Welcome to our STEM Learning Hub! Here you will find home and classroom activities, information about our outreach activities and some of our frequently asked STEM related questions.
Beacon: Primary school STEM program
BAE Systems Australia has partnered with Lumination to bring you Beacon - a STEM program for Year 4-6 students aligned to curriculum learning outcomes.
Students will use immersive technologies – virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D modelling – and will be challenged to develop solutions to real world problems related to sustainability.
Beacon is being offered as a five-day intensive camp or a 10-week program. It is initially for schools in South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia but expressions of interest across other states are welcome.
About 75 per cent of people at BAE Systems work in a STEM-related career. These people understand firsthand what’s needed to be successful in our industry. We have created a ‘STEM Influencer Program’ to inspire young people to consider a career in STEM.
If you are a teacher or educator, one of our STEM Influencers could speak to your class or attend your career fair. They can also provide in-class support for activities around engineering or general STEM learning.
Do your students need inspiration to study STEM? Let one of our STEM Influencers help!
If you have recently seen us at an event you might be looking for the answers to some of our STEM questions.
Taking virtual reality headsets a leap further, jet pilot helmets use a helmet-mounted display (HMD) on the visor. All the information the pilot needs including augmented and virtual reality interactive cockpit controls are projected on the helmet’s visor directly in front of the pilot’s eyes. This replaces the current physical cockpit layouts.
In some applications, imagery from cameras mounted around the aircraft is streamed to the helmet, allowing pilots to ‘look through’ the airframe.
This ‘wearable cockpit’ technology concept is adaptable across multiple aircraft. It enables the flexibility to upgrade non hardwired controls or displays much faster than the current technology allows - and with reduced training.
This has been made possible by game designers, digital artists, graphic modellers, systems engineers and software engineers developing virtual reality and digital systems.
From the sports shoe to the swimsuit and the tennis racket to the football, sports technologists have applied their ingenuity, creativity and expertise to develop better and safer equipment in the quest for sporting excellence.
The outcome has been: enhanced performance; better, safer and more effective sports equipment; precision measurement of performance; and multiple ways to experience sporting events anywhere and at any time.
The technology partnership between BAE Systems and UK Sport has benefited more than 30 different sports and 250 Olympic and Paralympic athletes since its conception in 2008.
Sports that have benefited include taekwondo, track cycling, BMX cycling, skeleton bobsled, bobsled, sailing, short track speed skating, athletics (projectile sports), canoeing (slalom and sprint), badminton, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing, swimming, modern pentathlon, shooting, archery, hockey, diving and equestrian.
As well as working to improve sporting success, the partnership showcases the value of engineering and its range of applications.
As technology plays an increasing role in helping professional athletes around the world, the partnership hopes to excite and educate young people about the range of career opportunities from studying STEM subjects at school.
Consider this: Sporting team members working together is similar to business and engineering. Engineering teams collaborate within larger teams of project managers, legal representatives, accountants, contract and commercial officers supporting the business to deliver solutions to customers.
Athletes, sport scientists and engineering experts from BAE Systems, Williams Advanced Engineering, GB Snowsport and Formaplex worked together to create new sit ski technology ahead of the 2021 Paralympic Winter Games.
BAE Systems Australia has designed, developed and manufactured a rocket to hover in mid-air and protect ships.
The Nulka rocket system is an active decoy and is launched to protect ships against detected threats such as a missile.
Using advanced flight vehicle guidance and control techniques, the Nulka rocket can autonomously fly a pre-programmed flight path, hover in mid-air and act as a decoy to lure incoming sea-skimming anti-ship missiles away from the ship.
The Nulka decoy operates independent of ship manoeuvres, and minimises the likelihood of collateral damage to friendly forces.
BAE Systems Australia are working with leading scientists and engineers to enhance Nulka’s missile decoy’s effectiveness including a new launch system and supporting technology.
Upgrade projects such as Nulka not only involve teams of engineering disciplines and scientists, it involves legal representatives, accountants and contract and commercial officers supporting the project at setup. Estimators, trainers, technical publication writers, tradespersons and procurement officers collaborate to deliver the solutions to customers ensuring that Nulka continues protecting Australian and allied fleets well into the future.
The Nulka has become Australia’s largest and most successful defence export.
Human Factors is a specialist area that looks into the most productive way of working while taking into consideration worker safety, efficiency, quality, personal wellbeing and interactions with technology.
At BAE Systems, our design and manufacturing processes have been develop by a team of experts including production planners, safety practitioners, project planners, logistics officers and human machine interface experts.
For efficiency and access, the construction of a ship’s welded steel hull is broken down into modular block sections. The sections are worked on individually by teams of welders, boilermakers, electricians and fitters. And as each section is complete, multiple blocks are fitted together.
Working overhead, or in this case welding overhead, is one of the most inconvenient – and sometimes dangerous - methods of working. Therefore, these block sections are built upside down.
This allows for welding to be done in a downwards position where it is much faster, safer, easier and more accurate. It also means the block sections can be lowered into position minimising the use of cranes to hold large components in place while being welded from underneath.
A lot of heavy steel components also make up each modular section of a ship. Services such as pipes, ventilation and wiring are attached to the ceiling or walls of the structure, keeping decks clear for movement of personnel and equipment.
Building the blocks upside down means that these services can also be fitted at floor level and reduces the amount of work that needs to be completed overhead.
After a section is completely welded, it can be rolled over for work to continue right-side up.
Radio waves travel easily through the earth’s atmosphere from a transmitter. Depending on the frequency, the radio wave transmission may travel in a straight line or in the case of frequencies in the high frequency (HF) band (3 megahertz to 30 megahertz), the radio waves can be reflected back to the earth’s surface.
HF radio waves are reflected back to the earth’s surface by a layer of the upper atmosphere called the ionosphere. The ionosphere gets its name due to atoms in the ionosphere being struck by solar radiation causing these atoms to lose electrons and hence turning the atoms into ions.
Interactions between HF radio waves and the ionosphere are different between night and day. At night - in the absence of the sun - the ionosphere's composition changes. It loses some of its charge and it is unable to reflect radio waves.
The ionosphere constantly changes its characteristics and the HF frequency chosen needs to be optimised to enable the reflection of the radio signal to be controlled.
HF radio waves will essentially bounce between the ionosphere and the earth’s surface and enable the radio waves to travel around the earth when optimal conditions exist. Hence HF radio waves are useful for communicating over a long distance.
Likewise, HF radio waves can be used for radio detection and ranging (radar) to detect objects of interest that are significantly further than the horizon.
BAE Systems Australia provides engineering and sustainment services to Australia’s Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). JORN bounces radio waves from the ionosphere to ‘see’ aircraft and shipping movements over the horizon.
Are you naturally curious about radio and radar technology? Browse the roles at BAE Systems that might be right for you.
Drones are fitted with a gyroscope that helps keep a drone balanced.
A gyroscope is a device that consists of a mounted wheel that spins on an axis that is free to move in any direction. It is used to provide stability or maintain a reference direction.
The most common use of gyroscope principles today are the rotating wheels on a bicycle which keep it upright.
Engineers use the science behind these gyroscopes to design drones to detect small variations of movement, enabling corrections to control flight.
Humans are good at collecting data from multiple sources and using our experience and inference to fill in any gaps to make risk-based decisions. We do this even in uncertain and complex environments such as crossing the road; weaving around opponents on a sporting field; stepping around puddles; and climbing a tree.
These same movements are particularly challenging for machines.
When driving along or planning a route, an autonomous vehicle needs to determine whether terrain is passable or not. For example, it needs to know when it can drive through forests and bushland, get through boggy mud or cross a flowing river to transport food, medical supplies and patients to and from remote locations.
BAE Systems are working on this challenge with teams of human factors specialists, safety practitioners and human machine interface experts.
We are also working towards improving usability and safety of these machines, as well as the wellbeing and safety of the people who operate and interact with them.
Over the horizon radio detection and ranging (radar) systems use a transmitter system to send out high power HF radio waves in a particular direction to strike an area that is under surveillance. These signals bounce off the ionosphere then strike objects in the target area. The signal is then bounced from the object in the target area, travelling back through the ionosphere to a sensitive array of receiving antennas that pick up the returned signal for analysis.
An over-the-horizon radar essentially looks down on its targets. This means that the target can be mixed in with a lot of signal returns from the ground or sea surface, known as clutter. However, moving targets change the frequency of the returned signal known as doppler shift. By detecting a doppler shift, a target can be detected in clutter.
BAE Systems Australia provides engineering and sustainment services to the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). JORN’s antenna arrays are located over large areas of remote Australia and can ‘see’ four percent of the Earth’s surface.
Under the JORN sustainment program, BAE Systems also provides engineering, maintenance and support services plus software and hardware engineering enhancements.
Upgrade projects not only involve teams of engineering disciplines and scientists. Legal representatives, accountants, estimators, contract and commercial representatives also collaborate to deliver the solutions to our customers.
Are you naturally curious about radio and radar technology? Browse the roles at BAE Systems that might be right for you.
Unlike cars, aircraft and other manufactured products, in the world of ship building it is too expensive to make a fully representative prototype for testing or user evaluation.
To build a ship ‘virtually’, design teams collaborate with trades specialists, production planners, human factors specialists, safety practitioners, human machine interface experts, maintenance tradespersons, logistics officers, trainers and technical publication writers to test our digital design models before detail design and building begins.
The efforts of these teams are monitored and guided by project managers and systems engineers who help ensure the first new ship off the production line meets the customer’s needs.
The PHASA-35 has been designed to operate unmanned above the weather and conventional air traffic in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 65,000 feet in the layer between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
It is referred to as a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Using a range of world leading technologies, it can remain airborne for up to a year without needing to refuel.
With the same wingspan as a Boeing 737, the PHASA-35 is designed to provide a stable platform to carry out a range of tasks, including maritime and military surveillance, disaster relief, detecting bushfire and communications.
BAE Systems Australia plays a leading role in the sustainment and upgrade of the Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) existing fleet.
The AHO is responsible for charting more than one-eighth of the world's surface, stretching from our Australian waters as far west as Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean, to east to the Solomon Islands, and from the equator to the Antarctic. The nautical charts developed from data gathered by the Hydrographic Service are essential for safe navigation at sea.
Upgrade projects not only involve teams of engineering disciplines and scientists. Legal representatives, accountants, contract and commercial officers support the project at setup. Estimators, trainers, technical publication writers and procurement officers collaborate to deliver the solutions to customers.
Under the sustainment program, BAE Systems also provides engineering, maintenance supply and training services in support of the Royal Australian Navy’s hydrographic fleet of vessels for the Cairns-based Hydrographic System Program Office – including the provision of ‘help desk’ services, maintenance services, data manipulation, plus software and hardware engineering changes.
The upgraded technologies and software aboard the ship HMAS Melville has significantly improved the accuracy of the data adding to the capability of geospatial intelligence gathering, charting accuracy and knowledge of local tidal dynamics within the central Queensland coastal region. HMAS Melville has also been tasked to urgently seek and locate a crashed helicopter.
The basic principles of a radar system are - the radar transmitter sends out radio waves, which are reflected off an object such as a plane. The ratio signals received by the radar antenna can tell how far away the object is, what speed it is travelling at and how big it is.
Most conventional aircraft are designed with a rounded shapes to make them aerodynamic and reduce drag. The round shape means that no matter where the radar signal hits the plane, some of the signal gets reflected back.
There are two different ways aircraft avoid detection by radar.
Stealth – also known as low observable - aircraft are designed to reduce their detectable size by using completely flat surfaces and very sharp edges to reduce the Radar Cross Section (RCS). When a radar signal hits a low observable aircraft, the signal reflects at an angle away from the radar receiver.
The surfaces are also covered with special materials and paint that absorbs the radar signals. The overall result is that an aircraft like an F-117A can have the radar signature of a small bird rather than an airplane.
BAE Systems maintenance technicians pay a great deal of attention and care to the painted surfaces on an F-35 (pictured above). Corrosion, cracks, gaps and scratches all have the potential of altering the performance of the radar signature.
Infrared cameras rely on thermal imaging, which works by detecting an object’s ‘infrared energy’ - its heat.
When a thermal camera looks at normal uncoated glass the energy it sees is only reflected energy. Glass does not let thermal energy pass through it and it does not create thermal energy. This is due to the fact that glass has an emissivity ratio of .95 (a ratio given to every material on earth of how much infrared energy it emits, transmits and reflects).
Therefore, all but the most sophisticated of cameras won’t be able to detect anyone behind the glass.
Scientists apply the principles of emissivity to develop medical diagnostic equipment, firefighting protective clothing, and search and rescue equipment to find people or cracks and structural damage to buildings after an earthquake.
Although there are some planes that have their propellers facing backwards, most face forward - and for a number of good reasons.
A forward-facing propeller is more efficient, as it receives a more unobstructed airflow to work from.
If the engine was to receive air that had been ‘obstructed’ by the wing, this air stream would be uneven. This would result in more noise and vibration.
Plane propellers need to be cooled when in use. Carrying water on a plane to cool down the engines means the plane will be too heavy - therefore the air rushing at the propellers acts as a coolant instead.
The engine driving the propellers is one of the heaviest parts of an aircraft. It is placed closer to the front to balance the aircraft and optimise its aerodynamic capabilities.
During take-off and landing, the tail end of an aircraft is tilted closer to the ground. If a propeller is at the back of a plane, it could clip the tarmac!