Year 7 Science Woomera Investigation

The word ‘Woomera’ comes from the Dharug language of the Eora People of the Sydney Basin. A Woomera is an Australian Aboriginal wooden spear-throwing device that serves as an extension of the human arm. This enables the spear to travel at a greater speed and distance than possible with only the arm.
In a recent science experiment, the Year 7 students explored the principles of simple machines and levers. They utilised a ball launcher to investigate how varying the lever length affects the maximum distance a tennis ball can travel. In this scenario, the tennis ball symbolised the spear, while the ball launcher stood in for the Woomera. Impressively, some of the girls managed to launch their tennis balls over 50 metres.

Here’s what some of the girls learnt during the investigation.

What did you learn about how levers work by using the ball launcher and thinking about the Aboriginal Woomera?

I learnt that levers work by an effort applied at a point, which moves a load around a balance point called the fulcrum and a woomera or throwing stick was used by Aboriginal boys and men in all parts of Australia to propel spears with great force, often over considerable distances. Mila 

How did changing the length of the ball launcher affect how far the tennis ball travelled?

When we did levers in Science, I learnt that when you put your hand further up the ball launcher, the ball won’t go as far because this reduces the length of the lever, which reduces the force. This means the ball doesn’t go very far. Alysssa

This experiment not only provided a practical demonstration of lever mechanics but also offered a fascinating connection to the ingenious technology of the Aboriginal Woomera. By bridging ancient innovation with modern scientific inquiry, the students gained a deeper appreciation for the mechanics of levers and the cultural significance of traditional tools.

Shaping Future Leaders- Jennifer Oaten

At Santa Maria College, we believe that leadership is a journey of learning, not just a title or position. For over 80 years, our Year 12 students have been at the forefront of shaping our school’s culture through their leadership. As one cohort graduates and another takes the helm, the baton of leadership is passed, igniting the potential within each new group of young women.

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