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Communication the Key at BIOTech Futures Challenge 2021

Effective communication was the key message at the BIOTech Futures Challenge 2021 Symposium, as students showcased the innovative ideas they created to tackle challenges in the fields of Health & Medicine and Energy & Environment. Hosted by the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Innovative Bioengineering, the Challenge 2021 Symposium took place from 8-9th February 2021 and saw over 250 students from across Australia and the Middle East take part.

Forty teams were chosen to present at the Symposium based on the scientific merit and creativity of their solutions, which they had previously demonstrated via a poster display. Our teams wowed us with interesting and innovative ideas to tackle common issues such as heart disease, diabetes and green energy, while also addressing lesser-known but equally important challenges such as cerebral palsy.

Students also got to hear from some of our greatest minds in science and technology. Australia’s favourite science communicator, Dr Karl Kruzselnicki was on hand to show us the future of MedTech and Energy from Australia’s favourite science communicator, while Prof. Judy Kay from The University of Sydney gave a stimulating talk on how how humans and artificial intelligence can come together to enhance video games and interactive learning activities. We got a fascinating insight into the lives of fish on the Great Barrier Reef from Professor David Booth of UTS, while science communicator and Indigenous Astronomer Karlie Noon shared an inspirational tale of how she pursued her love of mathetics to explore the universe. Finally, Professor Chris Little shared his perspectives on the concept of ‘OneHealth’ – the idea that human health, animal health and environmental health are all interconnected and need to be cared for to ensure a sustainable future.

The overall winner for Best Presentation was MG018 – Communicating Health from Santa Sabina College, who designed an app called Mona Talks Corona. This app, which aimed to educate young people about diseases and public health, was effective in highlighting the importance of technology for effectively communicating critical health messages in an accessible manner.

Runner-up prizes were awarded to MG027 – Topical Treatment for Chronic Diabetic Foot Ulcers from Pymble Ladies’ College and MG016 C-PLAY Movement Therapy, from Ravenswood School for Girls and MBEG1 – Biodegradable Tennis Balls from the University of Melbourne’s Girl Power program (who also won the BIOTech Futures Challenge Victoria 2020). Prizes were also awarded for Best Report, which went to MG021 – Designing more efficient and user-friendly Asthma Inhalers from North Sydney Boys’ High School, and Best Prototype, which went to MG035 – Imaging Profiling Platform for Thrombotic Disease and Anti-Platelet Therapeutics, an international collaboration between students at Abbotsleigh School and the International Academy Amman in Jordan.

Thank you to all our teams for the hard work you put into your projects, and to our wonderful mentors for providing inspirational support and guidance. We’d also like to thank all of our wonderful speakers, as well as Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, Governor of New South Wales, and Belinda Hutchinson AC, the Chancellor of The University of Sydney, who opened the event and presented the prizes respectively. Special thanks also go to our expert reviewers and judging panel of Prof. Fiona Wood AM, Prof. Chris Little and Dr Shanny Dyer, who had the difficult task of choosing only one winner from all the fantastic ideas presented.

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