A TEAM of year 8 students at Rutherford Technology High School have won a statewide competition for inventing a business idea on biodegradable packaging for milk products.
Andrea Sherin, Lotus Antoni and Ava Leman worked with the assistance of their teacher Jade Bassett, on a process to use casein protein, extracted from spoiled milk products, to create a biodegradable plastic alternative.
"Originally the casein would've biodegraded within three to six weeks, which wouldn't give us enough time to deliver the product and get it on the shelves so we added cardboard and now it biodegrades within three to six months," Ms Leman said.
Working under their team label DairyWay, the girls spent weeks building on their idea and went to Sydney to pitch it in the Pitch for the Planet competition, a major event of Orbispace and an Australian charity encouraging young women to study STEM.
This year's challenge was to create sustainable innovations to reduce emissions in the Australian dairy industry, and team DairyWay's idea led them to a win.
"It was nerve-wracking (pitching) but I think we were confident enough that we could win and we have the right idea," Ms Antoni said.
Ms Leaman said she would like to study science at TAFE and continue to build on the product with hopes to make a business out of it.
Science teacher Jade Bassett said she was immensely proud of the girls and their commitment to the project.
"The students have not only excelled academically but have also developed leadership skills that will serve them well in their future careers," she said.
"I am immensely proud of their accomplishments and grateful for the support that made this initiative possible."
Three out of four finalist teams were schools from the Hunter, including Maitland Grossmann High School.
Their teams were called MuPu, which designed a way to harness the energy in cows' methane emissions, and Calm Milk, which devised the use of flexible solar panels on milk trucks to help power their cooling and other energy use.
Maitland Grossmann High School teacher mentor Emma Hearn commended the empowerment of year 8 girls in STEM afforded by the program.
"I believe every student who participated in the program has walked away with confidence to achieve anything they put their mind to," she said.
The Rutherford Technology High School won a small cash prize for the school and a two-day technology demonstration tour of University of NSW.
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