Platypulse Project Wins An Australia Day Award

February 1, 2020

By Allen Dickson, Enrichment Program, Robotics and Curriculum, Belgrave Heights Christian School

Belgrave Heights Christian School is situated alongside the Monbulk Creek, just upstream from Birdsland Reserve. As such, the school has had a long association with incorporating environmental issues in student learning. Our Kinder classes do ‘Bush Kinder’ at the creek, the Junior School students use the creek in their Enviro Studies, Middle School students manually test the water quality for a unit on global water issues and in Science experiments, and our Senior School Enviro and Biology students look at the creek’s biodiversity. Even the school’s environmental centre is called ‘The Burrow’ in recognition of the creek and the emblematic platypus.

Alongside these studies the school used students (and the learning opportunities this brings) to plant over 60,000 trees, divert our neighbour’s greywater  through swales, create a frog bog, remove weeds and work with governing bodies to ensure the creek is protected.

When the opportunity arose to compete in the Thales/Yarra Ranges Tech sensor competition, a team of four students – Molly R, Mitch B, Josh T, Josh N and their teacher Mr Paul Scott – focused their efforts on creating a sensor that could remotely monitor the water quality so as to best platypus back up the creek from Birdsland.

Although still in prototype phase, their sensor – the Platypulse – monitors oxygen, pH levels and turbidity, with plans to incorporate both phosphate and nitrate sensors (to measure pollutants from greywater and fertiliser). The end goal is for real-time digital recording of the water quality and an early warning system for potential eutrophication. The resultant data would be extremely valuable for bodies like Melbourne Water, but also for Councils to measure the impact of road works and construction upon riparian ecosystems.

The Platypulse Team achieved second place in the Thales competition – and were thrilled that the judging panel saw such merit in their efforts. They were equally thrilled to hear that they had been nominated for a Yarra Ranges Australia Day Award – the ‘Ken McIntosh Memorial Award for Environmental Achievement’… and even more thrilled to hear that they had won!The students were officially given their awards at the Yarra Ranges Australia Day Ceremony. It was a great experience for the students, knowing that what had begun as a simple idea to monitor water quality for the platypus population had become something that has encouraged others to be more mindful of our local environment.

Working on this project has been an amazing experience and has helped me learn a lot about our environment and why we must protect it. We are honoured to have won this award and I can’t wait to see how much of a positive impact this device can make on our environment.” 

Molly R; Platypulse Team Member