Ashcroft High School is located in a low socio-economic area. It is highly multi-cultural and a large number of the students’ parents speak limited English or it is their second language. Industrial Arts teacher Lee Miller is at the centre of a dramatic shift which is moving throughout the school and having a positive effect on teaching staff and students. It is a change which was initiated by Re-Engineering Australia Foundation.

“This year we have started something that has never been done before at our school. We have launched a Year 9 engineering class. This is purely as a result of the interest that has been generated by the F1 program and we have 22 students in our first intake. Half of them are girls. They are using the CATIA design software and our science teacher is teaching them about aerodynamics and engineering formulas. The students are very excited and are coming to class during their lunch and recess. We’re already looking ahead to launching Year 11 and Year 12 engineering classes in 2011.”

Ashcroft High School is new to the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge but success came quickly. Its Year 9 team made it through to the National Finals and the five team members have become “heroes” to their peers and triggered an amazing change in attitudes across the school.

“Talking to the teachers we are seeing a definite change in our students. Not only towards science and maths but also in all of their study habits. They have become more keen in other subjects than before. Their results are improving as is their behaviour in the classroom. The students see something practical, they see how they can interact and solve a problem. They’re not strong at reading from books but they are keen to get in front of a computer and have a go.”

“We have kids lining up at the classroom door at lunch time wanting to see what is going on. They offer to help out. They are your average well-rounded students but they have decided to ‘have a go’ and it has earned them a lot of respect. TRS has taken the lead and are teaching other students how to use CATIA, and they in turn will go on to teach the next group that come in. The students are fast learners when they work with their peers. They really take notice and listen. As a teaching style it is better than me standing at the front of the room talking about it or doing a demo. The kids are very much hands-on and they love being in teams. If someone is struggling the others get in and help them out. Even some with learning difficulties are really having a go and becoming pro-active… they’re stepping out and making decisions.”

“We had a group of parents of primary school kids come to the school to check it out and the F1 team gave a speech on what they have learnt and their journey to the finals. The parents were astounded and came up to us afterwards and said they will be enrolling their children at our school because of seeing the TRS presentation. They were that impressed!”

TRS visited a local engineering company to learn about what they do and some of the students sat down in front of their computers to try out an unfamiliar type of CAD software. Within minutes they were carrying out complex tasks. The engineers were stunned! They told TRS that they were doing work not taught until the second year at university. The Managing Director was very impressed and said if TRS continue their schooling through to Year 12 and focus on engineering he will employ all of them and give them scholarships to university!