Mineral minstrels set out to forge new metal fans
A band of roaming metallurgists will visit some of Australia’s most remote schools, burning things, blowing them up and getting students excited about mineral science.
Experts in all things metallic and combustible, Graeme Thompson and Ken Seymour from Murdoch University’s School of Engineering will cross the Pilbara and Kimberley regions next week to ignite the imaginations of high school students.
“The students will be treated to a really explosive show, as some of these experiments have quite a bit of pop,” said Mr Thompson, a current PhD student.
“We will show them metal reactions in flames that produce coloured sparks, like those used in fireworks, and we also will demonstrate how iron oxide and aluminium can react to create molten iron ore at 2500 degrees.”
“The molten iron ore reaction is used to fuse railroad tracks together, so it’s a good demonstration of chemistry’s power and its application.”
Students will get hands on experience during the sessions as well, extracting copper metal from ore using acid, steel wool and electricity.
The Pilbara and Kimberly visits are part of Murdoch’s ongoing ‘Extracting Talent for Metallurgy’ program, which travels around Western Australia to inspire students to take an interest in mining industry careers.
The program has been funded for $100,000 over five years by Rio Tinto.
Mr Thompson sees it as a solid investment for students and the nation.
“Minerals and energy are at the centre of Australian life, making up roughly 50 per cent of the nation’s export income. In order to keep the industry running effectively, we need to add 60 to 100 new extractive metallurgists each year,” Mr Thompson said.
“At the moment, Australian universities are graduating about 50, so the math is pretty simple. We want students to see mineral extraction as an exciting, and well compensated career option.”