The power of the Internet of Things

The next generation of scientists will be spending a day at the SMART Infrastructure Facility this month to learn the power of the Internet of Things.

The students will come from 10 Illawarra high schools that are taking part in the Smarter Schools for a Smarter Planet project, which is one part of the Smart Waterways Project.

The project works with councils in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven to improve the way the region manages its water and responds to floods.

It will use smart technology via the installation of sensors to gather data to monitor and provide information about the region’s waterways.

The students – all studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics in Years 11 and 12 – will learn how to utilise the Internet of Things.

“We are hoping to fire their imaginations,” SMART research Dr Johan Barthelemy said.

“We are hoping that they will learn how to use sensor technology – with the hardware supplied by SMART – to monitor water or air quality from an environmental point of view.

“They will then share what they discover with other schools and with the community.”

Dr Barthelemy said he wanted to share the message that STEM does not have to be complicated or hard, and that the Internet of Things can be used by everyone.

“We are always talking about smart cities, but if we want to have smart cities, we have to have smart people,” he said.

Marc Gunner is a science teacher at one of the schools taking part, Warrawong High.

He said it was a chance for students to break away from the norm and embrace learning by doing.

For our students it can be difficult to get excited about what is taught in the classroom if they don’t understand how it is relevant and applies in the real world,” he said.

“This project is a great opportunity for our students to use smart technology and understand how it can help us improve how we look after our environment.

“It provides an opportunity to solve real-life issues.”

The education component from the University is coming from Associate Professor Sarah Howard, from the School of Education.

She has a long history of working with SMART on the educational component of projects, and says the relationship with the facility is rare, if not unique, worldwide.

“This will be our third workshop. The first focused on the teachers alone, then they came in with the students,” she said.

“We will teach students how to use sensors through specific tasks that we will give them.

“We will also teach the teachers about how they may design tasks back at school.

“We know that doing authentic tasks is a highly effective way of learning.

“A project like this can be difficult and complex, but the value for the students and the teachers is unparalleled.”