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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3602


Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (22:00): I commend my colleague for his speech about Canberra, as it is my birthplace. He might like to note that I have an interest in the subject matter. I hope he may be equally interested in the matters about which I am going to speak: an organisation with which I have had a long association and which I wish to bring to the attention of members. It is a not-for-profit organisation named Re-engineering Australia Foundation, REA. A group of visionary companies, organisations, some government departments, educators and individuals established the organisation to address what they believe is a key failing in relation to education: the number of students not studying in the engineering and manufacturing sectors. They wanted to come together to encourage more to participate. Companies and government organisations, like the Defence Materiel Organisation, Cisco WebEx, and education and training departments from Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania all belong to REA. The sorts of skills that they are interested in are the backbone of our modern economy and industry. They saw those skills as being in decline and they formed to target students at all levels, from primary school right through until university, to encourage them to commence and maintain study in these vital fields.

I was privileged to share an office building in Pennant Hills with REA. I came to know them quite well. They run the Fl in Schools Technology Challenge, the largest student program of its type in the world. It involves something in the order of nine million students in 31 nations and 17,000 high schools. They hold national finals. They had an event here in Parliament House, in the Great Hall, some years ago. This year the national final, the Grand Prix as it is called, was held in Adelaide. I am sure they were glad to get it back. That was on 7 March. My colleague Senator Bernardi was lucky enough to attend that occasion.

To enter the competition, students form a team like a Formula 1 team. They have a manager, a design engineer, and marketing and procurement activities. They come together as a small group, supported and encouraged by their teachers, to learn for themselves and develop a model Formula 1 car. To do this they apply industry standard techniques and technology, using computer aided design, manufacturing and engineering software, and virtual and real wind tunnels—the sorts of skills normally not taught until second and third years of university. While they are doing this they learn all sorts of skills: aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, and drag and finite element analysis. They learn it in an enjoyable environment, spurred on by the challenge of competition, and develop an interest in engineering, technology and manufacturing for years to come. The cars are machined from balsa blocks, but other materials can be used. They are powered by a CO2 gas canister. The sorts of rules, detailed and technical, that apply in Formula 1 apply here as well. The cars reach speeds of over 80 kilometres per hour.

The finals, held in Adelaide on 7 March, saw 26 teams from schools all over Australia compete. They were lucky enough to tour the Australian Submarine Corporation precinct at Osborne and visited the corporate box of Cummins Australia at the Clipsal 500. I think they get better experiences for technologically inclined young people. But the main event was of course the competition. The winning team was the home team from Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide, the first time a team from South Australia has won. The team, called Cold Fusion, scored most points across the 11 categories upon which the teams were judged, beating 25 other teams from across Australia to qualify for the world finals, which will be held later this year.

The winner for the development class was the Engadine High School team, named Rapid Racing. They picked up four awards, including best innovation, best team marketing and the Cisco Webex Outstanding Industry Collaboration award.

The chief judge was Dr Warren Smith of the Australian Defence Force Academy. Other judges came from engineering companies and institutions. Many organisations were involved. Apart from the outstanding work of all the teams that competed, this program is one that is of enormous value. Re-Engineering Australia Foundation is undertaking an outstanding job for Australia. I congratulate the teams and I congratulate Dr Michael Myers, the founder and CEO of the foundation, for REA's continuing success. (Time expired)