Yarrawarrah Public School student wins young scientist of the year award

Bright mind: Ben Robertson, school librarian Fay Prideaux and NATA state manager Susan Jones. Picture: John Veage
Bright mind: Ben Robertson, school librarian Fay Prideaux and NATA state manager Susan Jones. Picture: John Veage

A Yarrawarrah Public School student who built a mini greenhouse to research the best soil composition for growing snow peas has been named young scientist of the year for his age group in a national competition.

Year 1 student Ben Robertson won the seven to eight years age category of the Young Scientists of the Year competition run by the National Australian Testing Authority (NATA).

The competition encourages students to think about the way science affects everyday life. The theme this year was "Chemistry in our lives", in recognition of 150 years since the periodic table of chemical elements was published.

Entrants were asked to base their project or investigation around chemistry, which has broad implications across current global challenges such as energy, education, agriculture and health.

Submissions had to include a one-page written summary about their topic and why they chose it, as well as a visual element - either a scrapbook, video or DVD presentation, computer graphics or other digital media form.

School librarian Fay Prideaux said Ben's project, which he designed, created and completed at home, compared four soil samples to see which was the most successful in growing snow peas.

"He built a mini greenhouse and graphed the weekly growth, and presented the project and results in a slide show with more than 20 slides. His project was named the winner out of the hundreds submitted for his age group," she said.

Ben said he liked doing science experiments because you could see if your hypothesis was correct, and chose his experiment because he was interested in how fruit and vegetables grow.

"Our garden at home grows weeds and our school veggie patch garden grows good veggies so I started thinking about how that happens," he said.

"I decided I wanted to know what chemicals soil needs to make them grow. Snow peas are my favourite vegetable so I chose them for the experiment."

Ben said he loved maths and science and would like to one day work in a job that combined both, such as a laboratory.

Ben won a $400 individual cash prize and $2500 for his school. He said he might spend some of his prize money on books and would like his school to also buy some new books for the library.

He was presented with his certificate last week by NATA state manager Susan Jones.