by Tony Diercks
The evolution of the Oliphant Science Awards
In the early 1980s the majority of OSA entries were posters, essays and experimental reports and they could all be stored under a spare bed in Geoff Millar's house. During the next few years the number of entries grew exponentially, especially in the games and models section, and storing the entries left after the ceremonies and arranging their collection became a major logistical exercise. One year the very large numbers of remaining entries were stored and collected from a vacant house owned by the SASTA President. When the SASTA Office was based at Plympton High School, these left over OSA items occupied several vacant classrooms. A change in procedure was essential and the current system of collection by teachers and parents from the from the site of the Open Days was instituted.
Sir Mark Oliphant
In 1984 Geoff Millar arranged to collect Sir Mark and take him to the OSA Ceremony at the SA Museum. Geoff had a trial run to the back of the Museum were he would park and deliver Sir Mark through the rear entrance. On the night of the Ceremony, Geoff, with Sir Mark on board, found his route blocked by a boom gate. Sir Mark quickly alighted and lifted the boom for Geoff to drive through.
On another occasion Tony Diercks and Jane Wright had to collect Sir Mark from Government House when Dame Roma Mitchell was the resident Governor. Tony and Jane had to sign in at the gate, and drove to the main door, accompanied police security. Sir Mark and Dame Roma came to the door with several staff and as Sir Mark was leaving Dame Roma asked, as any mother would to her son "Mark, have you got your key?" They both laughed.
Connection to the National BHP Awards
During the 1980s the students with the best entries in the Experiment and the Inventions sections of the OSA were sent to Canberra for the national BHP Awards. The best two students from the BHP Awards were sponsored by Westinghouse to attended the International Science and Engineering Fair in America accompanied by an ASTA member. Bob Morton was nominated in 1988 to be the chaperone and in 1989 Tony Diercks chaperoned the two national winners to Pittsburgh. 1989 was unfortunately the end of ASTA's involvement with the BHP Awards for some time as CSIRO through the Double Helix Club made a bid to take over running the National Competition.