Fresh challenges in science and technology with CREST

Issue: Volume 94, Number 20

Posted: 9 November 2015
Reference #: 1H9cy3

With summer so tantalisingly close it might be hard to think about planning for 2016 but now is the perfect time to get involved with the Creativity in Science and Technology programme (CREST).

For more than 25 years CREST has been providing New Zealand students with authentic experiences in technological practice and/or scientific investigation.

Students carry out projects focused on finding creative solutions to real problems relevant to their lives by working with expert mentors to develop their innovative, creative, and problem-solving skills.

CREST projects can also help provide the evidence for NCEA assessment and be used as entries to regional science and technology fairs and other such competitions.

How CREST works

What differentiates CREST from other opportunities is that it requires students to work with a consultant/mentor outside of the school. Students undertake an investigation in order to solve or answer a problem. It involves problem-solving, innovative thinking and perseverance.

The process is the same across CREST, whether students are designing a new ice cream flavour, creating a smartphone app or solving a problem with chemistry or physics. CREST operates five levels of difficulty (Primary, First, Bronze, Silver and Gold) where students works as individuals or in small teams. All five levels follow the same process yet the complexities of the problem-solving scenarios become more challenging. At all levels, the students are learning skills in scientific research and/or technological practice.

All offer detailed instructions for teachers.

CREST can be run anywhere in the country, as part of class, a club, or an extra curricular activity.

CREST for students

The subjects chosen for CREST projects can be led by teachers or chosen by students. Projects completed under CREST have covered all kinds of topics from creating robots to researching and producing new ice cream flavours. One student’s investigation discovered that planting watercress could successfully remove excessive levels of nitrogen and other pollutants from waterways.

CREST requires students to take a scientific approach and to combine academic and hands-on activities that lead to a tangible outcome. 

They are required to work with expert mentors, and this could be anyone who is a specialist source of knowledge and/or people from industry. CREST sometimes works with organisations like Weltec to provide mentors.

This year the Royal Society piloted a challenge in collaboration with by the Institute of IT Professionals’ ICT-Connect programme. This was piloted in Wellington and will be rolled out to include Auckland and Christchurch next year.

The challenge divided students into teams who developed a software program or mobile application to the beta testing stage following ICT industry principles. They explained the project in a science fair-style board presentation, and defended it before a panel of judges in a Dragon’s Den-style final round. The winning team from St Mary’s College received $20,000 of services from Datacom to further develop their app.

CREST provides a strong pathway for students. Many students who completed bronze, silver or gold CRESTs have gone on to tertiary study in the same subject area as their projects. One student was offered a role with Frucor after completing her project with a mentor from Frucor and has since returned to CREST as a mentor. 

CREST for teachers

Of course, it’s not just students who benefit from being involved in CREST.

Teachers are provided with teaching material and support including video links for information on ethics and intellectual property. The content information supports teachers to facilitate inquiry learning, investigation and problem solving in authentic contexts, develop their understanding of potential career pathways in STEM and create industry and community links.

CREST can be integrated into existing teaching and learning programmes, be part of a curriculum-wide focus, or be run as a specific extension/extra curricular programme of learning. CREST is not run as a competition itself but resulting work can be entered into other competitions such as the Bright Sparks Awards or be used as evidence towards an NCEA assessment.

Visit the CREST website: link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:03 pm, 9 November 2015

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