Illawarra high school students are getting the opportunity to understand science in a practical way.

Students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are being provided with a real-life, hands-on chance to apply smart technology.

Illawarra councils, under the banner of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation, have partnered with the SMART Infrastructure Facility and Lendlease Calderwood Valley Communities to use smart technologies to better understand the region’s waterways and reduce the impact of severe weather events.

The ‘Smarter Schools for a Smarter Planet’ component of the Smart Waterways Project will be working with more than ten high schools throughout the region, including Warrawong High.

“As it is Science Week it is a good opportunity to talk about our collaboration with some of our regional high schools to provide students studying STEM with a real-life hands-on opportunity of applying smart technology,” said SMART’s Associate Professor Sarah Howard, who is leading the Smarter Schools for a Smart Planet project.

The project aims to provide the opportunity to look at ways to improve how smart technology can help manage the risk that flash flooding provides to residents.

Via the use of sensors, data can be gathered that can monitor and provide information about the region’s waterways.

Sensors can help users to understand water quality, how our rivers interact with our beaches and oceans, and how to manage our stormwater more effectively.

Warrawong High’s head teacher administration Marc Gunner said the program was aimed at year 9 STEM students.

He said it was a chance for students to “break away from the norm” and embrace “authentic learning… 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.”Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, chair of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation said our region is “particularly vulnerable to extreme weather patterns, being sandwiched between the mountains and the sea”.

“The Smart Waterways project is an opportunity for great minds from our region to come together and lead the way in terms of using smart technology to improve the way we manage and respond to the impact of water,” Cr Bradbery said.

The project received $478,449 from the federal government, through its Smart Cities and Suburbs program. Other schools currently involved in the project include Smith’s Hill High School, Warrawong High School, Calderwood Christian School, Albion Park High School, Kiama High School and Warilla High School.

This story was first published in the Illawarra Mercury.