WONTHAGGI Secondary College has emerged from a science and maths challenge at Monash University last week, involving 11 other Gippsland secondary schools, as the top school in the region. A feature of National Science Week, the Super Science Spectacular and Maths Madness events were held last Wednesday, August 14 when Wonthaggi won the science challenge and narrowly placed second in the maths event. Their success was no flash in the pan. It follows an excellent result in the NSW University Science competition last month, an event for secondary colleges nationally, when Wonthaggi’s 106 students emerged with 43 credits, 22 distinctions and two high distinctions. The college won the Monash maths event last year and followed up with a second placing this year, but also came away with the gold medal in the Science Spectacular. Next week they’ll be back at Monash University to compete in the Tournament of the Minds, where they won through to the state finals last year.
“We had a team of six in the Maths Madness competition; three Year 8s and three Year 9s and had to complete four rounds with the scores being added up after that,” said one of the participants, Jacob Horton. At the end of the regular rounds of the competition, Wonthaggi was half a point in front of a team from Drouin Secondary College but the local team made a reporting error rather than a calculation error on a bonus question and just missed the top prize. “We missed out in the end by one point.” Up against 12 other schools, it was still an excellent result. But the school was more than compensated for the narrow second placing in the maths event when they took gold in the Super Science Spectacular. Wonthaggi was entitled to enter a team of four in the science competition at Monash Uni but still won the event with a team of three; Fergus McKitterick, Lily Geyle and Lyla Wilson. Again the group had to navigate its way through four rounds; chemistry, physics, biology and science trivia. “The chemistry section involved the identification of elements, the physics challenge was about making a parachute and the one that stayed in the air longest was the winner and the biology question was about a range of things including identifying some bones,” said Lily Geyle.
One of the things they had to analyse was owl’s vomit for prey remnants! “At the end, we came first by one point from Newhaven College,” said Fergus. The science team members each collected gold medals for their efforts. “The result was pleasing but the opportunity to interact with Monash University science students and kids from other schools in the Monash labs was probably more important,” said one of the supervising teachers, Gemma Smith. “Our students could see the experiments they were working on were relevant to work they had been doing themselves. “It’s a great opportunity to make that connection and to see what opportunities exist at the tertiary level.” According to Ms Smith, they had to identify unknown solutions using qualitative methods. “Lyla can now spot a cation flame a mile away!” Also helping to prepare the students for the competition was maths/science teacher Dave Wingfield who was also proud of the students’ efforts and the attitude to the opportunity.
Dudley Campus Principal at Wonthaggi Secondary College, Ross Bramley was delighted with the result. “The important thing about this is that a lot of people looking at our school tend to see the obvious things, for example the sporting results and the extracurricular activities, and they don’t see that we have successful programs at the school that are always improving our academic performance,” Mr Bramley said. “It shows that the hard work of the teachers and the students are improving our academic performance. “And I’m pleased to say that this isn’t a one-off. “Our results in these activities have been consistently strong and getting better. It’s testament to the quality of our academic programs and the engagement of our students.” The ‘Sum of Us’ maths team members were Year 9 students Logan Brann, Jacob Mattson and Dylan Wilson, and Year 8 students Flynn Anderson, Jacob Horton and Nick Lawson. The winning science team ‘Pelicans’ consisted of Lily Geyle and Fergus McKittrick from Year 9 and Lila Wilson of Year 8.