For more than 450 high school students from nine Perth metro schools participating in science investigation means much more than just science - it is building knowledge for the future.
The new science library at The University of Western Australia (UWA) was the stage for the recent 2010 PICSE (Primary Industry Centre for Science Education) Science Investigation Awards.
Last year, only Year 10 students from just five schools participated in the first PICSE Science Investigation Awards. In 2010, Years 8, 9 and 10 students from Mirrabooka SHS, Duncraig SHS, Shenton College, John Forrest SHS, St Stephens School in Duncraig, Mt Lawley SHS, Carine SHS, and Mercy College took part.
They presented their science investigations and findings to around 30 judges, representing UWA, the food and agriculture industry and wider community.
"With participation nearly trebling 2010, the PICSE Science Investigation Awards is thriving at UWA. We are delighted to see the enthusiasm of participants and teachers. It really is living proof that science is indeed for everyone," Ms Samantha Greene, Activity Centre Coordinator (PICSE), said.
PICSE began in 1998 at the University of Tasmania to encourage more students to study agriculture and related degrees at university to support the primary industries in Australia. The current program at UWA started in 2003.
Students designed and carried out a science investigation on a topic of their choice. Winners took home up to $500 for their investigations. A special prize for the Most Innovative in Agriculture, sponsored by the UWA Institute of Agriculture, was awarded in each age group.
Shenton College was outstanding in the Year 8 division, taking out the majority of the prizes. The overall winners were Jessica Khoo and Milly Pendlebury for "How Much Weight Can a Home-Made Electromagnet Hold?" Obi Hedley and Indigo Ridley won the Most Innovative in Agriculture prize for "Plantastic pH".
In Year 9, top honours went to Alexander Slate and Connor Willis from Carine SHS for "Fizz-ics". The Most Innovative in Agriculture went to Melissa Dowding, Ashlee Green and Paul Doan from Mercy College for their investigation into "Plantacious Reactions".
The winner in the Year 10 category was Duncraig SHS student, Sara Stankovic, for "Sinking Ship". Robin Cook and Oliver Valentine from Duncraig SHS won the Most Innovative in Agriculture for "Does Red Bull Really Give You Wings?"
The Science Investigation Awards program was designed for students of all abilities. Teachers can use this as a marked assessment, as the judge's criteria sheet comes directly from the curriculum. PICSE made online resources available for teachers and students on its website (www.picse.org).
"This is a fantastic way for students to have fun with science, see that we use science in everyday life, and to answer that burning question that interests them," Mrs Belinda Pope, Science Education Officer (PICSE), said.
"Looking at the high standard of projects, especially those from Year 8 students, it seems like teachers and students alike were inspired by the science challenges," Ms Greene said.
Thanks to Science Investigations, today's challenges may not be challenges tomorrow. In her closing address, Hon Liza Harvey, MLA for Scarborough, who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Education, Tourism, Hon Elizabeth Constable, drew upon her own family's experiences by saying that her 67yo father's biggest concern at age 17 was that oil didn't run out before he had earned his driver's licence.
She aptly pointed out, in the words of Marie Curie, ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so we may fear less'.
The industry is also backing this initiative with sponsors like The UWA Institute of Agriculture, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Grower Group Alliance (GGA), WA No-Till Farming Association (WANTFA), UWA Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science (FNAS), Water Treatment Systems Australia, Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), Rotary Club of Welshpool, Optima Agriculture and ASPIRE getting involved.
"After the success of the 2010 PICSE Science Investigation Awards we are assured of bigger things to follow next year," Ms Greene said.