STELR’s WISE Project - engaging students and inspiring girls

We are about to begin filming our first career profile featuring Sarah Last, CTO and Co-founder of MimicTec.

Sarah is an innovative Agtech entrepreneur who has developed a solution to decrease the mortality rate and improve the feed conversion ratio of chickens for Australian poultry farmers.

Sara Last. Image: MimicTec website

Sara Last. Image: MimicTec website

Sarah grew up on the Mornington Peninsula with a strong connection to farm animals and wildlife.

With a Bachelor Degree in Science majoring in Animal Health, she started studying Veterinary Medicine when she was inspired to move into entrepreneurship instead.

Intending to commercialise ideas she had come up with while studying Vet science and hoping she could make a positive impact not only on farm profitability but also to improve the welfare of thousands of chickens, she began her Master of Entrepreneurship at the Wade Institute in 2016.

We’re thrilled to be able to tell Sarah’s story.

You will be able to view Sarah Last’s career profile late this year on the STELR website, STELR YouTube channel and Australia’s Science Channel, operated by RIAus (The Royal Institution of Australia).

Solar Thermal for Port Augusta - Update

In May this year, STELR news reported that the federal government was backing a solar thermal plant for Port Augusta.

This week, the South Australian Premier, Jay Wheatherill, announced that construction of the $650 million plant will commence in 2018 and be completed by 2020, to supply 5% of the state’s power needs. 

It will power more than 90,000 homes and during construction will provide 700 jobs for local workers. Read more...

You can also find out more about South Australia’s Energy strategy here:

STELR celebrates 600 schools

The STELR team travelled to Wadalba on the New South Wales central coast last week to celebrate Wadalba Community School as the 600th school to sign up to the STELR program. The Governor of NSW, His Excellency General The Honorable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) FTSE and Mrs Linda Hurley were special guests. At the formal presentation His Excellency spoke of his childhood passion for science and experimentation and encouraged students to follow STEM careers. A set of STELR Renewable Energy equipment was officially handed over to the school by the Governor and Belinda Grealy from STELR’s principle sponsor Orica, who, along with the Australian Power Institute, donated the STELR kits for Wadalba Community School.

The Governor and Belinda Grealy presenting Wadalba Community School year 11 leaders with STELR equipment

The Governor and Belinda Grealy presenting Wadalba Community School year 11 leaders with STELR equipment

The Chair of ATSE’s NSW Division, Dr Richard Sheldrake AM FTSE presented a certificate of appreciation to the school. During the visit, the Governor and Mrs Hurley, an ex-primary teacher, toured the school observing year 4 students learning about states of matter by making ice cream; watching the year 9 students undertaking investigations into wind and solar energy using the STELR kits and finally talking to the year 11 physics students who have completed year 12 medical physics units.

Is global warming making plants more water efficient?

The Conversation had reported on a paper published in Nature Communication this month reports that plants are responding to increased CO₂ in the atmosphere by taking up more CO₂ than they did thirty years ago. The interesting thing about this study is that the increased CO₂ uptake is not at the expense of increased water use.

Increasing carbon uptake typically comes at a cost. To let in CO₂, plants have to open stomata in their leaves, which in turn allows water out (called evapotranspiration). The study showed that the rate of evapotranspiration stayed relatively constant, while the CO₂ uptake had increased by 17%.

The plants appear to have adapted a mechanism to allow CO₂ uptake while minimising water loss.

The ratio of carbon uptake to water loss by ecosystems is called ‘water use efficiency’ and it seems that plants are becoming more water efficient

Image: The Conversation

Image: The Conversation

STEM innovators honoured with the Clunies Ross Awards

The prestigious Clunies Ross Awards, Australia’s premier innovation commercialisation awards, have been given to a select group of Australia’s pre-eminent innovators who persisted with their ideas to provide broad economic, social or environmental benefits. The awards were presented at the ATSE Innovation Dinner in Brisbane on 14 June.

2017 Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Professor Andrew F. Wilks FTSE, co-founder and Executive Chairman of SYNthesis Pty Ltd, one of few Australian scientists who have stepped outside the security of the academic environment to focus solely on translating basic research to benefit humankind. His fundamental research on new cell-signaling enzymes, and the resulting new therapeutic drugs he and his team have developed, promise to continue to profoundly impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide. 

2017 Clunies Ross Knowledge Commercialisation Award

Mr Darryn Smart, Group Leader, Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division, Defence Science and Technology Group, has developed novel devices to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and protect Australian Defence Force soldiers and vehicles as well as those of coalition partners. He and his team at DSTG in South Australia have designed, developed and produced four unique and highly advanced systems that have been commercialised with an estimated benefit of $64 million – showing how Australia’s cutting-edge technological development can make an impact on the global stage. 

2017 Clunies Ross Innovation Award

Professor Mike Xie FTSE, Director of the Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials at RMIT University, has developed techniques widely-used across diverse industries including engineering, architecture, biomedicine and materials science, which have significantly reduced the weight and associated energy consumption of motor vehicles and aircraft as well as enabled strikingly elegant bridge and building designs. 

From left to right: Mr Darryn Smart, Prof Andrew Wilks  and Prof Mike Xie

From left to right: Mr Darryn Smart, Prof Andrew Wilks  and Prof Mike Xie

The Clunies Ross Awards have been running since 1991 and winners have included many Australians who have become household names through their achievements.

Sustainable House Day – 17 September 2017

Teachers using the STELR Sustainable Housing equipment may be interested in the Sustainable House Day program run by the Alternative Technology Association (ATA). The ATA is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to enable, represent and inspire people to live sustainably in their homes and communities. 

 For more than 15 years, Sustainable House Day has provided a great opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people to visit some of Australia’s leading green homes – ones  that are not only environmentally friendly, but cheaper to run and more comfortable to live in.

Sustainable House Day gives visitors a chance to inspect firsthand houses that have been designed, built or renovated with sustainability in mind as well as the opportunity to talk to owners and receive unbiased advice

In 2016 17,287 people visited 154 homes across Australia.

At the Sustainable House Day website you can register on line to visit a house and if you have a sustainable house, you can also register to showcase your house to other visitors.

You can also download the STELR Sustainable Housing fact file here.

Renewable Energy breaking records in the U.S.A.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently announced that wind and solar accounted for 10% of electricity generation for the first time ever.

On an annual basis, generation from both wind and solar was 7% in 2016, but in March 2017, it broke the 10% barrier. Of this, 8% was from wind and 2% from solar.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

The EIA expects the figures from April this year to exceed 10% Then fall back as the seasons change. The states that generate the most electricity from wind power include Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa, which are windiest in the northern spring. Read more at the EIA website here.

Floating solar power - a growing trend

In September 2015, STELR news reported on  what was then  the world’s largest floating solar power station. Located in Japan, it comprised 9,000 solar panels and can power 820 households.

It seems that records for the largest floating solar power stations are short lived.

In early 2016 the record was held by one near London. 23,000 panels are located on a reservoir managed by Thames Water. It produces 6.3 MW, which is used to power local water treatment plants providing clean drinking water for London. As a comparison to the Japanese plant,  6.3MW is the equivalent electricity consumption of 1,800 homes.

Image: Handout

Image: Handout

In May 2017, China switched on a floating solar power station capable of generating 40MW and powering 15,000 homes. The power plant is located on a former coal mine site in Huainan in central Anhui Province. The unused coal mines collapse and over time filled with rainwater, leaving a lake which has been largely unused to date.

Floating solar farms often take advantage of areas that would otherwise be unused and the water helps to cool the solar panels, thus increasing their efficiency.

Opportunity for South Australian STEM Teachers

ATSE and the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fund are sponsoring teachers to attend the International Astronautical Congress (IAC2017) is to be held at the Convention Centre in Adelaide 25-29 September this year.

Each recipient of an IAC2017 Teachers Scholarship will receive free Congress registration and be expected to attend one day of the Congress. Attendance at appropriate lecture sessions should provide teachers with knowledge and understanding of aerospace science which could be used to illustrate applications of science in their school classes. It is planned that each teacher will be paired with a suitable mentor who will guide their selection of lecture sessions and meet with them at the Congress.

South Australian teachers can apply for the IAC2017 Teachers Scholarship using the Application Form on the SASTA website. Application close on Tuesday 27 June, 2017.