SIDE has teamed up with Meekatharra District High School (MDHS) in a ground-breaking virtual learning program that’s changing expectations of what can be achieved through distance education.

MDHS has a fully-equipped Design and Technology (D&T) workshop, which had been mothballed for years due to a lack of suitably qualified teaching staff.

The school has long wanted to reopen the workshop and that’s where SIDE and web technology came in. Multi-talented SIDE teacher Des Coles has been delivering lessons from the D&T workshop in Leederville to the D&T workshop in Meekatharra using web conferencing software and Bluetooth audio equipment and tracking cameras. Shannon Mongoo, an Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer at Meekatharra works with the students during the lessons and provides the hands-on learning when required.

Rocket Car intro

Left: Des delivering lessons from Leederville workshop. Right: Shannon and Des in MDHS D&T workshop.

Throughout the year SIDE staff members across disciplines have contributed to the success of the program. Two classes operate weekly and have worked towards developing traditional hand skills using technologies old and new. Student engagement has been enthusiastic and they are disappointed if there is an interruption to the schedule.

To end the semester with a bang (forgive the pun), the students designed a dragster that was powered by compressed gas. Using their knowledge and skills, they designed and created their concept car that would be raced against others. The car creators needed to consider factors such as mass, wind resistance, friction, velocity and strength in their designs. Like all great ideas, it attracted people. Community groups joined in, creating their own cars to race against the student cars in an “ultimate race-off”.

Staff from SIDE flew to Meekatharra for race day where all challengers and spectators enjoyed the laughs and triumphs of what had become an exciting community event. All students watched the D&T students race their cars, and primary students also participated by racing the cars of other students as well as starting the races. The winners were presented the inaugural MDHS - SIDE Dragster trophies followed by a well-deserved sausage sizzle.

The event has been more than a great learning experience for the students. It has seen SIDE and MDHS work closely together as a team to engage the students and community. The partnership and remote lesson delivery has caught the eyes of other regional schools that have visited MDHS and discussed with SIDE how this model of remote learning could be incorporated into their own school.