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Want to inspire kids to learn STEM? Get them to build a robot

The music is pumping, the crowd is cheering and people are dancing. This is science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), but not as you know it.

I’m at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre as an invited judge for the 2016 Australia Regional FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.


Originally published in The Conversation.

A golden age of ancient DNA science begins

A reconstruction of a male our evolutionary cousin the Neanderthals (Modified from an image by Cicero Moraes). Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

If I had taken a stra


Originally published in The Conversation.

The race to digitise language records of the Pacific region before it is too late

John Z'graggen's tapes from Madang. Nick Thieberger, CC BY-NC-SA

A suitcase of reel-to-reel audio tapes arrived recently at the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne.


Originally published in The Conversation.

Is someone watching you online? The security risks of the Internet of Things

Internet connected devices like webcams are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Internet of Things. DAVID BURILLO/Flickr, CC BY-SA

The range and number of “things” connected t


Originally published in The Conversation.

Comet 252P/LINEAR swings by Earth, much brighter than expected

The greenish glow of Comet 252P/LINEAR seen to the left of the Large Magellanic Cloud (Swan Hill, Victoria.March 19, 5am). M.


Originally published in The Conversation.

Google's Go victory shows AI thinking can be unpredictable, and that's a concern

Humans have been taking a beating from computers lately. The 4-1 defeat of Go grandmaster Lee Se-Dol by Google’s AlphaGo artificial intelligence (AI) is only the latest in a string of pursuits in which technology has triumphed over humanity.


Originally published in The Conversation.

Universities should require science, engineering and commerce students to know their maths

Many university degrees require a high level of maths skill. Shutterstock

In 2013, a meeting of academics specialising in teaching first year undergraduate mathematics (known as the FYiMaths network) identified that the broad removal of mathematics prerequisites for many undergr


Originally published in The Conversation.

What the 'weather' is like on a star can help in the search for life

An artist’s illustration of Kappa Ceti whose stellar winds are 50 times stronger than our sun’s. Any Earth-like planet would need a magnetic field to protect its atmosphere if it was to stand a chance of hosting life. M.


Originally published in The Conversation.

Size doesn’t matter in Big Data, it’s what you ask of it that counts

Scientists today are inundated with data. Shutterstock

Big Data is changing the way we do science today. Traditionally, data were collected manually by scientists making measurements, using microscopes or surveys. These data could be analysed by hand or using simple statistical software on a PC.


Originally published in The Conversation.

Children's television can portray the frantic and inane repetition of our lives to perfection

I have a confession to make. Yesterday my 18-month old Joe finally sat through an entire TV show without moving – and I was ecstatic!

I realise the general view out there is that we need to limit screen time throughout childhood and adolescence. And I agree with that general sentiment. I also have genuine admiration for the few parents that manage to raise their children TV-free.


Originally published in The Conversation.