The 12 finalists in the 2009 NYSA

The following are summaries of the finalists' 300-word entries submitted online.

Badgingarra Primary School, WA
Badgingarra Primary's Year 6 students investigated whether certain plants are better at storing carbon than others. They consulted with the WA Department of Agriculture and Food about taking soil samples and how their experiment related to the Kyoto Protocol. Their experiment involved a range of plant types. They were able to establish for instance that perennial grasses store more carbon than grain crops.

Tapping Primary School, WA
Tapping Primary's Year 6 students studied the effects of music of different types on children's maths performance. Having researched the subject, they came across the 'Mozart Effect', the supposed beneficial effect of playing Mozart on work efficiency. Over five days they conducted a series of experiments on a class of 27 students, giving them maths tests and playing both Mozart and hip-hop music. Using previous scores as baseline data, the class found that hip-hop music seems to have a beneficial effect on test scores, whereas Mozart has a detrimental effect.

Dardanup Primary School, WA
A small group of Dardanup Primary's Year 7 students investigated how best to grow plants in sandy soil. They grew eight plants in sand covered in such things as sheep manure, water-saving crystals and lawn clippings, regularly examining the plants for leaf count and height as well as soil temperature, pH and moisture content. They then plotted the results on an Excel spreadsheet. They found slow release fertiliser produced the best results.

Albany Hills State School, QLD
Lily Colmer of Class 6CC tested ten household materials to see which would best soundproof her noisy swimming pool pump. Using a spectrum analysis program to monitor the noise, she plotted the effects of different materials on graphs as well as the effects of different combinations of 10 materials. Testing each material three times under identical conditions she found that the most effective combination was a steel box inside a wooden box lined with cardboard. She also discovered that the shape of the material ' such as egg cartons ' has a noticeable effect.

Ingham State School, QLD
A group of eight Ingham Primary Years 6 and 7 students experimented with different kinds of water to determine which to use when replanting a nearby creek whose vegetation had been destroyed in a recent flood. They looked at the effects on plants of rain, creek, tap and 'grey' water, measuring sample seedlings every three days for two and a half weeks. They also examined the colour and size of the seedlings' leaves, and recorded all the results on a table and graphs. They found that grey water produced the healthiest plants, followed by creek water then equally tap and rain water. Knowing this was useful to them when they replanted the creek. It saved them using precious tap water, which had been their original intention.

Woongarra State School, QLD
A group of Woongarra State Year 6 students investigated how scrub turkeys build their nests in such a way that different areas produce different temperatures. In so doing, the turkeys can affect the incubation of the eggs and the sex of the chicks. The students constructed their own nest using similar materials to those used by scrub turkeys and measured the temperature of different layers over time. They found there was a marked variation, ranging from 31.5 degrees on the surface to 53.7 degrees in the centre.

Saint Martin's School, QLD
Saint Martin's Year 7 students decided to investigate Newton's Third Law of Thermodynamics and how it relates to thrust. They conducted an experiment by measuring the distances three differently shaped and sized balloons travelled up a piece of string. They found the largest and narrowest balloon travelled the furthest because it had more air and encountered less wind resistance. When they modified the balloons to improve their aerodynamics they were surprised to find the performance dropped off.

St Francis Xavier's Primary, NSW
St Francis Xavier's Class 5I students conducted experiments on plants to determine firstly how plants take up water and secondly where they make and store sugar in their leaves. The first experiment involved placing plants in cylinders and supplying them with equal amounts of blue-dyed water. After five days, students were able to see that the water level had dropped and the coloured water was visible in the veins of the leaves. In the second experiment they removed the chlorophyll from leaves using methylated spirits and added iodine to reveal the presence of sugar.

Redeemer Baptist School, NSW
Redeemer Baptist's Year 7 class conducted their project on light pollution. Over 12 weeks they measured and mapped light pollution levels in the Sydney Metropolitan Area, comparing results with different locations in regional NSW and around the world.

They even developed a website ( which allowed people around the world to submit measurements to the class's database. They managed to attract 3555 submissions from as far away as Turkey and China, and created a Southern and Northern Sky Magnitude Chart to plot their results.

The class collected measurements from nearly 80 per cent of Sydney's suburbs and found a noticeable variation in the visibility of stars between inner city suburbs and those on Sydney's outskirts.

The Hutchins School, TAS
Year 5 student Stewart Jackson decided to test the various pH levels of the Derwent Estuary as he knew they have a marked effect on what can live in water. He methodically took water samples from five points on the estuary - New Norfolk, Bridgewater, Howrah, Ralphs Bay and South Arm. Testing the water samples back in the classroom, Stewart found a noticeable variation in pH levels, with a more or less gradual increase from New Norfolk, where the estuary begins to South Arm, where it ends.

Mallala Primary, SA
Mallala's Year 5/6 class decided to investigate wind power. They built their own small wind-powered electricity generators and carried out wind surveys around their school to find the best place to conduct their experiment. On a windy day, they then took their generators out and measured how many millivolts were produced and recorded the results. They then considered how they might be able to improve their generators.

Newhaven College Junior School, VIC
Inspired by the swine flu epidemic, a group of the school's Year 6 students decided to conduct an experiment on different kinds of hand-washing techniques to discover which is the most effective. They tried seven techniques whose variables included: length of time of washing (2-60 seconds), temperature of water, use of soap, and means of drying (shake dry or towel). Using a UV light they were able to establish the effectiveness of each technique. The group found that the most effective method is washing one's hands for 60 seconds in warm water using soap and a towel. This removes 80 per cent of germs.