Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Science in Education

21st c education jamieby Scott Marriott, 21st Century News:

I present a program that has reach into every school in Australia and onto the international stage - the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards writes Scott Marriott. 

The BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards are Australia’s most prestigious student science and engineering awards.

They reward school-aged students who have undertaken practical research which demonstrates innovative investigative approaches using scientific methods, or those who have used technological innovation to design and build a new invention.

The awards are a partnership between BHP Billiton, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA). Each year, 26 engineering and science investigation finalists are chosen from over 6,000 student entries.

The finalists attend an all expenses paid BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Camp in Melbourne run by the CSIRO, and also attend the Awards Presentation Ceremony where the winners of the awards are announced.

The 26 finalists all receive a cash prize and the overall winners from both the science and engineering categories receive $4,000 and the chance to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair which is held each year in May in the USA.

In addition, there are also teacher excellence awards to recognise outstanding contributions made by classroom teachers to science education.

The goal of the awards program is to help address the need for a scientifically engaged population in Australia.

By delivering an independent and highly regarded awards program, the partners are able to recognise and promote young enquiring and inventive minds in schools and the outstanding educators who inspire them.

Just like we saw in my previous article with the Global Enterprise Project in Europe, BHP Billiton and its partners have recognised the need to invest in future generations of young people to meet the challenges of the future.

Challenges such as climate change and clean water issues can only be addressed through investment in science and engineering.

How does the Awards program fit into BHP Billiton’s business strategy?

BHP Billiton is the world’s largest diversified resource company with a clearly articulated commitment to sustainable development and specific targets across health, safety, the environment and the community.

They aim to make a valuable contribution to Australian communities, not only in providing employment opportunities, but also by supporting organisations that help to create a healthy and sustainable social fabric in those communities.

One way of achieving this is through the awards program, which has the following objectives:

• To encourage school students across Australia to conduct open ended investigative research and create inventions using sound scientific practice, and to recognise and reward high quality work in these fields.
• To develop students’ life skills in communication and enquiry and personal attributes of confidence and creativity, to enhance their future employability.
• To recognise, reward and encourage outstanding science classroom teachers.
• To build science teacher professional experience and capability.
• To demonstrate and promote BHP Billiton’s commitment to making a positive contribution to the sustainable development of its host communities, in this case Australia.

You can see that the awards program sits nicely in BHP Billiton’s commitment to sustainable development and that the program has benefits for all partners, students, teachers and parents. The long-term aspirations of the awards program are to:

• Raise the standing of the study of science in schools.
• Increase the number of students choosing to study science and engineering at tertiary level.
• Increase the number of students taking up careers in related disciplines.
• Support outstanding educators who inspire their students.

The nuts and bolts of student entries

At the classroom level, students enter the awards either through their state or territory science teacher association competitions ( or through CSIRO’s CREativity in Science and Technology (CREST) program (

This grass roots level engagement shows us the strong commitment and contribution of all the partners in this awards program.

Participating CREST program schools are encouraged to select their best student CREST projects and enter them into their local science teacher association competitions. Other schools can also enter their science teacher association competitions.

The associations then send their winning projects and other highly commended projects onto the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards as direct entries.

CREST also sends a number of the high level projects as direct entries if they have not already gone through their local science teacher association.

Two recent BHP Billiton Award winners

In 2012 Jessica Garrett from Telopea Park School in the Australian Capital Territory won second place nationally for her category.

Jessica then represented Australia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, USA, where she won third place in the Behavioural and Social Sciences category.

Jessica investigated environmental factors influencing post stroke recovery. Strokes are the second leading cause of death and disability worldwide.

Jessica found that multicoloured carpets overload the stroke patient’s brain’s capacity and their ability to interpret complex visual input, resulting in feelings of confusion, dizziness and disorientation.

This finding is important for therapists and others assisting the recovery of stroke patients and for hospital designers and architects.

In 2011, Tanvi Srinivasan from the Queensland Academy for Health Science (a selective Year 10-12 State School) also won second place nationally for her category.

Tanvi investigated whether Beaded Glasswort (a salt marsh plant) could be used as a salinity bio-indicator for wetlands by looking at the relationship between the salinity level and the colour produced by the plant.

The results support the hypothesis that salinity levels of soils can be identified with Beaded Glasswort. This important finding will contribute towards environmental sustainability of wetland areas.

This BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards case study is a wonderful example of how partnerships can provide far reaching benefits across our local communities and reach across the entire human population.

I hope that it inspires you as a leader to look for ways of engaging or extending your value into the school community and beyond.

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