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Science and engineering finalists look to help

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Health and the environment were top of mind for the finalists of the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards and the entrants haven’t shied from taking on the big issues of bacterial resistance, environmental degradation, disaster management and land care.

From developing a flood warning system to investigating the effectiveness of bush medicine, 26 teenagers have taken their first steps in using science and engineering to effect change after being announced as finalists.

The awards recognise the next generation of STEM leaders who have undertaken innovative science or engineering projects.

The 26 finalists announced today included Queensland’s Jared Crowley, New South Wales’ Minh Nga Nguyen and Western Australia’s Nyheemah Cox, David Simelolo and Jeremias Wade. All cited a desire to making the world a better place as motivation for their projects.

After recently witnessing the effects of flooding at his family’s property on the Gold Coast, 14-year-old Jared Crowley was inspired to develop an innovative flood warning device.

“Our home was flooded earlier this year and the waters rose during the night and entered the home just after midnight,” Jared said.

“It was hard to accurately know what was happening outside and it was a very stressful night, followed by weeks of repairs.

“All of our animals needed to be moved up from the paddocks that flooded first and we tried to move as much furniture and belongings up but not everything could be saved in this short time.”

Using a computer platform, the system Jared developed sends a text message to people when flood waters reach a certain level at their property.

“Once I finished developing the project I realised that it could be used in multiple ways, such as measuring water tank levels and alerting people when the water decreases to a certain point,” he said.

In Coolgardie, a small town in Western Australia famous for its gold mines, 16-year-old Nyheemah Cox combined her cultural heritage and open investigation.

Alongside fellow students 14-year-old David Simelolo and 14-year-old Jeremias Wade they explored three bush plants’ ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Maroon bush, crimson turkey bush and sweet potato leaves have been used by Aboriginal peoples as medicine for a variety of illness including cancer, heart disease and intestinal trouble.

Nyheemah said she would like to introduce the plants as a cheap source of medication that is readily available to all Australians. It also helps preserve cultural links for the community.

“By conducting our research it helps preserve the knowledge of our elders and can be used for future generations,” she said.

With aspirations to become an environmental engineer, 17-year-old Minh Nga Nguyen’s project used agricultural by-products such as corn husks, bamboo scraps and rice waste, to create a biochar product with the dual capability of filtering water and then being used as a fertilizer.

“This process reduces the effects of contaminated water and pollution created by agricultural waste. I hope this technology will provide positive impact globally,” she said.

The BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards are a partnership between the BHP Billiton Foundation, CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association and each state and territory Science Teachers Association.

Since 1981, the awards have been recognising student excellence. Six of the finalists will have the opportunity to go to Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the US where over 1800 high school students from 75 countries, regions and territories are given the opportunity to showcase their independent research.
 
The winners will be announced on 6 February at a ceremony in Melbourne.

For more information go to www.scienceawards.org.au


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