Challenge financially and organisationally.
Over 2,500 Rotarians also volunteer at events each year, which means many give up time from their jobs, businesses or families.
One of the main reasons Rotary became involved with the Challenge was because Rotary has a
long history of working with young people, often in the area of the sciences.
The Outreach provided by Rotary is recognized internationally.
She spoke of the Science and Engineering Challenge, noting the number of Primary Schools and High Schools that now take part in the Challenge as well as providing the
following statistics:
The Science and Engineering Challenge:
                                                           Primary     High School                       
Number of of People Attending    9,839          18,832  
Teachers                                              615             1,417
Volunteers                                        1,092             2,265
Schools                                                322                735                                                                                          
*STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
In 2019, in NSW alone, there are 28 Challenge Days from Bathurst to the Western Plains.
She then introduced us to Professor Mike Fellows advising of his qualifications. Michael Fellows AC HFRSNZ MAE
AC On the Queen’s birthday 2016, the Governor-General of Australia announced that Mike has received Australia's highest honour---Order of Australia, Companion to the Queen. For emminent service to higher education, particularly in the field of theoretical computer science, as a leading academic, researcher and author, as a mentor, and through public outreach programs particularly for children.
According to Wikipedia, there have been about 400 awards since the Australian honors system began, over all walks of life. There are about 60 academics and among these
about 30 scientists including 6 Nobel laureates. Mike is the second mathematician and the first computer scientist on the list.
HFRSNZ Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
MAE Member of the Academy Europea.
These are huge honours for computer scientists everywhere, and for outreach such as Rotary provides.
Mike then took us through what Computer Science is all about and why the Science and Engineering Challenge Activities are so important to the development of children.
They learn how to think and discover new ways of building structures. Some of the challenges are:
Get Over It
Build a light and strong model bridge that can support a trolley carrying weights from one side of a test rig to the other. Points are awarded for each successful crossing, with the weight gradually increasing.
Design efficient codes to send secret messages along fibre optic rods using pulses of coloured light. Scores are based on the accuracy and speed in transmission of the sent message.
Build a miniature catapult that can fire a projectile accurately and over a long distance. String-along Develop networks to join a series of towns together in the most efficient way possible. The higher the efficiency of linkage (ie. minimum travel distance) the more points each team earns.
Key points are:
 it is enabling for teachers (no technology to go wrong, nothing to install, they can relate to it)
 it is surprisingly cross curricular (e.g. running in the playground can be PE, maths and CS!)
 it engages students that teachers don't normally manage to engage
 it complements learning to program nicely; some places have advocated programming alone,
but a lot of kids don't find that interesting because there's no big picture
He then explained how an algorithm is something to do and took us through a serious of algorithms to see how we faired, noting that no matter which way you go you will always come out in order.
Mark Drury then thanked both Mike and Fran for their fun and insightful presentation. A big thank you from our Club.