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ANSTO'S National Science Week Hackathon from 14 to 18th of August 2020
ANSTO's National Science Week Hackathon

Problem Statements

ANSTO is excited to be hosting Australia’s first environment-themed hackathon for school students as part of National Science Week. Check out the problem statements below.

Team submission form

Challenge 1

How might we best use ocean-based renewable energy? 

While some Australian states, like South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, produce nearly half of their electricity needs from renewable sources, that figure is only 8% in Western Australia. Approximately one third of Western Australia’s electricity is produced for industrial uses. Western Australia produces significant proportions of the world’s minerals and petroleum products, including iron ore, natural gas, crude oil, gold, alumina and bauxite, nickel, lithium, manganese and cobalt. Agriculture is also a major part of the state’s economy, exporting up to 80% of its agricultural production overseas to markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These industries pose environmental problems on a number of fronts, using copious amounts of electricity and water and often resulting in land degradation.

Western Australia relies on its large coal and gas reserves for electricity generation, but these fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide emissions which contribute to climate change. By 2017, every other Australian state had reduced its carbon emissions compared with 2005, the benchmark year for the Paris Climate Agreement. In Western Australia, carbon emissions between 2005 and 2017 increased by 23.4%. Despite only making up 10% of Australia’s population, Western Australia produces almost 17% of our carbon emissions. Western Australia will have to make big changes if it is to meet its aspirational target for net zero emissions by 2050.

Luckily Western Australia has some of the best untouched wind and solar resources in the world and a number of land-based renewable energy projects are in progress. With such a vast coastline in Western Australia, the state government would like to explore possibilities of renewable energy projects in ocean environments to complement current projects. 

Your task is to design and propose methods/technologies for an ocean-based renewable energy project for Western Australia.

Your solution should:

  • Propose a location for the project
  • Provide benefits for the local community
  • Be appropriate for the specific coastal environment of the area
  • Work together or share infrastructure with other local industries
  • Take into account the benefits and consequences of this system on marine ecosystems
  • Be commercially viable


Challenge 2

With the increasing impacts of climate change and land-based activities, how can we use modern technology and scientific tools to prevent contamination of Australian waters from terrestrial processes?

The Great Barrier Reef on the north-eastern coast of Australia is the largest coral reef system in the world. Despite being one of the most managed and looked after reefs, the threats from climate change in combination with the ongoing risks of pollution is placing the GBR in a vulnerable environmental state. Coral reef systems and coastal habitats are greatly impacted, with marine life not being able to survive in these conditions.

“As many as 700 reefs are under threat from farm pollution”- WWF-Australia’s Program Leader for Water Nick Heath.

Degradation of coastal and marine environments due to the ongoing effects of terrestrial based sources of pollution and contamination is a global issue. Intensive agricultural practices and the output of associated pollutant agents, including antibiotics, fertilisers, pesticides and run-off, can lead to these ending up in the ocean. An increase in harmful chemical nutrients, such as sulphur, phosphorus and nitrogen, dramatically depletes oxygen levels. This creates a toxic environment which causes expansive algae blooms creating ‘dead zones’.

One of the main consequences of climate change is the potential to impact the distribution and effects of chemical and harmful toxicants. Climate change, more importantly the extreme changes in temperature and precipitation, will impact the fate and behaviour of toxicants by altering the physical, chemical and biological interactions between the atmosphere, water, sediment and animals.

The Australian Government’s Reef 2050 plan outlines targets for an 80% reduction in river nutrient loads by 2025. To help increase the resilience of the reef, managing current and future local threats originating from land is urgently needed.

Your task is to design and propose methods/technologies for a land or ocean-based system that you can present to scientific organisations/industry across Australia.

Your solution should: 

  • Use sustainable materials for reducing the contaminant flow into the coastal and reef environment
  • Meet the needs of the scientific community and government authorities
  • Collaborate with and share existing or new infrastructure with other local industries
  • Take into account the benefits and consequences of this system on marine life
  • Be commercially viable


Challenge 3

How can we use the oceans to reduce reliance on traditional land-based, carbon-intensive agriculture to produce the world’s food?

  • People are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint of traditional land based beef products.
  • More than one billion people globally already rely on the oceans for supply of protein and there is concern that this has already been over-exploited.
  • There is a need to produce more ocean based protein, such as fish farming and aquaculture, however this has negative environment consequences

Your task is to propose a solution to the aquaculture (or mariculture) industry to reduce the environmental impact.

Your solution should:

  • Identify an optimal location for your proposed solution
  • Provide benefits for the local community
  • Take into account the benefits and consequences of this system on marine life
  • Be commercially viable


Contact ANSTO's Education team