Students at Casey Tech School were preparing for a pandemic months before it struck Victoria, and the world.
Last year, in partnership with St John of God Hospital and Chisholm Institute, the tech school ran a Preparing for a Pandemic program as part of its Enterprise Program where students solved major problems impacting on communities or industry.
The program challenges students to solve problems in a real-world context, giving them the skills and knowledge required to compete in the future global job market.
About 150 Year 9 and 10 students from Casey Tech School's partner schools, including Alkira Secondary College, Kambrya Secondary College, Nossal High School and St Peter's College, participated in a three-day program.
Casey Tech School interim director Helen Silvester said students followed a design cycle approach to explore the problems and opportunities of a pandemic. They imagined the possibilities before choosing and developing their ideas into creative prototypes for an exhibition on the final day.
Among the solutions presented was disinfectant that people could create with everyday household supplies, such as vinegar and lemon, in the event supply chains had collapsed.
Helen said students tested the disinfectant on E. coli bacteria and displayed their prototypes before pitching solutions at stalls in the exhibition.
Other solutions presented by students included creating face masks and redesigning seats on public transport to minimise infection among passengers, with robots as cleaners.
She said students learned a great deal from the program, having been 'totally surprised' at how much in society could be challenged during a pandemic.
'The program has a lot of cross-curricular aspects – considering the social, ethical and economic impacts of major crises and, in this case, a pandemic,' Helen said.
'It boosted students' critical thinking, which is so important when utilising their creativity when solving a problem.'
Helen said teachers, many with a background and interest in biology and the Ebola outbreak in Africa, chose a Preparing for a Pandemic program last year.
The Enterprise Program runs every year at Casey Tech School, located at the Berwick campus of Chisholm Institute. Through remote and flexible learning, students are now looking at innovation and smart cities in collaboration with work being carried out by Casey City Council.
Centres of STEM excellence
Tech schools use innovative, leading-edge technology and discovery to give Victorian secondary school students the skills they need to flourish in the global economy.
They are a link between schools and industry to provide innovative learning programs and challenge students to solve real-world problems and prepare them for work.
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Education - information for parents, students and educators section on the Victorian government's website.