A BEE researcher who used the insect’s precision flying systems to overhaul robotic aircraft navigation has won the $300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Australian National University Professor Mandyam Veerambudi Srinivasan is working with the US Army and NASA to design tiny craft based on his research of bees’ brains that could be used to explore Mars and reduce danger for soldiers on the battlefield.

Prof Srinivasan said bees were expert navigators despite their small size and brains the size of a sesame seed, and could be trained to navigate through mazes, follow coloured signs and distinguish between patterns to find food.

“What is amazing is these tiny creatures can learn something like that,” said Prof Srinivasan, who trained as an engineer in India but began studying flies and later bees “purely out of interest and curiosity”.

“Nature has evolved these systems through a million years of evolution.”

At the First Anniversary Dinner on 9 October the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser AC, addressed the Club Melbourne Ambassadors as their new Patron in Chief. The Club Melbourne Ambassadors are a group of leading academics, scientists and other leaders committed to bringing the world’s best thinkers to Melbourne through the hosting of major scientific and other conventions.

Both the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre and the Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau have joined to support Club Melbourne. Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson is a Club Melbourne Ambassador and will be hosting The Australian Thinker of the Year at the new convention centre in 2009.

Our world and the world of the future demand that all students are supported to become effective and skilful thinkers. Thinking validates existing knowledge and enables individuals to create new knowledge and to build ideas and make connections between them. It entails reasoning and inquiry together with processing and evaluating information. It enables the exploration of perceptions and possibilities. It also involves the capacity to plan, monitor and evaluate one’s own thinking, and refine and transform ideas and beliefs.

The Thinking Processes domain as mapped out in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) encompasses a range of cognitive, affective and metacognitive knowledge, skills and behaviours which are essential for students to function effectively in society, both within and beyond school.

AUSTRALIAN principals have hit-back at claims school curriculums have been hijacked by left-wing ideologues. Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) president Andrew Blair said Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop was taking a populist position that would not help children.

He attacked suggestions there should be a greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy. “Is that going to prepare kids for the 21st century where we have new forms of numeracy and literacy? I doubt it,” he said. But Mr Blair welcomed a debate on whether Australia should have a national curriculum.