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Students’ scientific investigations top the state

Four of Meriden's STA Award Winners: Annabelle Strachan, Trisha Chari, Anna Zhou and Shirley Wang

The Science Teachers’ Association of NSW has identified Meriden girls as the state’s top-performing young scientists, awarding five students prizes at the much-anticipated 2020 Young Scientist Awards ceremony.

Year 10 student, Shirley Wang, won the Secondary AARNet Technology Award for her latest invention, the “HEROsafe Smart Helmet for Firefighters and Miners”. Shirley designed, built and tested the helmet, which is mounted with circuit sensors that detect high concentrations of toxic gases, very low lighting and extreme ambient temperatures. The design includes a LilyPad Arduino-programmed microcontroller board with sensors that demonstrate proof-of-concept.

Another Year 10 award winner was Trisha Chari, who earned a Highly Commended in the Most Promising Award category. Trisha’s invention, an animal detection and warning system, is an ultrasonic sensor designed to attach to road signs and detects the presence of an animal ahead on or at the side of the road, warning drivers of their proximity to an animal using colour-coded blinking lights. Trisha developed the system to help protect native animals which are often killed on highways.

Annabelle Strachan, also in Year 10, was awarded third place in the Investigation – Chemistry Years 9 to 10 category. Her investigation into bioflocculation explored whether lemons are a feasible bio-flocculant, that is, whether they are an accessible, safe, affordable and environmentally-friendly water treatment option. Using a flocculant composed of chitosan and varying amounts of dried lemon peel, and determining the turbidity efficiency removal on various samples, Annabelle determined that a flocculant containing approximately thirty three percent lemon peel was most effective.

Also gaining third place was Year 8 student, Jacinda Tjiantoro, this time in the Investigations – Chemistry Years 7 to 8 category. Jacinda investigated the impact of different hair conditioner brands on the strength of human hair, testing which products prevented hair from breaking. She determined this by measuring the amount of weight human hair is capable of holding and identifying the conditioner that supports the hair to hold the most weight. The experiments carried out indicated that conditioner brands Schwarzkopf, OGX and L’Oréal Paris Elvive strengthen human hair.

To top off the prize tally, Year 11 student, Anna Zhou, earned a Bronze Award in the Rowe Scientific Depth Study Award category. For her study, Anna built a trebuchet to find the ideal pivot point for firing a payload at the greatest velocity. Using a bag of rocks as a counterweight, she found the optimum position for this pivot and, in doing so, increased her understanding of torque, moments of inertia and kinetic energy.

The School is extremely proud of its award-winning students and all students who entered the competition. STANSW announced that close to 900 projects were received from students across the state. Meriden girls continue to live up to their reputation as inquisitive, creative and driven learners who are passionate about STEM and are already using their knowledge in this area in practical ways.

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