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Mr Darren Hamley

Willetton Senior High School teacher Darren Hamley has an innate ability to ignite a scientific curiosity within all students, and a passion for using science to promote environmental conservation. He has also initiated several extracurricular programs at Willetton Senior High School to help students relate their theoretical scientific learnings to real-world applications.

His most notable achievements include:

  • leading the school’s solar car project – where students designed and constructed a full-size solar-powered vehicle that has now been driven twice across a 1,000 km section of the Nullarbor
  • empowering his students to use 3D-printed replicas of Swan River dolphins to raise awareness of the harm caused by fishing line entanglement

Watch a video about his work

Darren Hamley talks about his research and contribution.

[Image changes to show the Willetton Senior High School sign, and then the image changes to show students walking past a Willetton Senior High School sign, and the camera zooms in on the sign]

Darren Hamley: My name is Darren Hamley. I’m the Co-ordinator of Gifted and Talented Education at Willetton Senior High School, which is one of the biggest schools in Western Australia.

[Image changes to show Darren Hamley talking to the camera]

I started as a Biologist but I decided to make the change to science teaching and I just haven’t looked back. I love every second of it.

[Image changes to show Darren and another male standing in front of the school buildings talking, and the camera zooms in on their faces]

My Principal asked me to come up with a new idea for the school and I said to him, “I’d really like to start a Gifted Program.”

[Image changes to show a close view of Darren talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Darren standing at a whiteboard talking to students seated at desks]

And the program began with about ten kids meeting after school and quickly grew into a program now with 360 students and I have 17 staff.

[Image changes to show a close view of a hand writing numbers in a notebook and then the image changes to show Darren looking at a laptop and talking to students]

We do a test of academic potential, rather than a test of academic performance.

[Image changes to show Darren working on a chemistry experiment with students and then the image changes to show Darren looking through a microscope and adjusting it]

So, what we’re after is those students to come in with potential, and to turn that potential into talent.

[Images move through to show a student looking through the microscope, Darren and three students working with a robotic telescope and watching it move, and then Darren talking to the camera]

Willetton has as very, very long history of academic success in science and one of the key indicators is the number of students that go on to choose science subjects post-compulsory.

[Image changes to show Darren talking to the camera]

So, for example we have over 200 students studying physics which is really just unheard of.

[Image changes to show a close view looking at the underneath of a solar car and then the image shows Darren and a student crawling underneath the car with a long piece of metal]

Probably our main achievement has been solar car. That’s the one that I’m really most proud of. So, I’ve had a group of 13 and 14 year old students that have built a road licensed, solar powered car. We believe it’s one of the first zero emission cars ever built in Australia.

[Images move through to show three students watching Darren reversing the solar car and talking to the students, the steering wheel and controls, and then Darren driving the car forwards]

And I’ve driven this car for thousands of kilometres, twice from Darwin to Adelaide, twice we’ve done a little section of the Nullarbor, and next year we’re hoping to do a trip from Perth to Canberra, which is pretty ambitious, and it should take us about 20 days.

[Images move through of Darren and a student looking at a model dolphin and then the image changes to show Darren talking to the students and demonstrating the dolphin model]

Another initiative with the Gifted Program has been our dolphin research.

[Image changes to show Darren talking to the camera and then the image changes to show pieces of a model dolphin body inside a box]

And the main area we’ve been looking at here recently is how damage to dolphin dorsal fins affects how they swim.

[Image changes to show views of a 3-D printer printing dolphin models]

The students use photographs that I’ve taken to produce 3-D printed models of the dolphins.

[Image changes to show Darren and students testing swimming performance in a clear tube test tank by dropping the model from the top of the tube and watching it sink to the bottom]

And these one-eighth scale models are then used in test tanks to test their swimming performance.

[Image changes to show Darren talking to the camera]

And the ultimate aim of this project is to help raise awareness about how damage to dorsal fins can be caused by rubbish that’s left around our rivers.

[Image changes to show a close view of Darren holding up a potted plant and then the camera zooms out to show a student looking at the potted plant with Darren]

I really love being a science teacher.

[Image changes to show a student and Darren working on an electronic type project together and the camera zooms in on Darren’s face]

The fundamentals of science remain the same but I feel like I’m doing something different every single day.

[Image changes to show Darren and students working on a chemistry experiment]

To be recognised for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science was a great honour.

[Image changes to show Darren talking to the camera]

I’ve been working in science for over three decades, and I was absolutely over the moon when I found out that I’d been recognised.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion and text appears beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Mr Darren Hamley]

 

See his acceptance speech

Darren Hamley accepted his prize at this year’s live streamed event.

[Image appears of Darren Hamley talking to the camera and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion and text appears beneath: Mr Darren Hamley]

Darren Hamley: Recently I gave a group of my students the task of studying some galaxies using data from the Murchison Widefield Array Telescope. And one of my very brightest students, almost every day, would say to me, “Sir is there any chance we could win a Nobel Prize for this?”. And I know he went home every night and talked non-stop to his parents about it.

And this basically sums up my philosophy of a good education. I want projects so exciting the kids can’t stop talking about it and difficult enough to really stretch their academic legs.

I’d like to thank Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Minister Karen Andrews for this prize. I’d also like to thank one our amazing parents, Dr Paola Shivers for nominating me for the prize.

Thank you very much Paola.

And my incredible education assistant, Yolanda Pereira, who’s been with me for 25 years. Thank you again Yolanda. And I’d finally like to thank my wife, Michelle, and my two daughters, Sarah and Emily, for putting up with me coming home every night talking about dolphins, solar cars, and galaxies.

Thank you very much.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion and text appears beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Mr Darren Hamley]