First place: Paige Bebee, 'The Secret of the Appendix' Second place: Luke Cadorin-Taylor, 'Why are Concussions Bad for You? Third place: Tom Downie and Harry Bebbington, 'Gravity Sucks'

The much-maligned appendix: not just for grass eaters

Paige Bebee, a ninth-grader from Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School (Victoria), has won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Secondary.

Her entry, The Secret of the Appendix, explains the little-known organ and busts a few popular myths about its purpose in our body.

It explained not only the normal role of the appendix in our gut, but what can go wrong and how we can keep this important organ healthy.

Sponsored by the University of Sydney, the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize is named in honour of Dr Karl (Kruszelnicki) and Adam Spencer.

The Prize recognises excellence in communicating scientific ideas ‘painlessly’ or, as the Sleek Geeks like to say, “help people to learn something without even noticing.” It rewards the best of hundreds of submitted short films – each communicating a particular scientific concept in an accessible and engaging way.

“Scientific mythbusting to correct long-standing misunderstandings – as Paige has done in her film – is part of a building a scientifically-literate community,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said. “She has revealed the truth about our appendix and also cameos her Grandfather, Nobel Prize winner Professor Barry Marshall. Not a bad talent score!” Kim said. “It’s wonderful that our young scientists are so enthusiastic about communicating science.”

Fortunately, Paige was able to bust this particular scientific myth without resorting to swallowing toxic bacteria – as Professor Marshall did to prove that the bacterium, and not stress, is the cause of stomach ulcers.

Professor Marshall has a cameo at the start of the video – eating grass rather than ingesting bacteria.

Established in 1827, the Australian Museum is the nation’s first museum and one of its foremost scientific research, educational and cultural institutions. The Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.

Second prize in the secondary-school section of the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize went to tenth-grade student Luke Cadorin-Taylor from St Aloysius' College (NSW) who created Why are Concussions Bad for You? – an animated exploration of brain injury.

Third place went to year-ten students Tom Downie and Harry Bebbington of Warrandyte High School (Victoria), whose video Gravity Sucks presents the science of falling apples, orbiting spacecraft and black holes.

Watch the first place video.

Watch the second place video.

Watch the third place video.