BHP Billiton Foundation awards sustainable solutions

Wednesday, 07 February, 2018

BHP Billiton Foundation awards sustainable solutions

Three inspiring high school students have been announced as the winners of the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards, demonstrating the power of STEM in enabling student excellence and helping to change the future.

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. Winners are selected from 26 finalists across three categories: Investigations, Innovator to Market and Engineering.

Sustainability was a strong theme in this year’s awards, with Investigations winner and aspiring environmental engineer Minh Nga Nguyen using 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 fertiliser. This process reduces the effects of contaminated water and pollution created by agricultural waste.

Angelina Arora, winner of the Innovator to Market award, meanwhile developed a degradable bioplastic made from prawn shell and sticky protein from the silk of silkworms. She tested the strength, elongation, clarity, solubility, deconstruction and endurance of the plastic as well as other plastics made out of potato, corn and tapioca. She hopes this plastic could replace current plastic shopping bags and other packaging to reduce the environmental impact in landfill and in the ocean.

Finally, Engineering winner Oliver Nicholls combined his knowledge of mathematics, physics and design to create an autonomous robotic window cleaner. His design aims to reduce injury and decrease the commercial costs of window cleaning.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the award winners’ and finalists’ ideas could help all Australians cope with a rapidly changing future, indicating that “science, technology, engineering and maths can guide that future through innovation”.

“Around three-quarters of all future jobs will need STEM and we’re absolutely committed to helping school students develop these skills so they can shape Australia’s future,” Dr Marshall continued.

“We know that the achievements of the winners and finalists will inspire other students to become innovators solving the big challenges that face our world.”

BHP Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie added that alumni from the awards have gone on to do “extraordinary things” since the program was established in 1981.

“I have no doubt that the winners and finalists from this year will become leaders in their chosen professions,” Mackenzie said.

“The dedication and passion these students have for STEM is inspiring.”

Image caption: 2018 Award Winners Minh Nga Nguyen, Angelina Arora and Oliver Nicholls with Australian Science Teachers Association President Geoff Quinton, BHP Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie, CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall and BHP Billiton Foundation Director Pat Risner.

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