Students Turn to Science For Solutions
25 Nov 2020
Students from the Queensland Academy of Health Sciences (QAHS) on the Gold Coast have developed a series of scientific concepts focussed on marine biodiversity, pitching their ideas to an esteemed panel including Dr Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, along with scientists from Griffith University and Nigeria’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The QAHS students paired up with students from other South East Queensland high schools, working collaboratively through a virtual learning space before pitching to the Chief Scientist. QAHS School Principal Vanessa Rebgetz was impressed by Dr Finkel’s respect for the students as he questioned them during their presentations.
“Dr Finkel was asking them legitimate questions. It wasn’t as if he was treating them merely as high school students and saying: ‘we’ll play it this way’. He was asking questions around feasibility and prototypes and wanting to know whether they had compared their projects to overseas examples. To give their presentations the weight of feedback that he did made it a truly authentic experience for the students,” Mrs Rebgetz remarked.
It wouldn’t have been surprising had the students felt somewhat overwhelmed, if not intimidated by the prospect of presenting to such an accomplished panel, yet the overall consensus was positive from the girls.
Tanya Nagrani was working on a water purification project and says she was inspired by the experience. “It was such a great opportunity to get feedback from Australia’s Chief Scientist. He pushed us on the economic aspect of our product. He wanted to know if it could actually be implemented into society and whether its impact would be successful both over the short term and the long term”, said the year 10 student.
Depth of concept
As part of their project Tanya and her team partner Sarah Rao looked at the possibility of improving the existing method of water purification through desalination. “We had considered the aspects that Dr Finkel was asking, but not at the level he was taking it. We realised that we should have looked much deeper into our concept, so it was a good learning experience for us”, Tanya reflected.
For Sarah, water pollution is a major issue, particularly the use of plastics and our rate of overconsumption that’s feeding waste into our waterways. “I’m interested in finding alternative methods that make desalination more viable. It’s a really costly process that can have a negative impact on the environment through the pollution it generates. When the salt is extracted the brine and salt are dumped back into the ocean, killing a lot of the marine life.
“One process we developed was using flocculation before desalination. Flocculation is not as effective, but worth considering to explore as a concept. With the desalination plant on the Gold Coast it’s an issue that’s very relevant to our community and part of my project was based on that”, Sarah says. “If we could create a more efficient means of purification and implement it here successfully we could then export the concept to other parts of the world.”