National Science Week

National Science Week is Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology and thousands of individuals – from students, to scientists to chefs and musicians – get involved, taking part in more than 1000 science events across the nation. It aims to encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public, and to encourage younger people to become fascinated by the world we live in.

During National Science Week, Quantum Victoria presents a once-off opportunity:

Taking Learning Mobile: Augmented Reality Gaming & The Mystery of Charles La Trobe

Using ARIS, a free open-source platform for easily creating and playing games, tours and interactive stories on mobile devices, students will experience augmented reality – a hybrid world of virtual interactive characters, items and media placed in both physical and virtual spaces. Using GPS, QR codes, iPads and their imagination, this ARIS based program will allow students to experience, and rapidly produce interactive, narrative centric, geo-location games while engaging in problem solving, team work, critical thinking, design and systems thinking. 

During this workshop, students will be engaged with a custom ARIS game built by the team at Quantum Victoria. 

Navigating La Trobe University, with an iPad in your inventory, can you solve the Mystery of Charles LaTrobe? 

Learning Outcomes:

Discover how GPS & Geocaching can be incorporated into Game Design; Examine the use of location-based games; Utilize problem solving & team work skills; See that Science is alive outside the classroom; Leave the workshop with ideas on how to create their own augmented reality games.

Audience: Year 7 to 10

When: Tuesday 13th & Wednesday 14th of August 2013

Where: Quantum Victoria

Time: 10am – 2pm

Cost: Free (students required to bring their own morning tea & lunch)

To register contact or call (03) 9223 1460

Want to make a DC Motor?

Today we utilized a 3D printed split-ring commutator with adhesive copper tape making contact with the brushes. We were expecting greater efficiency, but actually got less. The copper foil we are using isn’t ‘springy’ enough – a new brush system is needed or at least some thicker copper foil. (Granted it only has 2V through it in this video) Check it out.

Something else to consider when using 3D printed parts instead of balsa is that the extra weight causes the shaft to sag… If using 3D printed parts consider using something other than a wooden skewer – maybe a metallic skewer, knitting needle etc.

Find ‘Making a DC Motor’ Activity sheet available from download here, which also includes .skp files for the armature and commutator.!MchCjLJb!K0UQNSKNNGZ4tf9cDjL9JVJow-kiAZ8DVueE-06RPb4

We are currently working on a 4-pole DC motor. Two commutator’s will be needed placed 90 degrees out of phase to ensure maximum efficiency. (We think.)


4-pole armature

*Instructions for a simpler DC motor can be found here.

Making a DC Motor

A rough sketch of a DC Motor.

DC Motor Sketch

Having students construct a simple DC motor is a great way to learn about the interactions between electric & magnetic fields.

Materials needed:

  • Pine from your local hardware store
  • Wooden skewers 
  • Horseshoe magnet
  • Split pins
  • Enamelled copper wire 0.5mm
  • Copper foil (I used 0.1mm thickness but recommend probably around 0.3mm)
  • Balsa wood for shaping an armature (or a 3D printer to print an armature as we did in this example)
  • Masking tape
  • Razor blades

The Armature is easily made by shaping some 25 x 25 mm balsa with a razor blade. Getting a nice balanced armature can be tricky and requires some patience. If you have access to a 3D printer you can have students design an armature using Google Sketchup. Once printed, it can be placed on the shaft and copper can be wound around the armature.


Also note that the copper wire must be enamelled. The enamel then should be sanded only where the brushes make contact. The enamel works like insulation in the coil and allows a force to be generated.

End Result:

Next Step:

To create a split ring commutator with adhesive copper tape so that our motor looks a little more like an actual motor. ie.


Perpetual Testing Initiative

The Perpetual Testing Initiative for Portal 2 was released as DLC on May 8th. Originally, in order to create custom levels or maps for Portal 2, the Hammer Engine needed to be used – now Valve has put level creation into the hands of all with it’s simple to use in-game editor. Below is a map that I put together in about 5 minutes – granted it’s never going to win a prize for aesthetics or level of difficulty – but what it allows is rapid prototyping of ideas and for students to be engaged in iterative design where they design, test, modify, test, modify, get their peers to test, modify and so on.

portal2 2012-05-11 14-40-15-65

I have written before about how this game can be used as a vehicle for students to learn about physics concepts such as gravity, momentum, energy, conservation laws and even modern physics such as Einstein-Rosen bridges from the theory of general relativity. An example is the concept of ‘flinging.’

Essentially ‘flinging’ is using the properties of gravity, transferring energy from kinetic to potential and vice-versa, in order to build up enough momentum to traverse distances that would be normally impossible.


In order to make high-quality maps, Hammer will still need to be used to apply textures and lighting effects (by importing your maps created into the SDK) – as this functionality in the in-game editor is quite limited. Overall though, it is excellent – if you haven’t yet played Portal 2 go buy it now – it’s only $6.99 on Steam.

Epic Science RPG

Quantum Victoria and La Trobe University are currently developing a science-based RPG. It will include a wealth of intriguing science-based puzzles/games wrapped into an exciting, compelling narrative in which students work towards an end goal linked to the narrative. The game has a back-end teacher assessment tool built in so teachers can see student progress.

Without giving too much away, the game consists of one large story arc, in which four characters (playable by the students) follow their goals of knowledge in four different worlds. Within the overall story, there will be sub-stories known as quests (together with sub-quests that are not central to the main story). Each character has at least 5 different quests, with the completion of each quest marking progress in the main storyline. The quest structure follows ‘The Hero’s Journey’ as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Upon completion of the quests for all four character stories, the player will be able to face a final challenge, requiring all four of their characters.  When the final quest is completed the game will unveil the denouement of the story.

Below are some screens of the game currently in development. We are currently brainstorming suitable names for this game – any suggestions appreciated!