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.

How to use the STELR equipment

We have recently published a number of new “How to” videos on the STELR website, explaining the use of STELR equipment. The can be found on the ‘How to use STELR Equipment’ page under the ‘Equipment Packs’ tab.

They are:

Setting up the STELR hand-cranked generator 

How to use the STELR Pelton wheel

How to make a STELR cotton reel racer

How to make a STELR ‘flik flak’

How to use the STELR jumping cups

We would like to thank Big Review TV who filmed and produced the videos for us as part of their corporate social responsibility.

We would also like to thank Victoria University Secondary College who kindly provided the venue for the filming.

Solar Thermal plans for Port Augusta

In the recent federal budget the coalition government announced that it would provide $110 million dollars’ worth of concessional loans to a solar and molten salt storage project in Port Augusta, South Australia.

Australia currently has one solar thermal pilot plant run by Vast solar and located near Forbes in NSW.  This is a ‘tower’ deign solar plant. The Sun's heat is used to melt salt, which is then used to heat up water to produce steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. The molten salt can store heat so that the generator can run overnight.

An example of a tower type solar theRmal generator

An example of a tower type solar theRmal generator

Last year, scientists from ANU set a world record for the most efficient solar thermal dish generating steam that could be used for power station.

The first stage of world’s largest solar thermal plant was switched on in Morocco in 2016.  It is a ‘trough’ design plant. When completed in 2018 it will cover over 6000 acres.

You can find out more about concentrated solar thermal power on the Clean Energy Council website. It explains the different designs for types of solar thermal generators including ‘linear fresnel’, ‘tower’, ‘dish’ and ‘trough’. You can also download a 3-page fact sheet from this page.

Nova has also published a unit of work on concentrating solar thermal power.

Day of STEM - Women in STEM program

Day of STEM has launched its third program entitled Women in STEM.

Students can explore six dynamic female mentors and their individual career journeys with major companies in Australia. Students build a STEM Resume and explore mentor career journeys. You can see an introductory video about the Women in STEM Program here.

The Day of STEM program is available free of charge for all students, parents and teachers in Australia. You can register online at Day of STEM.