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It is rocket science! Scitech engaging Aussie kids with Isuzu

If you ever dreaded opening science and maths books at school, you’re not alone.

In fact, Australian students’ aversion to the sciences has been a significant cause of concern for educators recently, with only 55 per cent of the nation’s students considered proficient according to a 2015 report by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

While Australia’s youth lags behind other countries in the sciences, society’s deepening reliance on computers moves more and more jobs towards the tech industry.

The question increasingly being asked among educators is: how do you make science and maths more interesting for young kids?

Scitech is a science education centre in Perth that tours science experiences across Western Australia. Statewide Operations Manager, Megan O’Sullivan, said their work is vital for Australian youth.

“We have a science centre based in Perth and a team that takes interactive exhibits, workshops and shows to regional and remote communities,” Megan said.

“Our objective is to engage people in S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects to help them recognise that science is all around us, in all facets of everyday life.

“Since 1998 we’ve been covering all ages, from playgroups and toddlers to schools and community events, including specialist activities for teenagers.”

At first glance, Scitech’s Perth headquarters resembles a space research centre.

A giant framework dome peppered with lights sits atop its glaring white façade; an impressive vision for the Perth schoolkids who come to visit.

But it’s inside the building that things really get fascinating. A full-dome Planetarium takes you on a guided tour of the universe, a giant kinetic ball machine towers above you, the inside of a beehive is on display. Everywhere you look children’s hands and minds are busy testing science theories through imaginative interactive contraptions.

Megan said the Scitech experience is “invaluable” for kids of all ages, but bringing these activities to the half-a-million West Australians who live somewhere other than Perth was always going to be a monumental effort.

Enter, a bright red Isuzu NNR 45-150 AMT crew cab, with a customised pantech body.

“We try to visit every school across Western Australia at least once every three years,” Megan said. “W.A’s a pretty big state and that’s quite an effort, so we bought an Isuzu NNR to help us in that endeavour.”

“Our Isuzu is a mobile lab, loaded with our science gear, public address (PA) systems, and banners. It can do over 1,000 kilometres a week.

“It makes day trips to schools in the metro area, or goes on tour for up to three weeks at a time when visiting more remote areas. It’s currently 200 kilometres south of Perth, and has been for two weeks, touring regional schools.”

Driving Scitech’s important exhibits across a state of over 2.5 million square kilometres – most of which is arid desert – presented a unique challenge for Megan, but one she quickly discovered a perfect solution for.

“I decided to buy the Isuzu because it was different to the vehicles we’d previously owned,” Megan said. “The Isuzu’s features and price perfectly suited our requirements.

“We previously used European trucks, but the NNR feels more capable and reliable. It’s higher off the ground, bigger, can seat six people and it’s so comfortable.

“It takes on long trips with zero effort and the reversing cameras are very handy when backing into tight spots.”

For tech-obsessed youngsters, the days of plugging electrodes into potatoes to generate electricity are long gone.

Scitech brings the modern wonders of science – virtual reality goggles, robotics, interactive light displays and forensic investigations – to kids across the length and breadth of Australia’s biggest state in their Isuzu, ensuring no Australian child misses out.

Megan said the NNR has revolutionised Scitech’s ability to transport its zany experiments to Western Australia’s most remote areas.

“We cram a lot of gear in the truck,” she said. “The Isuzu allows us to strap our equipment down easily, or pack it away on shelves with safe access for our staff.

“We have an attached tail-lift, which is essential for loading our equipment, and there’s acres of space. We’ve learnt to be careful we don’t overload it because there’s so much space on board.”

Isuzu’s unparalleled aftersales support and parts network were a major factor in Megan’s decision.

“We looked at many other brands and they didn’t meet our requirements,” Megan said.

“We looked at buying another European truck, but one of the Isuzu’s biggest selling points was the ability to get it serviced and repaired locally.

“There aren’t many service centres around Perth that have parts for European trucks, so they have to be shipped in from the east.

“It gets serviced at Major Motors in Perth, who have been fantastic to deal with,” Megan continued.

“They visited us and looked at what we had, then they listened to what we needed, what we had to have and what we would like to have, and organised everything.

“They did it all – they even organised to get it sign-written for us.

“When I’m driving around, I see Isuzus everywhere, so I suspected that I would be able to source Isuzu parts quickly and easily.”

With a reliable and application fit truck, Scitech are focused on expanding their program tours, and putting on bigger and better shows for more Aussie kids. As for Megan, well, that suits her fine.

“My favourite part of the job is travelling to remote communities,” she said. “They can be very isolated, and they might not have done any science related activities before.

“Seeing the look on their faces when they understand something for the first time, or they’re having fun doing science, is incredibly rewarding.”