School pupils given hands on experience of mining science and careers

Applecross students experiencing the STEM Outreach program

Rio Tinto has partnered with Murdoch University to bring careers in science to life for high school students in Perth and regional Western Australia.

Students have been visiting Murdoch’s South Street campus to engage in hands on activities that demonstrate the real-life applications of STEM skills as part of the Rio Tinto-Murdoch University STEM Outreach Program.

Murdoch’s roaming metallurgists Graeme Thompson and Ken Seymour are also visiting schools in the South-West region this week (10-14 June) to help boost student engagement in science-based subjects.

The team will be working with high school students from a number of schools including Manea College, Australind SHS, Georgiana Molloy, Busselton SHS, Cape Naturaliste College, Bunbury SHS, St Mary Mackillop and Manjimup SHS.

“The students will be treated to a fiery show, as some of these experiments have quite a bit of energy released,” said former science teacher Mr Thompson.

“We will demonstrate how iron oxide and aluminium can react to create molten iron ore at 2500 degrees and cause ‘water to catch fire’.

The molten iron ore reaction is used to fuse railroad tracks together, so it’s a good demonstration of chemistry’s power and application.

The incursions at Murdoch’s Perth campus have so far seen visits from pupils at Applecross Senior High School and Como Secondary College. Students from Living Waters Lutheran College, Perth College, Kent Street Senior High School, Leeming Senior High School, Butler College and Rossmoyne Senior High School are due to visit later this month.

The incursions start with students learning about the mining industry, before being guided through various experiments to show how metals are extracted from ores.

“These incursions give us the opportunity to showcase for the students how their growing knowledge of chemistry, physics, mathematics and engineering can be applied to the real world challenges of the mining industry,” Mr Thompson added.

“We try to challenge the students to think about continuing their studies in STEM subjects and aim for a higher level than they may originally think.”

Three year partnership

Rio Tinto’s partnership with Murdoch University commenced with the ‘Be A Metallurgist For A Day’ program (2012-2016). The current three-year partnership (2017-2019) inspires students’ interest in extractive metallurgy and innovative information technology, both of which are critical to the State’s future prosperity.

“It is estimated that 70 per cent of future jobs will be STEM related and these will the key to the State’s economic growth and development,” Murdoch University Provost Professor Romy Lawson said.

“We want students to see mineral extraction as an exciting, and well compensated career option.”

Rio Tinto General Manager Communities & Communication Linda Dawson said the company was proud to continue the partnership with Murdoch.

“This will see Western Australian students, schools and educators engage in hands-on activities that demonstrate real-life applications of STEM skills,” she said.

“To enable our company to supply the metals and minerals that help the world continually develop, we need to invest in ensuring the future workforce has the interest and capability to pursue their STEM learning and career goals.”

Murdoch University is one of only three universities in Australia that offer a degree in Extractive Metallurgy.

Posted on:

12 Jun 2019

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