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Students flying high after winning airport design competition

A vision of a sustainable airport that caters to people with disability has helped McCallums Hill Public School secure a major STEM prize.

A picture of five children holding a certificate that says they won the airport design competition

Winners are grinners: The McCallums Hill Public School team from left, Ben, Star, Joshua, Henry and Alex

Budding airport designers from McCallums Hill Public School have won a competition to design Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport using Minecraft.

A team of five Year 5 and 6 students from the school’s support unit used the popular digital building block game to come up with their vision for Sydney’s new airport, winning $20,000 to be used for STEM learning resources.

The competition, an initiative of Liverpool City Council, was co-designed by the NSW Department of Education to align with the curriculum. Students from around 40 schools across Western Sydney took part in this year’s competition.

The winning design from McCallums Hill Public School in Roselands focused on sustainability, customer experience and accessibility. It featured an indoor Great Barrier Reef, solar panels and wind power, drought-tolerant trees and automatic cars for people with disability.

Year 5/6 support unit class teacher Ben Spiteri said it was the first time the school had entered the competition and they were “blown away” by their success.

“We’re ecstatic. It was a really great project to work on and it is so great for the kids to have won,” he said.

The students had worked on their competition entry across Term 2 using it as a STEM project.

The team first surveyed teachers and staff about their views on existing airports and isolated three main problems with current airports, Mr Spiteri said.

These were that airports were boring, often difficult to access and bad for the environment.

Mr Spiteri said the students then worked on finding solutions to those problems, before testing and modifying their design based on feedback from staff and students.

“The students were really focused on the project and worked during class and their lunch hours and really took a design-thinking approach to solving the problem,” he said.

Ingleburn Public School took out third place in the competition with Merrylands East Public School receiving the Encouragement Award.

Western Sydney Airport CEO Graham Millett said competition was strong among the 10 finalist teams from across western Sydney.

“The competition saw students use Minecraft to tackle the same challenge that the Western Sydney Airport team is working on right now – considering passenger experience, sustainability and accessibility to design the best airport possible,” he said.

“Each of the students should be delighted with what they’ve achieved, their designs show creativity and outstanding use of problem-solving skills.”

Liverpool Mayor Wendy Waller said she was proud of the high standard of the competition and the judges had a difficult decision.

“This competition grew out of Liverpool and is reaching all of Western Sydney. We have some of the brightest minds and their ideas for the future are mind blowing,” she said.

Joining Mr Millett on the judging panel was NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott, Western Sydney University Director Master of Teaching (Primary) Dr Katrina Barker, and Atlassian Head of People Operations Andi Breslin.

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