iScience 2014 - all is not what it seems

25 June 2014

The future looks bright for science in Australia with more than 170 curious minds presenting at the annual iScience fair, held at the Faculty of Education and Social Work recently.

The event featured future Einstein's from 11 high schools in the Sydney region, who designed and conducted 28 scientific experiments over two months. The students were guided by mentor teacher-education students, all of who are currently studying towards a teaching degree in the faculty.

A selection of projects are outlined below.

Hands off our H2O

Team members Sabrina Pasic and Rabia Hajjar from Liverpool Girls High School set out to test which of the three methods is best to treat the water: purification tablets, boiling the water or devise a filtering basket using bark to form a cone and later fill with rocks, charcoal and sand. The method of boiling water came out best with almost all contaminants reduced in the process where as the filtering basket did clear some contaminants, it still had various traces of harmful bacteria.

Feel the beat: music and emotion

A psychological approach set the context for this project, which included asking participants in their experiment to listen to 16 song snippets of different genres and to select what emotion it induced. Music with faster tempo and beat such as jazz, pop or rap/hip-hop, received happier responses while classical music induced calmer feelings.

Sarah-Jane Eslick, third-year student in the combined BEd, BSc program brought her previous studies' experience to the team as mentor and explains, "I did psychology for a year before I switched my degree, so I wanted the idea of introducing psychology to high-school students". She was also excited to be working with students. "We have our first professional experience placements in schools later this year so so this is our first time working with kids at all and it has been a great experience", says Sarah-Jane.

All is not what it seems: effectiveness of toothbrush storage

This project – the overall winning entry – included Renee Kollias (pictured, left) and Margarita Piperias (right) from All Saints Grammar Orthodox School, who set out to test the antibacterial effectiveness of various methods of toothbrush storage: an enclosed case; storing upright in a cup; and submerged in antiseptic mouthwash.

Mouthwash submersion produced the most hygienic results, showing almost zero bacterial grow, whereas storage in a container had extremely high readings of bacterial growth, presumably caused by the warm, humid environment of an enclosed case: ideal conditions for bacteria.

Helen Killen, science teacher from Forestville Montessori School was enthusiastic in her sport of the iScience program. "The students loved coming every day, they really enjoyed the social side of it with the mentors and the other students and they learned a lot".

More than 85 per cent of iScience participants last year said the program had increased their interest in studying sciences or engineering in future. The program is also a catalyst to encourage students from disadvantaged schools to attend the event with funding from the University of Sydney Compass Program.

For full project information, email Dr Louise Sutherland

Information about the Compass program is available on the University website at: