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Extension questions and activities

Extension questions and activities about Australian Innovation

Dynamic Lifter fertiliser, 1972


1. Why did Norm Jennings want to stop water spilling? How did he solve this

2. Discuss the importance of finding ways to use waste materials.

3. Why do large amounts of material become waste in our society?


Design a container in which people could place dead batteries, up to size D,
so that the materials in them could be re-used. The container is to be placed
in a shopping centre or service station. Design a poster or some other means
of encouraging people to deposit old batteries.

Froth flotation process, 1904

Questions :

1. What is the froth flotation process used for?

2. Why was froth flotation important in the history of Broken Hill?

3. How important is mining to the way we live today?

Activities :

Write a brief for the design of a miners helmet. Consider the need for
safety, comfort, and illuminating the area around the miner.

Michell thrust bearing, 1907

Questions :

1. What are the advantages of the Michell thrust bearing? Why are these
advantages particularly important for ships?

2. George Michell was an Australian engineer whose most important innovation
is still widely used. Why have very few Australians heard of him?

3. What products would Australian industry have concentrated on making
during World War I? Think about the needs of civilians as well as the
war effort.

Activities :

Design a poster that could have been used to encourage people in factories
to work hard as their contribution to the war.

Humespun pipe, 1910

Questions :

1. What advantages did Humespun pipes have over other concrete pipes?

2. Why do you think the Hume brothers set up factories in all states rather
than making their pipes in one place?

3. Find another manufacturing innovation in the Innovations list. Discuss
its significance.

Activities :

Find out what materials were used for pipes before the Humespun process
was introduced. What materials are used for pipes today? Present the changes
in an illustrated report.

Vegemite, 1924

Questions :

1. How does the jingle make you feel towards Vegemite?

2. Do you know by heart any jingles that you've learnt from radio?

3. What influence do you think radio advertising has on you?

Activities :

Develop and record an ad which would be suitable for radio.

Owen gun, 1941

Questions :

1. What were the advantages of the Owen submachine gun?

2. What other products would the military forces have needed besides weapons?

3. In what ways do you think war can stimulate invention and innovation?

Activities :

Make a poster that could have been used to attract women to work in Lysaght's
factory making Owen guns. Look at images of women from that period (in
books or magazines) to help you find a suitable graphic style.

Snowy Mountains Scheme, 1949

Questions :

1. List some of the skills that were needed for the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

2. Why did many Europeans want to come to Australia in the 1950s?

3. How has post-war migration changed Australian culture (for example,
with regard to food and entertainment)?

Activities :

Interview a migrant who came to Australia from a non-English-speaking
country in the 1950s or 1960s. Record some of their experiences in writing
or on tape.

Victa lawnmower, 1952

Questions :

1. What innovations introduced by Mervyn Richardson made Victa a success?

2. Why do lawn-mowers sell better in Australia than in most other countries?

3. Name some other products for which suburban growth has created a demand.

Activities :

Sketch a design for a sturdy structure for young children to climb over
and through for either the backyard or indoors. You can add swings, ropes
or other accessories.

Solahart water heater, 1953

Questions :

1. What is the energy source for Solahart's water heaters?

2. Name some other ways that we use renewable energy.

3. Are there many solar water heaters in your area? Suggest reasons for

Activities :

Sketch designs for a display which would encourage people to use renewable
energy (solar, wind, wave, tide, falling or flowing water, fuel from sustainably
grown plants).

Sola plastic lenses, 1960

Questions :

1. What awards has SOLA Optical won?

2. How could winning an Academy Award help a film-maker?

3. Name some recent winners of music awards. Did the awards influence
you to buy their recordings?

Activities :

Visit a department store and look at the household appliances. Make a
list of those that display the Australian Design Mark (the award that
has replaced the Prince Philip Award for Industrial Design). Choose one
of these and comment on its design. Why do you think it won an award?

Black Box flight recorder, 1961

Questions :

1. What does the Black Box flight recorder record?

2. Why was Australian ownership of the Black Box flight recorder lost?

3. What can innovators learn from the story of the flight recorder?

Activities :

Imagine you have an innovative idea. Outline the steps you should take
to turn your idea into an innovation without losing ownership of it.

Microsurgery, 1973

Questions :

1. What are surgeons trained to do by the Microsearch Foundation?

2. Do you think these techniques could be learnt from a book? How else
could they be taught?

3. Do you think that we should stay in training all our working lives
because technology changes rapidly?

Activities :

Write instructions for production of a training package (including video
and printed material) for a particular sport.

SCATS traffic flow system, 1975

Questions :

1. Explain the advantages of SCATS over fixed timing of each set of traffic

2. Why do you think the development of SCATS took many years and is still

3. Discuss some other control systems that affect our daily lives.

Activities :

Draw a flow chart of the SCATS control system.

Use arrows to show which way information flows.

Ultrasound technology, 1976

Questions :

1. How does the Octoson scanner help pregnant women?

2. Name some other ways of getting images of internal organs. Which ones
involve computers?

3. How are new drugs and medical instruments tested before they are approved?

Activities :

Imagine you have an idea for an innovative stretcher. Outline how you
would appraise, research, design, make and market it.

Moldflow design software, 1978

Questions :

1. What does Moldflow software simulate?

2. Suggest another production process that could be simulated by computer.
What would be the advantages of doing the simulation?

3. Find another software innovation in the Innovations list. Describe
how it is used.

Activities :

Imagine you run a sheep and cattle farm. Suggest ways you could use computer
software to improve farm management. Design the screen by which you could
enter data for one of these programs (for example, you might have to enter
the age and mass of each animal you buy).

Racecam TV sport coverage, 1979

Questions :

1. What are the components of the Racecam system?

2. Explain how sports cams are used in some other sports.

3. What part does TV play in your lifestyle? What about sport?

Activities :

Keep a diary of your TV viewing for a week and note where each program
was made. Calculate what percentage of your viewing time you spent watching
shows from each country represented in your sample. Present these results

Cochlear Implant, 1983

Questions :

1. How does a Cochlear implant empower a person who loses their hearing?

2. Name another product or system that empowers deaf people. How does
it improve their opportunities?

3. Do you think all children should learn sign language at school? Why?

Activities :

Design a device to alert a deaf person that a visitor is at their front

ATPD pedestrian button, 1984

Questions :

1. Why is this device called an audio-tactile pedestrian detector?

2. Why do new pedestrian signs use red and green stick figures instead
of the words WALK and DON'T WALK?

3. How important are disabled parking spaces for people with impaired
mobility? Who is allowed to park in these spaces?

Activities :

Suggest one change to the design of your local shopping centre which might
empower people with a particular impairment to become more mobile. Write
a letter to the appropriate organisation suggesting this change.

Mambo designs, 1984

Questions :

1. How has Mambo earned its reputation for a distinctive style?

2. Name some other products which sell well because of their distinctive

3. Choose one of these products. What is your opinion of its style?

Activities :

Sketch designs for a table and chair that have a distinctive style and
could be sold under one brand name.

Australia Telescope, 1988

Questions :

1. What sort of signals does the Australia Telescope receive from distant

2. What technology does the control centre use to process the information
gathered by the Australia Telescope?

3. What information may need to be processed at different stages in the
innovation cycle?

Activities :

List the information that your brain has to process in deciding when it
is safe to cross a busy road. What information (gathered continuously
by your eyes, ears, nose etc) does the brain ignore in this situation?

Nogall pest control, 1989

Questions :

1. How does Nogall prevent damage to fruit crops?

2. Do you think scientists should be able to patent living things?

3. Find another product of biotechnology in the Innovations list. Discuss
its significance.

Activities :

Sketch a plan for a laboratory in which experiments with harmful bacteria
could be carried out. Think about the movement of people in and out of
the lab and how to deal with contaminated clothes, air and equipment.

Eddie special effects software, 1991

Questions :

1. How can Eddie aid animators?

2. Draw some sketches to show what happens in morphing.

3. Discuss the effectiveness of animation as a means of communication.

Activities :

Sketch some scenes for an animation sequence to convey a message to your
peers. If possible, create the sequence on computer.

Buried contact solar cell, 1991

Questions :

1. What do solar cells produce? Explain how they are different to solar
hot water systems.

2. What problems could occur if our houses and cars had solar cells on
their roofs?

3. What advantages could there be for people living in the city, and for
people living in remote areas, if solar cells became much cheaper?

Activities :

Sketch a house that you could live in without depending on energy from
fossil fuels. Show at least one system for heating (solar, firewood) and
one for generating electricity (solar, wind, Micro-Hydro). Include design
features that would help make the house warm in winter and cool in summer.

Partial Rootzone Drying, 1999

Questions :

1. How does this method save water?

2. Does it result in lower quality fruit than normal irrigation?

3. Should universities and CSIRO carry out research that 'is in the public
interest' or only research that gains a commercial reward?

Activities :

Select another CSIRO project of value to agriculture or horticulture and
prepare a short presentation explaining what it is and its significance.
If possible, present it as a talk to your class. See
under agribusiness.

ATSE Powerhouse Museum