Scientists in Schools

Submersible unmanned underwater vehicle arrives on the back of a truck

  • Jaki O'Halloran, St Oliver Plunketts School, Pascoe Vale, Victoria
  • Francis Valentinis, Defence Science and Technology Organisation

Are you thinking that you might like a scientist to bring a little piece of lab equipment with them to show off to your students? How about a submersible unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that arrives on the back of a truck?

The following showcase was written by DSTO Defence Science Communications Assistant Manager, Stephen D'Arcy and first published in Defence Magazine Issue 5 2009 (Department of Defence).

A group of students with Wayamba, the submersible unmanned underwater vehicle

Dr Francis Valentinis from DSTO's Maritime Platforms Division, visits students at St Oliver Plunkett Primary School in Pascoe Vale, Melbourne. His visits are proceeded by occasional letters from students seeking answers to additional questions or detailing their own discoveries. While his work as part of DSTO's unmanned underwater vehicle project is technical and specific, Dr Valentinis says the School's program is a way of portraying scientists as everyday people with everyday jobs. "By broadening students' access to scientists, and providing a varied curriculum, the program encourages children, especially those who may already have an interest or an innate scientific skill," he said.

Dr Valentinis facilitates a discussion with students and their teacher about the science behind some of the work that supports Australia's defence. He is accompanied by Wyamba, the experimental unmanned underwater vehicle - a potential undersea navigation and surveillance capability, and discusses how science helps it operate. "Students display a sense of relief at the opportunity to talk with a scientist. Some asked: "what do you do when you go to work, or do you enjoy your job, and do you wear a lab coat all day?""