Giraffe-inspired walking frames and RoboBall soccer trainer celebrated at STEM awards

11 December 2020

For the first time in its 40-year history, students and teachers from every state and territory in Australia have been honoured in this year's BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards, held in partnership with Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, and the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA).

This year’s high school student projects cover a wide range of topics, from marine ecology and medical research, to robotic prosthetics and agricultural land management.

Year 8 student Rebecca Paratz from Labrats Science Club in Melbourne, Victoria designed the Giraffe Walker to address the risk of falls in the elderly.

“I was inspired by my great aunt, Rose. My invention automatically creates and maintains a stable level base for the user, helping them to sit and stand independently,” Rebecca said.

“I aspire to be a biomedical engineer when I finish school, because I want to continue inventing medical devices to help others.”

Year 12 student Hannah Jones from St Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie, NSW designed a robotic soccer trainer, RoboBall, to help athletes train.

“I’m an avid soccer player and I wanted to help athletes in rural and remote areas to train to the same level as athletes in metro areas,” Hannah said.

“I engineered a device which uses visual imaging software, pneumatics and electronics to retrieve and deliver balls to different heights, replacing the need for a human training partner.”

The Awards also recognise teachers who support and inspire students to achieve in STEM.

Katie Gregory from Darwin High School in the Northern Territory is passionate about conserving unique and diverse Northern Territory ecosystems, and provides opportunities for her students to have hands on interactions with marine biology.

“Last semester I organised two trips to Bare Sand Island so students were able to learn about turtle research and experience sea turtles laying their eggs,” Ms Gregory said.

“We’re so lucky in the Northern Territory to have direct access to these valuable teaching and learning resources.”

BHP Foundation Australia Program Director, Jennifer Dawson said the future needs STEM-skilled leaders.

“If we’re to tackle and find solutions to some of the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges, we need to harness the innovation and diversity of STEM professionals for the future,” Ms Dawson said.

“This year marks the 40th BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards and we congratulate the outstanding achievements of the students and teachers being recognised this year.”

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said STEM skills are more important than ever.

“STEM skills are essential to turning science into solutions that help solve national challenges, like helping Australia grow as we recover from COVID-19,” Dr Marshall said.

“There is a place for everyone in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and it’s fantastic to see teachers across the country tirelessly nurturing and supporting our STEM professionals of the future.”

After completing a virtual science camp this week, six of the 25 high school finalists will be chosen to showcase their research alongside students from 75 countries at the virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in May 2021.

Learn more about the finalists here.

Award partners