Sunday, April 24, 2022

Whittlesea Tech School

I don't know this school from the inside but have looked at their programs and see them as exemplary. Different educational pathways are always possible so it's important to identify those who get it right. For that reason I want to spell out some of their programs on my blog in some detail.

Whittlesea Tech School Programs
Note: This school is not a one off but part of a well thought out initiative by the Victorian government. See notes at the end for proof of this.


In partnership with Ecosystem by Farmwall
This innovative company have developed an urban farming solution for the home, allowing users to grow healthy microgreen crops in a fun and convenient way. Students will learn about zero waste growing, aquaponic and hydroponic care, using manufacturing techniques to develop prototypes that automate parts of the Farmwall Home system.

Steampunk Gears and Cogs
The objective of this program is to engage students in collaborative design and construction of props and costumes for an imaginary Steampunk-themed film titled Gears & Cogs…
... students will understand the key characteristics of the Steampunk aesthetic, explore the role of props and costumes in film and set design, and their importance for character development.

Students will be introduced to a range of prototyping technologies and techniques such as digital sketching, digital drawing for laser cutting, microcomputers and coding, carboard prototyping and wearable technology. The program concludes with students pitching their design solution to a wider audience and receiving valuable feedback on their product and process.

Note: The online resources for this program are freely available to all teachers via the Victorian Department of Education and Training portal, Fuse (link to teacher booklet, 48pp)
Tech Skill Ups:
Tech would be dependent on the availability at the host school. However, at the Tech School, we offered 3D modelling (TinkerCAD), digital design (Adobe Illustrator CC) and coding with microcontrollers (micro:bit) as well as low-tech options.

The Epping Lab
The Lab is a technology club for young people aged 10 to 18 who identify as being on the autism spectrum and enjoy working with computers. Participants are paired with mentors who have technical expertise in a mutual interest, such as programming, 3D modelling, digital design and gaming. At each weekly two-hour session, mentors work with attendees to develop their social, personal and technology skills. These sessions take an unstructured approach so every session can be different. We want participants to undertake activities because it interests them, not because they have to. The Lab is designed to be a supportive place to visit, hang out and learn whilst having fun.

Design Club
An introductory workshop series using industry-standard design software, Adobe Illustrator. Over six weeks, participants will be introduced to a different topic and tools each week, including basic drawing, tracing perspective, gradient and collage.

Wednesdays 3:30-6 pm, Weeks 1-10 of Terms 1-4 (except Weeks 1 and 2 of Term 1)
STEAMengine is our makerspace for secondary school students, teachers, and community members to undertake self-directed learning in line with their own technology interests. During this designated weekly time slot, attendees have access to the advanced manufacturing equipment and resources available at the Tech School. With the guidance of Tech School staff and qualified makerspace members, anyone can learn to use the tools they require for their own personal projects.

The main objective of the sessions is for people to follow their own interests and as such, no specific program content is provided. However, for those new to making and tinkering with tech, we run a 1-hour introductory session that focuses on a different piece of tech each week.

At no fee, these times are also available for small businesses to come in and use the Tech School facilities to test their new ideas, prototype their new products, or consult with Tech School staff about manufacturing processes. Places are limited so make sure to register!

Smart Cities
In collaboration with the City of Whittlesea Council
Who: Years 7-12 from Banyule Nillumbik and Whittlesea Local Government Areas
When: Tuesdays 4-5:30 pm; Weeks 3-10 of Terms 1-4
Where: Online
This multi-level Internet of Things (IoT) Design Course is in collaboration with the City of Whittlesea council and will show students how to build sensors that will make cities both smart and eco-sensitive.

The course focuses on learning how to use a tiny computer called the Raspberry Pi to display sensor data on a web server that the students build and code at home. Students will build and program their own sensor for their backyard and finally help to deploy real-world sensors using The Things Network (TTN) to help solve problems such as flooding, water for River Red Gum tree health, local food production, stormwater pollution and smart rainwater tanks.

STEM Arcade
Term: 1-4
Program Type: Remote Learning Program (Design Challenge)
Duration: Approx. 10 hours
Year Level: 7-12

Learning through gaming or play can be a powerful method for understanding difficult concepts. In this design challenge, students will create an arcade game that demonstrates a STEM principle for a younger audience. Students will program custom games, design unique controllers and build cabinets that create an engaging experience for primary school students.

During this program, students unpack STEM concepts and consider the importance of good scientific literacy. Students will also investigate the expansion of the video game industry and its STEM careers. Class discussions and participation in learning activities will provide insight into the fundamentals of good game design – game loops, core mechanics, immersion, challenge and interaction.​ Students will then have the opportunity to create their own prototypes using a range of emerging technologies, including programming using MakeCode Arcade, 3D modelling, microcontrollers and digital design. 

Note: Although this program is a remote offering, partner school teachers have the option to book their class into our Online Tech Skill-Up sessions that are facilitated by Tech School staff. Get in touch for more information.

6 programs for teachers
TECH SKILL UPS (90 minutes)
Game Design
Microsoft MakeCode Arcade

Intro to coding and microcontrollers

Intermediate programming and microcontrollers
The Grove Inventor Extension Kit comes packed with four additional inputs (gesture, ultrasonic and light sensors as well as a potentiometer) and four additional output methods (speaker, 4 digit display, LED light strip and single LED module) plus an extension board to dock the micro:bit and open up additional pins for all these new gadgets!

Introduction to App Design
MIT App Inventor

Introduction to 3D modelling

Digital Product Design
Adobe Illustrator

Related: 21st Century Curriculum Combine my 13 curriculum innovation ideas with those above and how many do you get altogether? I haven't done that sum yet.

Whittlesea Tech is part of the Melbourne Polytechnic cluster. As is Banyule Nillumbik Tech, which has similar programs. They both use the facilities of the STEAMengine Fab Lab.

Whittlesea Tech Facebook
Whittlesea Tech twitter
Whittlesea Tech Instagram

I also notice links to other Tech schools which appear to have similar programs:
Geelong Tech School
Casey Tech School

UPDATE 10th May 2022:
Section 1, pp. 4-19 of this teacher booklet is an invaluable overview of the vision, rationale, curriculum design and program suite offered at Banyule Nillumbik and Whittlesea Tech Schools. They are not schools in the traditional sense but offer a range of services to schools in northern Melbourne.

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