A study into the wing structure of blowflies—and a passion for science—has resulted in John Therry Catholic College, Rosemeadow, Year 12 student Ali Alwaeli being named as the bronze winner of the Science Teachers’ Association of New South Wales (STANSW) Young Scientist Award competition as part of his studies in Science Extension.
This is the second cohort of students from Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong to have submitted Scientific Research Reports within the Science Extension Stage 6 Syllabus. These projects are closely aligned to the Young Scientist Award rubrics and are ideally suited for entry into the Rowe Scientific Depth Study Award category that sponsors Year 11 and 12 students.
Participating students from John Therry and Magdalene Catholic College, Narellan, were required to propose and develop a research question, formulate a hypothesis and develop evidence-based responses to create their Scientific Research Report which is supported by a Scientific Research Portfolio.
Rachel Gavin, a science teacher at Magdalene, said the course provides students with the opportunity to refine and extend their research skills to produce a detailed report that reflects the standards generally required for publication in a scientific journal. “Science Extension allows students to appreciate how science contributes to contemporary society and to understand the rigorous nature of scientific thinking,” she said.
“Students learn how culture, politics, and society influences the development of scientific knowledge and how science supports ethical ideals when collecting, analysing, and publishing research results. Upon completing the course, students have developed tertiary level skills and have produced a high-quality piece of research” – Rachel Gavin, Magdalene Catholic College, Narellan
Ali and fellow John Therry student, Damien Hickson, took a collaborative approach to their research projects, with both students studying the flight of the Australian blowfly Calliphora Stygia. After their HSC exams, Ali and Damien plan to refine these projects into a single scientific article for publication.
Ali’s innovative project focused on biomimicry—the study of biological composites and natural engineering. Ali studied the wing structure of blowflies to explore how they could assist in the decline of bee populations and pollination.
Damien received a distinction in the Young Scientist Award (Scientific Investigations Biology) and was also awarded The Victor Chang School Science Award in 2020. Damien studied the flight patterns of blowflies using a flight mill to estimate the potential spread and movement of these agricultural pests. The Year 12 student's study provided total flight time for the species before its first rest, and described the unique flight patterns of Calliphora Stygia, which had not previously been documented!
Dr Katarina Mikac from the University of Wollongong mentored the John Therry students and praised them for their academic success. “Ali and Damien can defend their experiments, why they undertook them and what the broader application of their findings are,” she said. “The improvements that I have seen are to be congratulated as are their final reports!”
Magdalene Year 12 students Christina David and Monica Ware also completed Science Extension this year. Christina based her research project around a passion for innovative technology, using knowledge from her studies in Chemistry and Physics to investigate the potential application of photovoltaics in the conversion of artificial lighting to usable electrical energy, and was able to utilise high precision electrical equipment at the University of Sydney.
Monica was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the changes to our response to disease transmission and ongoing discussions surrounding the concerns of the public regarding safety when wearing face masks. Monica investigated the effect of cotton and surgical face masks on blood oxygen levels in the blood using a pulse oximeter. Monica was able to show masks were safe for use in the general population.
Science Coordinator of John Therry, Dr Aidan Johnson, said each student had done an outstanding job with their research and the quality of the work they each presented.
“I hope these students will inspire more students, and schools, to take on Science Extension in order to promote greater scientific literacy amongst our wider community.”
We congratulate Ali, Damien, Christina, and Monica on their achievements, particularly for the perseverance they demonstrated in completing work of such quality during this pandemic.
The Young Scientist Award Scheme aims to stimulate curiosity through inquiry to undertake innovative investigations. Informed by the world of Science, Mathematics, and Technology, students are encouraged to find creative solutions to everyday problems to make our lives better. The Young Scientist Award Scheme is a NSW syllabus-based K to 12 STEM initiative.