Maitland business Obelisk Systems brings roving technology to students across Australia

Maitland company Obelisk Systems have developed the StarLAB Rover 2.0 as a learning tool for schools, allowing students to understand vehicles such as the Mars Rover. Engineer Clinton McKinnon is pictured with one of the rovers in their office. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers MMH

Maitland company Obelisk Systems have developed the StarLAB Rover 2.0 as a learning tool for schools, allowing students to understand vehicles such as the Mars Rover. Engineer Clinton McKinnon is pictured with one of the rovers in their office. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers MMH

A Maitland business’ program which brings roving robotics to the classroom is taking off in schools across Australia. 

Obelisk Systems’ StarLAB program, which introduces high school students to rover vehicle technology akin to what is used to explore Mars, has grown to include 53 schools and more than 1500 students since its inception last year.

Electrical engineer Clinton McKinnon said the program was receiving glowing praise from across the country. 

“We’re getting told there are students who usually don’t show up to school coming back for these classes,” Mr McKinnon said. 

“It’s been really well received.” 

Schools are sent the vehicles which they assemble themselves.

The rovers include a high-tech motherboard with a variety of sensors which can take readings on a variety of data including temperature and atmospheric pressure.

Students learn how to computer code through the StarLAB lessons, with the goal of being able to program the rovers to traverse a Mars-like environment. 

According to Clinton, the program aims to bridge the gap between school Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and industry jobs. 

“It’s about showing the practical usefulness of learning how to solve ‘X’ to students,” Mr McKinnon explained. 

“Once you learn how to solve ‘X’, you will use it in everyday life.” 

Obelisk engineer Lewis Quill said the program prepared students for jobs in an “already changed world”. 

“Some people see STEM and robotics as ‘skills for tomorrow’, I don't like that because people are always doubtful of things that try and predict the future,” Mr Quill said.

“The reality is there are STEM and robotics jobs right now. It would be a massive missed opportunity to let today's kids miss out on an already changed world.”

Obelisk are in the process of rolling out a program aimed at educating teachers in programming and coding as they work through the StarLAB program.

“It’s really exciting, there’s so much potential for it,” Mr McKinnon said. 

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