A brother and sister duo from Wollongong have taken out the top prizes for 2012 in Australia’s most prestigious student science competition.
The BHP Billiton Science Awards are a partnership between BHP Billiton, the world’s largest diversified resources company, CSIRO, Australia’s premier scientific research organisation and The Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), and reward young people who have undertaken practical research projects which demonstrate innovative investigative approaches using scientific methods or who have used technological innovation to design a new invention. The 2012 competition attracted about 6000 entries.
Ethan Butson, 16, won the secondary section with his UView Protector badge. Ethan worked with children at his sister’s school to improve their knowledge of UV radiation and UV exposure using the badge—a wearable circular sticker which accurately measures ultra violet radiation. The badge enabled him to significantly improve the students’ knowledge of UV radiation as well as educate them about when and where they are exposed to it. ‘I came across this amazing statistic, which was that two out of three people will develop skin cancer some time in their life before the age of 70—so if you know about UV, then you are more likely to protect yourself,’ Ethan said.
Macinley Butson, Ethan’s 11-year-old sister, won the primary competition with her project, “Improving solar panel performance and the REFLECTACON 3000”. Macinley’s invention—the Reflectacon—is a pyramid-shaped device which increases the amount of sunlight reflected into a solar panel, thereby effectively boosting the panel’s electricity output. I was struck by Macinley’s comment: ‘The idea came about because I love nature and I want to make a difference. I thought I could make solar panels better.’ Now, that’s the kind of thinking we need from our young people—our future leaders. An eleven-year-old takes on the world!
Ethan and Macinley conducted their research and submitted their projects independently of each other. It’s the first time in the awards’ history that a brother and sister have won the two top spots. Each won $AUD3000 and the chance to participate in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA next May.
The Age: Siblings have their day in the sun thanks to interest in solar science. Includes photos.
The Awards website.