UTS students have been proving that knowledge can exist in a vacuum as they help CHOICE put a range of domestic appliances to the test.
The School of Physics and Advanced Materials in UTS Science has launched a collaborative program with the consumer advocacy organisation, in which students are conducting comparative testing of consumer goods like vacuums, ceiling fans, LCD TVs and hair dryers using samples provided by CHOICE.
Running for the first time in second semester last year, the program is providing a practical component to physics studies in the first-year subject Physical Modelling.
"Physics classes are traditionally not well received by engineering students because of the theoretical delivery method," said Dr Jurgen Schulte, UTS Science's lead in the collaboration.
"I wanted to change it into something students would be doing in real careers – testing and designing – something they can relate to while actually learning the skills," he said.
Prior to testing, students were briefed by both CHOICE and UTS Science lecturers and tasked to compare the various models of each appliance based on a series of testing criteria.
CHOICE staff members were also involved in the delivery of the program, collaborating in the lectures and question times, giving the UTS students the opportunity to interact with industry.
Dr Schulte said one of the main motivators in starting the collaboration was to give students an authentic workplace experience very early in their course and to provide opportunities to put theory into practice.
"Teamwork is a big focus in this program, where each student is responsible for certain tasks within a group. They work individually and then come together as a team to discuss their findings. There is also the element of self-guided learning," Dr Schulte said.
Irene Hsieh, an electrical engineering and medical science student, said the class had given her great insights into the world of employment and potential careers.
"When I'm doing the practical I get to experience different situations and where and how I can apply the theory to them. I love every single bit of it."
Daniel Cullura, a second-year civil construction student, said the experiments were useful as they had shown him how to apply theory-based skills in real-world environments.
"It actually gives you a chance to put into practice what you are learning in the lecture theatre and it's good because it's a bit different," he said.
"Students very rarely get an authentic experience in working on something from a purely physics perspective," Dr Schulte said. "Here they gain a multitude of experience which they can take to their other classes and into their future careers.
"I think this collaboration with CHOICE is a springboard to many more similar projects and opportunities, allowing UTS students to make a real contribution to the community while gaining real-world practical skills."