If the winners of these STEM student awards are any indication, the future of science and engineering in Australia is pretty bright.
It’s an exciting time for the STEM students revealed as winners for the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards.
The awards highlight innovative science and engineering projects from students across Australia and seek to “promote the next generation of STEM leaders”.
Winners and runners-up for the competition’s three categories (Engineering, Investigations and Innovation to Market) were picked from a field of 26 finalists. Although competition was fierce across the board, many entrants cited a desire to make the world a better place and an inquisitive mind as the motivations for their projects.
First place in Engineering went to Oliver Nicholls, who combined his knowledge of mathematics, physics and design to create an autonomous robotic window cleaner. He said he hopes this design reduces injury and can help bring down the commercial costs of window cleaning.
Aspiring environmental engineer Minh Nga Nguyen won first in the Investigations category. Her project used agricultural by-products such as corn husks, bamboo scraps and rice waste to create a biochar product that delivers a one-two punch: filtering water and use as fertiliser.
“The process reduces the effects of contaminated water and pollution created by agricultural waste. I hope this technology will provide impact globally,” Nguyen said.
Angeline Arora, winner of the Innovator to Market award, developed a bioplastic made from prawn shells and protein from silk. Unlike conventional plastic, this version completely degrades, without leaving behind any harmful residue. The plastic held up well when tested for strength, elongation, clarity, solubility, deconstruction and endurance.
Arora said she hopes this plastic cut down on the amount of rubbish in landfills, and keep plastic bags and packaging from choking our oceans and waterways.
CSIRO CEO Dr Larry Marshall said the winners and finalists showcase how STEM skills will help Australia – and the rest of the world – prepare for a rapidly changing and uncertain future.
“The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, but science, technology, engineering and maths can guide that future through innovation,” he said.
“We know that the achievements of the winners and the finalists will inspire other students to become innovators solving the big challenges that face our world.”
The BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards have been running since 1981 and is a partnership between the BHP Billiton Foundation, CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association, and each state and territory Science Teachers Association.
“We’ve seen alumni from the awards go on to do extraordinary things, and I have no doubt that the winners and finalists from this year will become leaders in their chosen professions,” said BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie.
Second place for engineering went to Lachlan Bolton, who was inspired to create a collapsable and extendable surfboard after getting frustrated with trying to squeeze himself, his three brothers and all their gear into one car for surf trips.
Jack Chapman took third in the Engineering category for his Electroduino Mechanical Bionic Hand (EMBH), an inexpensive and remotely controlled robotic hand that can detect and disarm landmines.
Six of the finalists will go on to the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the US, where more than 1800 high school students from 75 countries, regions and territories will showcase their research and innovations to a global audience.