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National Science Week: DST ‘saving lives with STEM’

Defence Science Technology (DST) is marking this year’s National Science Week by reflecting on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects that work to keep Australians safe, both at home and abroad.

Defence Science Technology (DST) is marking this year’s National Science Week by reflecting on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects that work to keep Australians safe, both at home and abroad.

Running from Saturday, 15 August 2020 through Sunday, 23 August nationwide, the commemorative event combines celebration at secondary, tertiary, government and industry levels, and has been held on an annual basis since 1997.

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In a statement posted Saturday, DST highlighted a number of STEM programs that form a core part of the contribution made by both the agency as well as Defence in a broad sense to keeping the nation safe.

DST stressed that, in addition to those initiatives normally associated with national security – such as working to counter foreign capability, such as IEDs – STEM projects carried out by Defence also contribute to safety at home (through testing firefighting equipment or studying the COVID-19 virus).

"Our Defence engineers and scientists do more than support military personnel," said the agency in a written statement. "They also provide essential science and technology support to enable the Australian government to respond in the event of a national crisis."

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Those projects pointed to include:

  • Fighting fires with sensors During last summer’s bushfire crisis, Defence deployed a research aircraft known as the Defence Experimentation Airborne Platform (DEAP) to monitor fire activity and conduct damage assessments over bushfire-affected areas.
  • Rapid face shield and ventilator design STEM experts from across Defence are engaged in a range of projects that are integral to the nation’s response to the pandemic, including designing face shields to protect healthcare workers, and developing a device that converts existing non-invasive ventilators into invasive ventilators.
  • Studying virus survivability Defence scientists are working with CSIRO and Australia’s international partners at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in Geelong to determine how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive on different surfaces.
  • Enhancing protection for military personnel  The agency said that Defence scientists are "constantly looking for innovative ways to enhance the equipment that protects Australian military personnel, from the body armour and helmets they wear to the armoured vehicles they patrol in".
  • Simulating explosions  The agency looks to means test personnel vehicles in conditions that are "as close to the real thing as possible". In addition to live-fire blast tests, this includes computer simulations run by Defence scientists specialised in vehicle survivability research.
  • Avoiding detection across the spectrum  Signature management across the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum allows military personnel to avoid EM detection. 
  • Defeating roadside bombs  Building on a long history of developing countermeasures to neutralise the threat posed by improvised explosive devices, commonly known as roadside bombs. This occurs, in part, through a program called REDWING, in which they have provided the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces with life-saving technology.
National Science Week: DST ‘saving lives with STEM’
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