Year 7 Students Win UWA Emerging Engineers Competition

Sienna Pitt, Isabela Fernandes, Chelsea Smith, Ava Scafetta and Lilianna Renton with their prototype.

A group of five Year 7 STEngineers students have achieved first place in the 2021 UWA Emerging Engineers Competition. 

Sienna Pitt, Isabela Fernandes, Chelsea Smith, Ava Scafetta and Lilianna Renton constructed an innovative solar-powered filtration prototype that effectively removed microplastics from water. 

Microplastics, as the name implies, are tiny plastic particles. Officially they are defined as plastics less than 5mm in diameter and can enter waterways through the degradation of larger plastic products via natural weathering processes or as particles that are already less than 5mm when produced, for example, microbeads in facial exfoliants. Pollution of water by microplastics is a far-reaching problem and despite increased understanding of the issue and advancing technologies, there are still limitations to the effectiveness and scalability of current solutions available. 

The girls' prototype

The girls utilised the Engineering Design Process to guide their project’s progress over an 8-week period. The UWA Emerging Engineers Competition provided the STEngineers students with an opportunity to further develop critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, and communication skills. Throughout the project, there was an emphasis placed on the importance of re-design and improvement. The team successfully secured first place as they were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the re-designs and improvements they made to their prototype after each test. 

Seven teams competed in the final held at UWA Ocean Works Institute. Schools competing in the final included Perth College, Methodist Ladies College, St Mary’s Anglican Girls School, Holy Spirit, and a home school group. Each group had 10 minutes to present their projects, designs, and prototypes to three industry judges. Gabrielle Pennock (Woodside), Dr Renee Hovey (UWA Oceans Institute), and Voula Terzoudi (Woodside), along with an auditorium of parents, teachers, and representatives from UWA who listened intently as each group presented their projects. 

Dr Renee Hovey made particular mention during the presentation of winners that Santa Maria’s team design utilised an abundant energy source available here in Australia as a way to power a filtration system that could be upscaled effectively. She was also very excited to utilise the prototype in a research setting and will be discussing this opportunity with her colleagues.

Congratulations girls!

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