Join The Parade, New South Wales - Ph:+61-2-1234-5678


Students learn:

Curriculum Learning Activities
SCIENCE Real world monitoring and data collection
TECHNOLOGY Use technology for health analysis / prediction
ART How design and appearance affect usability & reliability of data
ENGINEERING How properties of materials affect design of diagnostic apparatus
MATHEMATICS Methods of evaluation and using authentic data

STEAMpunks Young Doctors

Fig 1: Young doctors



This project is designed to link to the following BOSTES curriculum outcomes:

ST3-12MW - 'Uses scientific knowledge about the transfer of light to solve problems that directly affect people’s lives' - Source BOSTES - ST3-12MW

ACSSU080 - 'How Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted' BOSTES - ACSSU080

Since the widespread use of antibiotics began in the 1940s, we've tried to develop new drugs faster than bacteria can evolve – but this strategy isn't working. Drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs killed nearly 700,000 people last year, and by 2050 that number could be 10 million – more than cancer kills each year. Can physics help? In a talk from the frontiers of science, radiation scientist David Brenner shares his work studying a potentially life-saving weapon: a wavelength of ultraviolet light known as far-UVC, which can kill superbugs safely, without penetrating our skin. Followed by a Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson.


Perform some simple, introductory experiments to:

  • classify materials as transparent, opaque or translucent, based on whether light passes through them, is absorbed, reflected or scattered
  • observe and describe how the absorption of light by materials and objects forms shadows, eg building shading
  • gather evidence to support their predictions about how light travels and is reflected
  • research, using secondary sources to gather information about science understandings, discoveries and/or inventions that depend on the reflection and refraction of light and how these are used to solve problems that directly affect people's lives, eg mirrors, magnifiers, spectacles and prisms (ACSHE083, ACSHE100)

Please also see: Assessment Rubric


Students create a medical device that uses light (reflection, absorption, refraction, transmission and colour/spectrum) to help identify cancer risk.

Detecting cancer risk by counting moles Studies have shown that people who have 11 or more moles on one of their arms could have a higher risk of the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

Lead author Simone Ribero, of the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King’s [sic: King's College London], said: “The findings could have a significant impact for primary care, allowing GPs to more accurately estimate the total number of moles in a patient extremely quickly via an easily accessible body part. This would mean that more patients at risk of melanoma can be identified and monitored.” - Source and data from 'twins' study


  1. Perform some preliminary background research (Internet search) and provide written evidence of their references (links)
  2. Provide a description of their proposed 'medical instrument', how their test apparatus will be used what properties of light it will depend upon.
  3. Show how light absorption, reflection and transmission, will be used to differentiate 'moles' from 'freckles'
  4. Using the above method, design and build a 'medical instrument' using a simple camera/webcam or similar device to identify (colour) and count the number of moles on a persons arm.
  5. The method/instrument must be designed so that results are repeatable (that the same count is achieved when tests are repeated using the same apparatus and subject/'patient'.
  6. Create a spreadsheet to store, analyse and visually display (graph) the results.
  7. Collect data from at least twenty subjects/'patients' and enter that data into the spreadsheet.
  8. Create a document to summarise their results and include any ideas they have for improved/alternative 'medical instruments' or diagnostic tests

Studies involving large numbers of patients over a 15 year period, found that women with more moles were more likely to develop breast cancer compared with women who had fewer or none of them - See source

New South Wales Cancer Institute on-line cancer risk tool

Introductory Classroom Teaching Resources:

Before launching into this project, introduce some simple classroom activities to provide a conceptual foundation about physics of light and colour.

The activities should ideally explain how see colour and demonstrate the difference between diffraction and refraction, reflection, transmission.

Activities should also differentiate and explain the difference between 'light' in general versus the relatively very small sub-set known as 'visible light'.



The system consists of two main components:

  1. A webcam and related apparatus to standardise image collection
  2. An image processing application to help obtain four types of data:
    1. Identify suspicious areas in captured images
    2. Analyse the using image techniques
    3. Classify images
    4. Store images for future review and comparison

NOTE: This project is NOT designed to be a diagnostic tool. As a project for primary school students, it should at best be viewed as an unreliable experimental pre-screening aid. A far more sophisticated diagnostic tool is, for example, here or here

brainbox/young-doctors/home.txt · Last modified: 18/12/2017/ 12:48 (external edit)