BRIGHT INNOVATOR: Sydney Girl’s High School student Minh Nga Nguyen was winner of the investigations category in the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards for school students.

Turning ag waste to fertilizer wins top award

A water filter made from agricultural waste and a bioplastic made from prawn shells were two of the main winners of the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards for school students announced yesterday.

A water filter made from agricultural waste and a bioplastic made from prawn shells were two of the main winners of the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards for school students announced yesterday. 

Sydney Girl’s High School student Minh Nga Nguyen was winner of the investigations category with her idea to use 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 fertilizer.

Ms Nguyen wants to become an environmental engineer and found through the water filter process, it reduced the effects of contaminated water and pollution created by agricultural waste. 

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said the award winners' and finalists' ideas could help all Australians cope with a rapidly changing future.

"The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, but science, technology, engineering and maths can guide that future through innovation," Dr Marshall said.

"About 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,” he said. 

"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."

Fellow Sydney Girl’s High School student Angelina Arora was the winner of the innovator to market award after she set out to develop a bioplastic made from prawn shell and sticky protein from the silk of silkworms.

The plastic completely degrades leaving nothing harmful behind, and the strength, elongation, clarity, solubility, deconstruction and endurance of the plastic were all tested, as well as other plastics made out of potato, corn and tapioca.

BHP chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie said the awards had supported young people's achievements and interest in STEM since 1981.

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