Interviewer -Andrew: Thank you very much for your company once again. We have brought the studio down to Mt Maria, Mitchelton, Mt Maria College, Mitchelton, and this is going to be very interesting. Stay with us. This is going to be something that I think you will find quite riveting as it plays out. It came on our radar. There’s been a lot of talk recently about climate change and while that’s been talked about over a number of years, it’s something that’s been escalating. People have been thinking about it more and more. The challenge was put, essentially, how can we solve climate change? There’s a whole story behind this and a couple of students look like they may be on the way to making a huge impact on that.Interviewer -Andrew: Today, we have the principal of Mt Maria College, Mitchelton, Glenn McConville. How are you?Glenn McConville: Good, thanks, Andrew. It’s great to be here.Interviewer -Andrew: Excellent. We’ve got a science teacher, too. He’s been in the middle of all of this. He’s the one that first talked to us about this, Peter Ryan. You’re the science teacher at Mt Maria College, Mitchelton. You’re responsible for these two young gentlemen and what they’ve got up. How are you?Peter Ryan: I’m good, thanks, Andrew.Interviewer -Andrew: We also have the school captain. You’re involved with all of this, James Orman. How are you?James Orman: I’m excellent, thanks, Andrew.Interviewer -Andrew: Yeah, awesome. And Alec Parkes, Year 12 student, and also in the middle of all of these experiments and looking forward to heading overseas, I believe.Alec Parkes: Yeah, thank you.Interviewer -Andrew: First up, we might have a chat with the principal, Glenn McConville. For this type of thing, when you’ve got students that are headed to be on a world stage … and we’ll get into the nitty-gritty and the technicalities, and I’m sure there are a lot. I’ve seen a couple of science experiments and all sorts of things bubbled in all of that sort of stuff … what does that mean for you in a college like this?Glenn McConville: It makes me immensely proud that the boys have taken this challenge on and have reached the world stage, and you’ll hear shortly about how well they’re actually doing, but so proud of the boys. We’ve got great opportunities here at Mt Maria for kids to get involved in programmes like this, extracurricular programmes, and the boys took on the challenge and we’re going to wish them all the best.Interviewer -Andrew: And we’re going to talk a little bit further about the opportunities with a college like this, but Peter Ryan, these students, this was something that played out over school holidays and they didn’t take those holidays.Peter Ryan: Yeah, so essentially, these guys took on the challenge for this competition in their final year, a very important year to them. They’re some of our best students so the results for them really matter. They chose to take up the challenge, I guess, and in doing that, pretty much had to give up their holidays to be able to do that.Interviewer -Andrew: You mentioned the challenge, there was selection criteria and all of that sort of stuff around it. What exactly was the challenge that was set out?Peter Ryan: Each year, the competition, the Spellman High Voltage Clean Tech Competition is looking at clean fuels basically, but they’re basically trying to engage pre-university students, 15 to 18 years, and this year’s challenge was simply solving climate change.Interviewer -Andrew: That’s it, just solve it?Peter Ryan: That was the challenge they set. They don’t come much bigger.Interviewer -Andrew: James, I’m going to bring you in now. You’ve got a great interest in science.James Orman: Absolutely, yeah.Interviewer -Andrew: When this was put on your radar, what was your reaction?James Orman: Well, I had some kind of out there ideas at first. I’m really into planes and I wanted to do something with somehow harvesting CO2 from the air with a plane but, yeah, we came up with a bit of a more realistic type of solution in the end.Interviewer -Andrew: You were brought back to earth, is it?James Orman: Yes. Yes, brought back to earth. Absolutely.Interviewer -Andrew: Okay. Now, you ran a series of experiments and I take it that the two of you got together and had conversations around this, and maybe the direction that you might take. Alec, how did that all look?Alec Parkes: At first, it was a bit haphazard. It’s a really big challenge and we had no clue what to do. There was no real set limitations, it was just, “Hey, solve climate change.” So, no, we really chose to just pick one aspect, CO2, and try and reduce its impact that it’s currently having. Yeah, so that goes towards solving climate change and, ultimately, that’s what they were looking for.Interviewer -Andrew: So, essentially, what’s your solution? Now, it’s a huge problem, it’s something that gets talked about, it’s quite regularly in the mainstream media. A lot of people are talking about it, particularly now that they’re starting to notice that there are some real impacts out there. What sort of solution have you got?James Orman: Well, the main principle behind our solution is you take carbon dioxide emitted from a coal power plant, and then you take that to a separate facility where you bubble it through a solution of lithium hydroxide, which is just a chemical, and it creates basically lithium carbonate, which is a useful substance in processing metal oxides or making aluminium alloy. So it’s taking the carbon dioxide waste product and turning it into something useful that has benefit to society.Alec Parkes: Currently, we can filter out carbon dioxide from flue gas using a whole different range of filters, but at the end of the day, we’re still looking for something to actually do with the carbon dioxide, so hopefully making this process efficient and environmentally friendly can limit the impact that it has.Interviewer -Andrew: Peter, you went along for this journey and you were with the students, and I know when we were talking previously, you were saying they had tried some other things. Just take us through the journey of how they got to this point, and for you as a teacher to be overseeing this, your feelings about that.Peter Ryan: Sure. Look, as James said, they started with some wild ideas and you need to, and that’s the intention of this competition, is to engage young minds who aren’t, I guess, hamstrung by history and experiences and all those sorts of things. So these guys came up with some ideas. They decided on a plan of attack, and bear in mind, their time to do this was fairly constrained also by their other studies. So there was a few last minute changes along the way. Over the holidays, they recognised there was an issue with what they were trying to achieve, and I think two days before we did the experiment, completely changed their approach. But making those sorts of adjustments, recognising they need to, and staying committed was part of the journey, I suspect, and really pleasing to see them take that on, and go after it, and come up with something that sort of looks quite successful.Interviewer -Andrew: If you look back over scientific history, the light bulb, it wasn’t an instant success. It wasn’t something where the first experiment was to result of in a working light bulb. The telephone was exactly the same. There were a lot of trials and errors but they’ve had huge impacts on our society and people’s lives. Is this up there with that type of thing?Peter Ryan: Who’s to know where it might go, but you’re quite right. It’s amazing how lucky you get if you work really, really, really hard, so … and these guys did, and they’ve come up with something that looks to have some promise.Interviewer -Andrew: Glenn McConville, when you hear this … now, you’re going to be travelling overseas with them … can you tell us a little bit about the next phase of this journey and what they’re about to presented with?Glenn McConville: Yeah, I think now is about putting this into practice for the boys. The boys have been selected in the top 10 positions in the world, from all schools in the world who have competed in this competition, and they’re about to go to New York with Peter and myself and present this to a panel, present their report to the panel and their research to a panel, and no doubt we’ll field lots of questions. We’re just thrilled for them because now they get to put it into practice.Interviewer -Andrew: And this couldn’t happen without sponsors. We’re going to talk about that in a second, but heading to New York, what do you want to get out of this?James Orman: Well, obviously there’s a lot of stuff in New York I really want to see, so we’re spending a couple of days in the city as well, doing some of the touristy type stuff like the Empire State Building or the museums there, and then we’re heading off to the competition. But, yeah, I’m really looking forward to having some fun in New York.Interviewer -Andrew: It sounds like it’s not all about solving the world’s problems. But what about for you, too, Alec?Alec Parkes: Yeah, the competition will be great. They’ve organised tours around the university, Spellman High Voltage, and that’ll be great. We’ve also arranged to see the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, which will be amazing for us, so yeah. Yeah, just a whole bunch of really awesome experiences.Interviewer -Andrew: Now, you’re both students of Mt Maria College, Mitchelton. There’s been some sponsors that have come onboard to make this possible, one of those being Brisbane Catholic Education. Mt Maria College, Mitchelton, have also got behind you guys. You’ve got the P&F as a part of the college as well. They’ve also got behind you guys. UQ, University of Queensland, so they’ve come onboard, you’ve grabbed their attention. You’ve got Cleanworks Australia and you’ve got the local state LNP member, Tim Mander.Interviewer -Andrew: Now, Brisbane Catholic Education, that stands out to me, because they’re a principal sponsor. They’ve put a lot of effort behind this, as well as they’ve put some funds behind to make sure that this is possible. For students coming into a Brisbane Catholic Education school, is this the sort of support that they can expect to be getting?Glenn McConville: In short, yes, Andrew. We’re really, really grateful for Brisbane Catholic Education and being part of that organisation, to be able to provide these experiences to the boys, and to go to the world stage as one of 10 finalists in the world is phenomenal. Brisbane Cath. Ed. have got right behind that, and it lines up with their strategic directions as well, in terms of just trying to ensure that we have things like renewable energy.Glenn McConville: One of the strategic pillars is also about responsible stewardship, and again, that lines up with the Pope’s encyclical from a couple of years ago, called Laudato Si, which is all about caring for our common home, for our common world. That’s also primarily why they wanted to get behind what the boys are talking about, because that reduction in greenhouse emissions and so forth, I mean, they’re the sort of things that they’re really empowering, and these our future leaders, so they’re very happy to support that.Interviewer -Andrew: And beyond that, for a college like this, where you’ve got two students that are … they’re at the forefront of this, they’re going to enjoy some of the fruits of it, and they’ve still got a way to go, but what does that do for a college like this, now that … Like, is the college emboldened because you’ve seen successes and they’ve been given the liberties to go down the path of trial and error, take risks, and all of that sort of stuff, does that broaden out to the rest of the college?Glenn McConville: Is certainly does. When the rest of the college heard about what the boys had achieved, they were blown away. Just today, I was talking to some younger students who said, “When I get to year 11 and 12, I want to try and go into some of these competitions. Wow, maybe I could do that.” So the role modelling that these boys have shown to the younger kids is just amazing. There’s a real buzz around the school at the moment, and a huge amount of support for what the boys are about to do.Interviewer -Andrew: So, are you two celebrities? Is that … ?Alec Parkes: In a sense.James Orman: Yeah.Interviewer -Andrew: Happy to take that, signatures later?Alec Parkes: Yeah, you might walk into a younger science class and they’ll go, “Oh, that’s the guy that’s going to New York.” Yeah, so …Interviewer -Andrew: You’re being quite candid about that and that’s really, really good. Does that encourage you, maybe you start thinking about your future, you’re in senior school, maybe what you want to enjoy and be a part of, maybe changing society, having a big impact on this world once you exit school? Is that starting to be something that you’re thinking about?Alec Parkes: Sort of, yeah. No, I want to get my studies out of the way first and then have a look towards the future, but yeah …Interviewer -Andrew: For a science teacher, Peter, how is science in schools, particularly Mt Maria, Mitchelton, how is it changing? Is this something that we would have expected to see, say 10, 15 years ago?Peter Ryan: Look, so I’m a reasonably new addition to teaching, having a 30-year career in engineering, and engaging with young minds trying to go in this direction is certainly one of the reasons I took up teaching, but I guess we look to challenge students in science by experimentation, by doing and trying to work out why, to engage minds.Peter Ryan: There’s lots and lots of data they can get. We’ve got much more access to information through internet and things like that, and so it’s really important to get that inquiring mind and develop those sorts of strategies in terms of scientific development. Certainly, that’s the approach at this school, and the general schooling approach for science is to develop those sorts of skill sets.Peter Ryan: I can’t imagine that that was available 10 or 15 years ago but these guys really jumped at it and the credit really has to go to them because it’s … you can provide the equipment and some support and knowledge, but without the energy, and effort, and determination, and grit these guys have demonstrated, you don’t get there.Interviewer -Andrew: Glenn McConville, just finally, for parents that might be watching this and they’ve maybe got their kids going through primary school and they’re thinking, “Oh, gee,” they might have an interest in science, or maybe even other areas, might be academic or non-academic, what would you say to them?Glenn McConville: Well, first thing I’d say is come and have a look at Mt Maria, we might surprise you. We’ve got great opportunities for our kids across areas in academics, science, mathematics competitions, the arts, music, sport. There’s just so many things the kids here can get involved in, and be a part of that, and make a difference, and learn and have fun along the way. You never know, maybe they could come here and do what James and Alec are doing.Interviewer -Andrew: With all that in mind, all the best.Alec Parkes: Thank you.James Orman: Thank you.Peter Ryan: Thank you.Glenn McConville: Thank you very much.