2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Award winner, Oliver Nicholls, has taken home the top prize and US$75,000 as winner of the Gordon E Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) announced in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 18.

The 19 year old who graduated from Barker College last year, secured the win with his fully autonomous robotic window cleaner that is designed to reduce human injury and decrease the costs of window cleaning on medium rise commercial buildings.

The small robotic device uses drones, motors and propellers to navigate building facades and clean windows using water and micro-fibre scrubbers. The $2,300 device can withstand 28 mph winds and could replace traditional methods that can exceed $11,000 per cleaning and reduce injuries in this high-risk occupation.

The Intel ISEF is the world’s largest pre-college science competition and attracts approximately 1700 students from 81 countries.

This is the first time that a non-American student has won the grand prize.

On judging day, each project was allocated four judges – each with a PhD as a minimum requirement and an expert in their field. Throughout judging day, 19 judges vetted Oliver’s project, drilling him with questions that were highly technical around the nature of his coding, loopings, electronics and interfacing. One of the judges indicated to Oliver that he lived on the 75th floor of a high rise building and the largest maintenance cost of their building strata was window cleaning.

Oliver’s passion for STEM and robotics allowed him the opportunity to merge engineering with robotics for his HSC Design and Technology major work.

“I used new skills and applied my knowledge to a real world problem by designing and building a robotic window cleaner for high rise buildings. It was a big risk taking on such a complex project and I was never sure if I could pull it off until the very end,” Oliver said.

List of Awards:

Gordon E. Moore Award which is provided to the top “Best in Category” project
1st prize in the Intel ISEF Grand Awards – Robotics category
Intel ISEF Best of Category Award for Robotics
IEEE Second Place Award
NASA Second Place Award