Irrawang High School Students Work On Mars Rover Program

Year 10 student Ryan Denholm with the students’ creation.


IRRAWANG High School students had the opportunity to be next-generation programmers through the University of Newcastle’s Mars Rover Program.

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The Year 10 students have been working over a couple of months using a coding language called Python.

Their preparation came to fruition when they participated in the Mars Rover Challenge at the University of Newcastle and hosted by Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter.

Using problem solving skills, the students navigate their way through a lunar environment using light beacons.

In total, eighteen schools participated in the competition which was judged by industry leaders Boeing and Lockheed Martin and the RAAF.

Teacher, Mr Ryan Innes, told News Of The Area, “The students learn valuable skills in programming from creating logical structures and flowcharts to actual practical experience with industry standard programming languages like Python.”

“Python is widely used in the Newcastle area and these skills are highly transferable to graduate positions.”

“Our students enjoy the chance to see their learning grounded in real world scenarios.”

“They can see the relevance and adaptability of the skills and end up with much more of an insight into what we are trying to achieve.”

“Teamwork and collaborative modes of work are also of utmost importance.”

The Mars Rover challenge is not the only programming experience in which the Irrawang High School students take part.

Mr Innes said, “In-school projects include building arcade machines from scratch and 3D printing a working model of a combustion steam engine that will be powered by electric motors.

Obelisk Systems is a Newcastle based company that produces the hardware kits and online support materials.

Mr Innes said, “The students learn to control the lander and use its equipment gradually as they learn how to program in Python by completing one module of the online course at a time.”

“Once students have mastered all the basic functions, they are presented with problems they must solve, requiring them to build new programs.”

“Obelisk Systems run the Mars Rover Challenge as a motivating exercise and a keystone project for the end of the course each year”

For local students, Irrawang State High School is innovative with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) and IT and provides a great training ground for future employability in the industry.


By Heather SHARP


The Irrawang High School Year 10 students at the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus with their teacher, Mr Innes (far right)

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