2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Award winner Oliver Nicholls has taken home the top prize and $US75,000 as winner of the Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) announced in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Friday night.

[Music plays and photographs flash through of young students]

[An Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards 2018]

[Image changes to show a rear and then facing view of Oliver Nicolls walking down a path, folding his arms and looking at the camera]

Oliver Nicolls: Hi, I’m Oliver Nicolls and I’m in Year 12 at Barker College.

[Camera zooms in on Oliver smiling at the camera and then the image changes to show Oliver talking to the camera]

My project was an “Autonomous Robotic Window Cleaner” for medium rise commercial buildings.

[Image changes to show a rear then facing view of Oliver walking down a path towards his autonomous robotic window cleaner]

My project is fully autonomous, doesn’t require any human interaction.

[Image changes to show a view of the robotic window cleaner in operation moving back and forth and up and down a window frame]

Once it’s set up it… it can clean large commercial buildings and cross the mullions, the dividers between the windows by using drone motors and propellers to fly off the window and then go around the façade obstacles.

[Image changes to show Oliver sitting in a chair and talking to the camera]

My inspiration came from, at school I was looking for a project to do and I was talking to the OH & S people about safety incidences and discovered that someone had fallen off a glass pane they were cleaning and at a similar time there was a collapse of a gantry in the city. And so, these two… two things combined for me to go, “Why can’t I just automate, make that a robot, why does that need to be a person doing a dangerous activity, why can’t that just be a robot that goes and does it?”.

[Images move through of close-up view of a propeller blade spinning, Oliver fiddling with the wiring, views of different angles of the robotic window cleaner and then Oliver talking]

There was lots of aspects in this project where I was like, “Can I actually do that, is that going to be feasible?” synthesising into the, into a final machine came much later down the track after I’d done lots of testing, lots of kind of small components before I put it into the big one. I couldn’t just dive straight in. It was too complicated, too many unknowns.

[Image changes to show three people looking at a machine lifting boxes and then the image changes to show a male catching a ball from a ball thrower machine]

I have always loved to tinker, always loved, always been interested in science and in engineering.

[Image changes to show Oliver sitting down and talking to the camera]

So, it seems to me like an easy way to make a real impact on the world because you can develop a product or a system that can change millions of lives.

[Image changes to show several males standing around watching a crate stacker type machine and then the camera zooms in on Oliver next to the crate stacker smiling at the camera]

The opportunity to always be learning, that seems like a really great thing.

[Image changes to show Oliver sitting down and talking to the camera]

As a child I was interested in how things work, why things work, I was inquisitive and Dad being an engineer fostered that, nurtured that, grew that kind of inquisitiveness.

[Images move through of Oliver looking at a bike tyre spinning, Oliver putting the bike brake on, Oliver oiling the chain on the bike and Oliver lifting the bike off a stand]

I love to cycle, I love to swim, I love to play water polo. So, outdoors is really exciting. I love to go hiking and getting outside and experiencing the outdoors is a great thing.

[Images move through of a rear view of Oliver cycling down a path, an aerial view looking down on Oliver cycling along a road, Oliver talking to the camera, the robotic window cleaner and Oliver talking]

Being a finalist to me not only has the great opportunities of placing my project on the national stage at a really high level but also the opportunity to be able to spend a week with a large group of like- minded, intelligent, driven people is a really exciting prospect.

[Camera zooms in on Oliver as he talks]

So, many ideas flow. It’s really… it’s exciting.

[Music plays and an Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation, Science and Engineering Awards, 2018]

Oliver Grant Nicholls, Barker College, NSW, Australia

Additional Resources

The 19-year-old from Barker College in Sydney secured the win with his fully-autonomous robotic window cleaner that is designed to reduce human injury and decrease the costs of window cleaning on medium rise commercial buildings. The small robotic device uses drones, motors and propellers to navigate building facades and clean windows using water and micro-fibre scrubbers.

Australian students excelled at the international competition, with five of Australia's 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards finalists securing a total of 11 major award wins against a field of over 1800 high school students from 75 countries.

CSIRO Education and Outreach Director Mary Mulcahy said it was another example of Australia's great science being recognised on the global stage.

"Australia is one of the best places in the world to start a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). By having our high school students winning international awards, we are further strengthening our international reputation as an innovative country," Ms Mulcahy said.

BHP Billiton Foundation Executive Director James Ensor said seeing Australian high school students winning at an international level would inspire others to pursue independent research projects.

"Studying STEM topics fosters innovative thinking and problem solving abilities that will help to address sustainable development challenges," Mr Ensor said.

"We believe that by supporting STEM education and achievement in young people, we are investing in Australia's future problem solvers."

The BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Award finalists attended Intel ISEF as part of the BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards Australian delegation and STANSW's Young Scientist delegation.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), a program of Society for Science & the Public is the world's largest international pre-college science competition. Each year over 1800 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions, and territories are awarded the opportunity to showcase their independent research and compete for on average $4 million in prizes. The BHP Billiton Foundation and Intel Foundation provide support for the BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards Australian delegation attending the fair.

BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Award winners at Intel ISEF

Oliver Grant Nicholls, Barker College, NSW, Australia

  • 1st place overall, Gordon E. Moore Award, with a prize value of $US75,000
  • 1st place and Best in Category in the Physical Sciences Robotics and Intelligent Machines category
  • IEEE Foundation Second Place Award
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration Second Award of $US750

Project: Autonomous window cleaning robot for commercial high rise buildings

Oliver Nicholls combined his knowledge in mathematics, physics and design to design an autonomous robotic window cleaner. His design aims to reduce injury and decrease the commercial costs of window cleaning. The final product went through rigorous prototyping, testing and evaluation to show commercial viability.

[Music plays and photographs flash through of young students]

[An Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards 2018]

[Image changes to show a rear and then facing view of Oliver Nicolls walking down a path, folding his arms and looking at the camera]

Oliver Nicolls: Hi, I’m Oliver Nicolls and I’m in Year 12 at Barker College.

[Camera zooms in on Oliver smiling at the camera and then the image changes to show Oliver talking to the camera]

My project was an “Autonomous Robotic Window Cleaner” for medium rise commercial buildings.

[Image changes to show a rear then facing view of Oliver walking down a path towards his autonomous robotic window cleaner]

My project is fully autonomous, doesn’t require any human interaction.

[Image changes to show a view of the robotic window cleaner in operation moving back and forth and up and down a window frame]

Once it’s set up it… it can clean large commercial buildings and cross the mullions, the dividers between the windows by using drone motors and propellers to fly off the window and then go around the façade obstacles.

[Image changes to show Oliver sitting in a chair and talking to the camera]

My inspiration came from, at school I was looking for a project to do and I was talking to the OH & S people about safety incidences and discovered that someone had fallen off a glass pane they were cleaning and at a similar time there was a collapse of a gantry in the city. And so, these two… two things combined for me to go, “Why can’t I just automate, make that a robot, why does that need to be a person doing a dangerous activity, why can’t that just be a robot that goes and does it?”.

[Images move through of close-up view of a propeller blade spinning, Oliver fiddling with the wiring, views of different angles of the robotic window cleaner and then Oliver talking]

There was lots of aspects in this project where I was like, “Can I actually do that, is that going to be feasible?” synthesising into the, into a final machine came much later down the track after I’d done lots of testing, lots of kind of small components before I put it into the big one. I couldn’t just dive straight in. It was too complicated, too many unknowns.

[Image changes to show three people looking at a machine lifting boxes and then the image changes to show a male catching a ball from a ball thrower machine]

I have always loved to tinker, always loved, always been interested in science and in engineering.

[Image changes to show Oliver sitting down and talking to the camera]

So, it seems to me like an easy way to make a real impact on the world because you can develop a product or a system that can change millions of lives.

[Image changes to show several males standing around watching a crate stacker type machine and then the camera zooms in on Oliver next to the crate stacker smiling at the camera]

The opportunity to always be learning, that seems like a really great thing.

[Image changes to show Oliver sitting down and talking to the camera]

As a child I was interested in how things work, why things work, I was inquisitive and Dad being an engineer fostered that, nurtured that, grew that kind of inquisitiveness.

[Images move through of Oliver looking at a bike tyre spinning, Oliver putting the bike brake on, Oliver oiling the chain on the bike and Oliver lifting the bike off a stand]

I love to cycle, I love to swim, I love to play water polo. So, outdoors is really exciting. I love to go hiking and getting outside and experiencing the outdoors is a great thing.

[Images move through of a rear view of Oliver cycling down a path, an aerial view looking down on Oliver cycling along a road, Oliver talking to the camera, the robotic window cleaner and Oliver talking]

Being a finalist to me not only has the great opportunities of placing my project on the national stage at a really high level but also the opportunity to be able to spend a week with a large group of like- minded, intelligent, driven people is a really exciting prospect.

[Camera zooms in on Oliver as he talks]

So, many ideas flow. It’s really… it’s exciting.

[Music plays and an Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation, Science and Engineering Awards, 2018]

Oliver Nicholls

Angelina Arora, Sydney Girls High School, NSW, Australia

  • 4th place in Physical Sciences, Environmental Engineering category.
  • Angelina also won a scholarship to Arizona University.

Project: Shrimp Shell Bioplastics: A new solution to the world's growing plastic problem

Concerned about the damage plastics do to the environment, especially the ocean, Angelina Arora 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. She tested the strength, elongation, clarity, solubility, deconstruction and endurance of the plastic as well as other plastics made out of potato, corn and tapioca. Angelina hopes this plastic could replace current plastic shopping bags and other packaging to reduce the environmental impact in landfill and in the ocean.

[Music plays and photographs flash through of young students]

[An Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards 2018]

[Image changes to show a profile view of Angelina Arora and then the image changes to show fingers playing a piano and then the image changes to show Angelina looking down]

[Image changes to show Angelina smiling at the camera]

Angelina Arora: Hi, my name’s Angelina Arora and I’m in Year 10 at Sydney Girls High School.

[Camera zooms in on Angelina’s eyes]

My project’s is called “From Shrimps to Body“.

[Camera zooms out to show Angelina talking to the camera and then image changes to show a pile of shrimps]

My project is split into three sections. Firstly, is the microplastics whether they’re entering the human food chain through fish and the toxins are leaching out causing endocrine disorders.

[Image changes to show fingers typing on a laptop and then the image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

The second part was adapted from last year’s experiment where I tested three different types of starches and their possibility for commercial use on the desired properties that conventional plastics contain.

[Image changes to show a view of Angelina smiling at the camera and then holding up a piece of plastic in front of her face]

And the third part was the main part where I went to see if we can make a bioplastic suitable for commercial use out of waste products.

[Image changes to show Angelina holding up a piece of the plastic and then the image changes to show Angelina looking at the plastic]

So, I used an extract from corn shells, kyton and mixed it with an extract from silk.

[Image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

So that the kyton, because we dispose of a lot of seafood waste, it was incredibly beneficial for the environment and I was eventually able to create a plastic that was suitable for commercial use.

[Image changes to show Angelina sitting at a desk working on a laptop and then the camera zooms in on Angelina working on the laptop]

I was at a department store and she was asking me to pay for a plastic bag, so I asked her, “Why do we need to do this?”.

[Image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

And she said, “It’s to save the environment, to discourage people from using plastic”. So that made me think of whether there’s a way that humans can have their convenience and use plastic and also not harm the environment. So, that’s why I wanted to create bioplastics.

[Images move through of photographs of Angelina, some of her awards and Angelina talking to the camera]

From childhood I was always a very curious child, like, how does this work, why do we do this? And I think that’s really grown into my love for science and that curiosity I can take and investigate into different problems that in the real world, that people face.

[Image changes to show Angelina standing next to a horse]

I was also interested in nature and wildlife.

[Image changes to show Angelina holding a rabbit]

I used to live near the country.

[Image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

I had my own farm with my animals, my chickens, my bunny and I’ve always been really engaged with animals.

[Image changes to show Angelina working on the laptop and then the camera zooms in on Angelina’s face and then the laptop screen she is looking at]

So, it was amazing after all those months and months of research that I finally created a plastic that was suitable. I really hoped that I would and that was what I envisioned, and I eventually got there.

[Image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

I love science so much. I believe that it’s the key to all the mysteries in the world.

[Image changes to show a profile view of Angelina and then the camera zooms out to show Angelina looking out over the city]

I can definitely see science and engineering as part of the future. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

[Image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

In the future, I’d like to go into medicine, but I believe it’s all about helping people and whether it be the environment, humanity, animals, anything and that’s what counts in the end.

[Image changes to show Angelina’s awards and certificates on a wall and the camera pans along the wall]

So, I was super ecstatic about becoming a finalist in the BHP Billiton Awards again for a second time.

[Image changes to show Angelina talking to the camera]

The first time alone was amazing experience where I believe it was not about the competition but about learning and I grew from that experience so just to be able to have it again a second time. It was, that, those few days, were the best few days of my life, I’d say. So, just to do it again, I just feel so happy.

[Music plays and an Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation, Science and Engineering Awards, 2018]

Angelina Arora

Caitlin Roberts, Friends School, Hobart, Tas, Australia

  • 3rd place in the Life Sciences, Biomedical Sciences category.

Project: The protease inhibiting effect of almonds

Caitlin's project looked at the digestive properties of almonds. She compared the rate of protein digestion of skim milk when either activated or natural almonds were consumed and how this process occurs. This research contributes to a body of research aimed at understanding how nutritional intake can be optimised.

[Music plays and photographs flash through of young students]

[An Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards 2018]

[Image changes to show Caitlin Roberts wearing a rock-climbing harness and smiling at the camera and then the image changes to show her coming down a rock face and then scaling up]

[Image changes to show Caitlin walking towards the camera, crossing her arms and smiling at the camera]

Caitlin Roberts: I’m Caitlin Roberts.

[Camera zooms in on Caitlin’s face as she smiles]

I’m in Year 12 at the Friends’ School in Hobart, Tasmania and my project was looking at the protease inhibiting effects of almonds.

[Image changes to show Caitlin sitting on a chair in the garden talking to the camera]

Basically, I was looking at the nutritional value of almonds and it turns out that natural almonds actually have a substance in them that inhibits some enzymes that break down protein in your body.

[Images move through to show Caitlin and a friend hiking in a rainforest, preparing to rock climb and reaching the summit]

What inspired me is I’ve been interested in leading a healthy lifestyle and getting optimal value out of my wellbeing for a while and that includes me trying to eat a healthy diet.

[Image changes to show Caitlin sitting on a chair in the garden and talking to the camera and then the camera zooms in on Caitlin as she talks]

There’s a lot of health food providers and naturalists that have said that some nuts and legumes like almonds, cashews and other seeds actually have this substance that inhibits your protein digestion and that activating them is better for you, but I couldn’t find any research that had actually consolidated that theory or that claim and, so I was really interested in testing the validity of it.

[Images move through to show Caitlin swimming in a lake with snow-capped mountains in the background, kayaking with a friend and then climbing a steep rock face with friends]

So, I think this research could potentially have a big impact in our health system and the education for people about how to get the best out of their wellbeing.

[Image changes to show Caitlin sitting in a garden talking to the camera]

What I love about science and engineering is that it’s just such an unknown field and there’s so much scope for research and developing new ideas and I think there’s so many problems in the world these days that need new innovative, creative ideas and people to drive them to improve our world.

[Image changes to show Caitlin wearing a backpack and standing on the top of a snow-capped mountain admiring the view and then hiking in the snow with friends]

Now, that I’ve finished school I guess I’m really excited about getting out into the world and I’d love science and engineering to play a big part in that.

[Images move through of a view looking through a canyon at blue sky and mountains, Caitlin at the summit with a friend and Caitlin sitting in the garden talking to the camera]

I’d really like to go and study something like biomedical engineering, or medical research in the future but I’m going to take a bit of time to kind of learn as much as I can through society for this year.

[Image changes to show a rear view of Caitlin riding a bike along a road near a lake]

That’s my plan for this year and then really narrow down where I want to take myself and my studies in the future because I’d love to contribute to something that would make the world a better place.

[Images move through to show Caitlin hiking in forest, Caitlin rock climbing, Caitlin talking to the camera in the garden and then the camera zooms in on Caitlin’s face]

As a child, I’ve always really enjoyed learning and kind of challenging myself and so I’ve, throughout my life I’ve done a lot of kind of outdoor sports and adventuring kind of things and I think that’s probably where my love for health and wellbeing kind of came from, and also, I think I’ve learnt a lot through getting out and exploring and it’s probably fuelled my passion for science and engineering because it’s just discovering the unknown.

[Images move through to show Caitlin hiking through the bush with friends, swimming in a lake and kayaking on a lake with friend]

What I love doing outside of school is I play a lot of sport. I play soccer, I surf, I rock climb.

[Image changes to show Caitlin sitting in the garden and talking to the camera and then the image changes to show Caitlin rock climbing]

I like to run a lot, I pretty much like all the outdoors activities and… but also, I think socialising and friendship is also a big part of my life as well and I like to meet new people and try new things.

[Image changes to show Caitlin talking to the camera again]

I think the most amazing thing is to meet other people and that, to know that people my age have these, and younger than me have these amazing, innovative ideas that it really gives me hope for the future and I’m excited to be around them.

[Music plays and an Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation, Science and Engineering Awards, 2018]

Caitlin Roberts

Jade Moxey and Macinley Butson, Sapphire Coast Anglican College, NSW, and The Illawarra Grammar School, NSW

  • 3rd Place in the Physical Sciences, Environmental Engineering category
  • King Abdul-Aziz & his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity $US20,000 Scholarship for Sustainable Initiatives with Water Technology
  • Qatar Foundation, Research & Development First Award of $US1000

Project: The SAS System (Sanitation and Sterilisation)

Jade and Macinley worked together on a portable sanitation and sterilisation system to provide both clean potable drinking water and sterile water for medical use. It also has the potential to be used in emergency response and disaster relief situations.

[Music plays and photographs flash through of young students]

[An Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards 2018]

[Image changes to show McKinnley Butson in a paddock with cows walking towards the camera and then the camera zooms in on McKinnley smiling]

McKinnley Butson: Hi, I’m McKinnley Butson. I’m in Year 11 at the Illawarra Grammar School.

[Image changes to show Jade Moxey standing in a paddock with cows and then the camera zooms in on Jade smiling]

Jade Moxey: Hi, I’m Jade Moxey and I’m in Year 12 at Sapphire Coast Anglican College.

[Image changes to show McKinnley and Jade seated on a log]

McKinnley Butson: And our project was the “SAS System Sanitation and Sterilisation”.

[Image changes to show a rear view of the girls walking out through a door into a yard and looking at the SAS system they have set up]

Jade Moxey: The SAS system was developed to produce both clean, potable drinking water and medical grade sterile water for medical application in developing countries. 

[Image changes to show the chemical filtration unit and then the image changes to show Jade speaking while McKinnley listens]

Firstly, the water travels through a chemical filtration unit which is a multimedia device and it removes chemical contaminants and turbidity from the water. 

[Image changes to show the solar disinfection system and then the image changes to show Jade’s face and then McKinnley’s face]

It then travels from there into a solar disinfection system which biologically disinfects the water. 

[Images move through of hose connectors being joined, two plastic bottles on a ledge on the side of a solar panel, water dripping into the bottles and the girls gradually moving the solar panel up]

From there the water travels into PET bottles which are placed on the side of the solar panel and they drip at a collaborated rate to allow the solar panel to track the sun throughout the duration of the day. 

[Image changes to show the copper storage unit]

From there it drips into the copper storage unit which both maintains and further reduces any biological contaminants.

[Images move through of McKinnley talking to the camera while Jade listens, the girls standing behind the solar panel holding on to the reflector panel, and steam emitting from a pressure cooker]

McKinnley Butson: So, the water drip system on the side of the solar panel is able to increase the output of the solar panel by up to 50% with the inclusion of things called reflectors, which increase the surface area of light onto the solar panel and is able to power an induction unit and a pressure cooker which is able to provide medical grade sterile water for people in developing communities. 
[Image changes to show McKinnley talking while Jade listens and then the image changes to show the two girls wading into the water and filling buckets]

So, obviously access to water is a major issue in our world, especially that of safe drinking water and good quality water. This combined with the fact that one in five people who undergo a surgery in a developing community will die as a result of infection after that surgery, we really wanted to do something to be able to improve water quality.

[Image changes to show the girls sitting on a log near the water and Jade talking while McKinnley listens]

Jade Moxey: I have great interest in biology and chemistry and McKinnley more so in physics and chemistry. 

[Image changes to show the girls walking across a paddock of cows towards the camera]

So, I guess cohesive interests brought together this idea that included different aspects of our interests.

[Image changes to show the girls sitting on a log near some water and McKinnley talking while Jade listens]

McKinnley Butson: I personally love science and it’s something that I definitely want to pursue into further studies. 

[Image changes to show the girls sitting in the paddock near the cows and then the camera zooms in on their faces and the image changes to show the girls seated on the log near the water again]

I think medicine is an amazing career which is able to combine science and engineering studies with a real-world application and being able to help people in situations less fortunate than ourselves. 

[Image changes to show a profile view of Jade looking at the cows and then the image changes to show the girls seated on the log again]

Jade Moxey: I’d love to get into medicine and help people in any way that I can.

[Image changes to show McKinnley Butson wearing a tutu and dancing in a kitchen and dining area]

McKinnley Butson: I’ve been dancing from a very young age and so, ballet has also been a part of my life since I was about three. So, I really enjoy that, and I’d continue to do that in my downtime.

[Images move through of the girls seated on the log next to the water and Jade leading two horses towards the camera and then the camera zooms in on Jade patting a horse]

Jade Moxey: I love horse riding. It’s been a really good way to balance my academic sides and my more adventurous side I guess and so yeah, I’ve been horse riding for ten years now.

[Image changes to show the girls seated on a log near the water and then the image changes to show the girls looking at the SAS system in the backyard]

McKinnley Butson: We’re both really excited to be chosen as BHP Finalists. 

[The camera zooms in on the girls’ faces and then the image changes to show the girls seated on a log near the water]

It’s an amazing opportunity and the validation that our project has received. We’ve put a lot of hard work into this so we’re really grateful for this opportunity.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the girls wading in the water collecting water in buckets]

[Image changes to show an Australian map and text appears: BHP Billiton Foundation, Science and Engineering Awards, 2018]

Jade Moxey and Macinley Butson

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  • Oliver Nicholls.

    Oliver Nicholls has taken home the top prize as winner of the Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) announced in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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