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19 school students selected for prestigious national event

Press Release – The Royal Society of New Zealand

Nineteen top secondary students from all over New Zealand have been selected by the Royal Society of New Zealand to attend Genesis Energy’s Realise the Dream, a prestigious annual national event which takes place from 3-10 December. During the week the students …7 November 2011

19 school students selected for prestigious national science and technology event

Nineteen top secondary students from all over New Zealand have been selected by the Royal Society of New Zealand to attend Genesis Energy’s Realise the Dream, a prestigious annual national event which takes place from 3-10 December.

During the week the students will travel on an all-expense paid trip from Auckland to Wellington, along the way visiting companies involved in science and technology.

Genesis Energy’s Realise the Dream rewards and celebrates students who have undertaken an excellent piece of science research or technological development.

Forty-two nominations were received this year for a place in the event, with the nine judges each reviewing every project and then meeting over a weekend to pick the participants.

The projects ranged from investigating the shelf life of figs, and the pathogen killing kauri trees, to an unmanned flying platform, a wave making device, and a pest trap wireless monitoring system.

The Realise the Dream event begins in Auckland on 3 December and the students travel by coach through the North Island where they will be involved in hands-on programmes organised by organisations such as Genesis Energy at Tokaanu; Leigh Marine Centre; the Liggins Institute in Auckland; DairyNZ in Hamilton; Massey University in Palmerston North and NIWA in Wellington. They will also be involved in social activities run by the Outdoor Pursuits Centre in Tongariro and walk on top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

They will end their journey in Wellington where there is a special awards presentation and cocktail function that is being hosted by Their Excellencies, The Right Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae, at Government House, Wellington on Friday 9 December.

Cash scholarships and travel grants are announced at this function with the overall winner getting a $7,000 cash scholarship and an all expenses paid trip to the European Union Young Scientist Competition, in Bratislava, Slovakia, in September 2012. Other awards include four travel awards to celebrate the Centenary of Antarctic Expeditions and will include a historic commemorative flight from Melbourne to Commonwealth Bay and the Ross Sea area on Sunday 15 January 2012 and will include 3 days in Melbourne.

The Chief Executive of the Royal Society of New Zealand Dr Di McCarthy said the students have shown great determination and imagination with their projects.

“The inventiveness that comes through in these projects is quite outstanding. Many of them have the potential to solve some very tricky problems. We believe all the students selected show great promise and we hope they will continue with their studies.”

See attached release that lists all the students and their projects – by region from north to south.


Sophie Burling, 16, Kerikeri High School
Sophie is an elite athlete in the sport of show-jumping and so this particular piece of research she undertook about iodine imbalance in horse feed was particularly relevant to her. Sophie has investigated the concentration of iodine in common horse feed and supplement products and the relationship between the concentration and the quantities fed to horses. The implications of iodine imbalance can have major consequences in the equine industry including goiter, weak or still born foals, fertility issues, and poor metabolism, just to name a few.

At the conclusion of Sophie’s research she recommends that it is better to feed as simple a diet as possible, without the over-supplying of numerous supplements simultaneously, to avoid toxicosis and iodine imbalance. She also recommends that regular blood testing (twice very year) to maintain a clear visual picture on the horse’s iodine status is a good idea.

Nicky Kerr, 17, Kerikeri High School
Figs have become an expanding industry in New Zealand and are the current export fruit which could potentially provide a large amount of profit to both growers and the New Zealand market. Unfortunately at present figs only have a shelf life of about 7 days. Nicky undertook an investigation on whether certain post-harvest treatments affected their dry matter content, firmness and appearance with the hope that these treatments could be used to increase shelf life.

Jason Leaming, 14, Kerikeri High School
Health studies tell us that we have reason to be concerned with cockroach infestations as they can carry microbes on the surface of their body from one area to another. This is particularly worrying since cockroaches find their way into septic tanks and rubbish bins and have a habit of regurgitating food and defecating while feeding!

Jason researched six different essential oils including Bay Laurel, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Cedarwood, Catnip and Cinnamon Leaf to see if these oils had an effect on cockroaches and measured the distance the cockroach travelled away from the oil. He concluded that Tea Tree Oil was the most effective.

Shreya Handa, 18, Mt Roskill Grammar School
Shreya is the founding member of melanoma awareness group at Mt Roskill Grammar School and so she was really interested in researching whether there was an increase of growth of melanoma skin cancer cells when methyl-paraben and butyl-paraben were added to the cells separately. Parabens are found in a range of cosmetic products including underarm deodorants, shampoos and creams. Shreya examined the effects of methylparaben, butylparaben and oestrogen on cultures of melanoma cancer cell cells. In most experiments she was able to show that high concentrations of butylparaben killed melanoma cells and sometimes an inhibitory effect was observed at lower concentrations. However, these effects were inconsistent between experiments, and the concentrations that killed the cells were rather higher than those found in actual cosmetics. No effects of methylparaben or oestrogen were observed. So Shreya’s results so far support the idea that the concentrations of parabens found in cosmetics are safe. In the future to take the research further she would look at the effect of the other parabens (butyl-paraben and propyl-paraben) separately, and also the effect of all four parabens in combinations with each other which is how they are found in actual cosmetics.
Alvina Pau’uvale, 18, Tamaki College
New Zealand’s majestic kauri trees are threatened by a cousin of the dieback diseases that are affecting forests around the world. Phytopherea Taxon Agathis (PTA) is a pathogen that is specific to kauri, killing trees of all ages. Alvina’s project examined the spread of this disease and some similar species of Phytophera and Pythium on footwear of people walking in kauri forests. Alvina sampled soil from grate stations, the boots of hikers, and under a diseased tree. Using traditional taxonomic methods and molecular biology techniques she identified five different Phytopthera species and two Pythium species. She demonstrated that human walking can spread Phytophera species in wet-soil conditions. TriGene, a chemical commonly used to disinfect footwear was effective at killing the pathogens in laboratory tests, but in the field viable Phytophera inoculum was recovered from grate stations that used the same chemical – suggesting that spraying boots with TriGene is not killing all of the inoculum present. Alvina discusses management strategies to further protect kauri from PTA.

Nuan-Ting Huang, 17 Diocesan School for Girls’, Auckland
Nina has developed a fascination for neuro-biology, particularly the autonomic nervous system. Nina designed and carried out her project on whether different types of tasks affected the eye’s pupil size. Her results showed that tasks that required more thinking (‘cognitive’ type tasks, like solving maths problems) resulted in pupil size decreasing. Easier tasks like reading a simple sentence (‘non-cognitive’) resulted in larger pupil size. Nina used robust methods to measure eyes, including a computer and calipers, and statistical methods to test her hypothesis.

Conor King, 16, Mt Roskill College, Auckland
Conor has developed ‘Hourglass 2011’ which is a customised clock based on the crystal resonator in an AVR processor chip. Conor has built this clock from the ground up, integrating features that he has found useful in other clock and timer models into one package and concentrating on keeping the user interface as simple and intuitive as possible, with all the hard work being done by the software.

Dan Collins, 17, Aquinas College, Tauranga
Daniel set out to develop an unmanned flying platform that could be controlled using an Android application (or similar). The key feature of the flying platform was to be a quadrotor, and as the name implies, the aircraft is lifted and propelled by four rotors. The pitch of each of the four blades is fixed, i.e. they do not tilt when the blades rotate. Instead, the forward and sideways motion (thrust and torque) of the aircraft are controlled by varying the relative speed of each rotor.

In January 2011, Dan identified a gap and thought it should be possible to develop an unmanned aircraft, which was electronically controlled fully stabilized.. The idea was both novel and ambitious since, at that time, there were no commercial quad rotors of any scale, or for any commercial purpose. Therefore the main purpose of Dan’s project was to develop a small aircraft with excellent manoeuvrability achieved via four rotors, and control its movement and stabilisation from a Bluetooth wireless electronic sensor. Dan was also intently interested in the learning more around flight mechanics and developing embedded operating systems.

Hayley Haskell, 14, St Peter’s School, Cambridge
Hayley has a passion for physics and decided to make a wave tank and a ‘wavemaker’ (paddle and spring) to test water waves. She studied how the height of the water waves was affected by the amount of energy that was used to generate the wave. She also studied how the height of the waves was affected by the depth of the water. This was a lot of work and carried out over a period of seven months.

Heidi Haringa, 17, Gisborne Girls’ High School
Hormosira banksii (Neptune’s Necklace), a seaweed is found in many coastal locations along rocky shores in the Gisborne region. Having observed changes in shape and distribution of the plant across the rock flat, Heidi recognised these changes must be due to tidal cycles. She set out to investigate whether time of exposure to air and direct sunlight due to tidal cycles affects the growth, distribution and morphology of the seaweed hormosira banksii. She examined growth by measuring the length and number of beads and examined distribution by number of plants per quadrant and wet mass of samples. She concluded that tidal cycles affect the growth of Neptune’s Necklace as the length and number of beads of fronds are the longest within two hours of exposure following low tide.

Mitchell Lowe, 13, Napier Boys’ High School
Mitchell set out to build base isolation units on a test structure to see which selected isolation would produce the least lateral deflection during shake table testing. He had to fabricate his own test rig; being an automated shake table, a workable test building and three sets of base isolators. Reflecting back on his log from early 2010 when his knowledge was reasonably limited at that stage, he is satisfied with the way this project turned out because he kept his early ideas and stuck with them with only minimal changes, though this was challenging at times! As revealed during testing, his hypothesis was found to be correct as the Slider base isolator negated most of the effects of a 0.4g peak ground acceleration simulated earthquake on the shake table. The amplitude of vibration (deflection) of the structure equipped with the slider far outweighed that of the non-base isolated. Two other styles of base isolators had been developed but discounted from final testing due to previous poor results relating to design faults.

In all, Mitchell was pleased with the testing procedure, data and results. It took several attempts and preliminary tests to build an effective base isolator and has had to carry out extensive background research over a long period to understand this.

Charlotte Robertson, 17, Palmerston North Girls’ High School
Water quality is a huge issue globally. Many waterways in New Zealand are affected by excessive nutrient levels due to leaching or discharge from nearby land. Nitrogen is a major nutrient pollutant. Charlotte designed this project to determine whether using watercress to absorb excess nutrients could provide a solution to reducing the impact of nutrient pollution in waterways. The aim of Charlotte’s project was to determine the effectiveness of watercress as a means to reduce nitrogen pollution in waterways by quantifying the mass balance and determining how much nitrate the plants can take up from hydroponic solution over a 10-week period.

Cheyaanthan Haran, 17, Wellington College
Cheyaanthan wanted to investigate diabetes and investigate a potential source that could prevent it from occurring, or that can effectively manage it. One idea among the village people of the Tamil culture is that Ponni Rice reduces diabetes – this quiet theory has been lingering around for centuries.
Therefore, Cheyaanthan wanted to put this to the test and decided to investigate the effect of Ponni rice consumption on the Average Blood Glucose level in a human body.
Adrina Venayagam, 13, Tawa College, Wellington
Adrina is very interested in how smoking affects lung function of the human body and why people continue to smoke despite the numerous anti-smoking messages. She became particularly interested in how the lungs are affected after she saw an advertisement on television which encouraged people to stop smoking. Subsequently she wanted to know what would be the damage to one’s lungs if one kept smoking. Her hypothesis was that smokers are likely to have a smaller lung capacity compared to non-smokers because of the tar and chemicals found in tobacco.


Heather Neill, 14, Lincoln High School
Possums are well known to destroy native flora and fauna as well as being a vector to spread Bovine Tuberculosis. Detection and subsequent control programmes are the current standard method for controlling possums in New Zealand. Baited chew cards are used to detect possums but they may also attract non target species such as weka. Heather’s project was a feasibility study to determine if weka could access poison if it were placed into a Coreflute check card to act as both a detection and possum control device.
Heather gained access to a large chew card survey from the Karamea region. She analysed 977 cards detecting bite patterns from possums but also those from rodents, waxeyes and small number of weka. Having confirmed weka do interact with chew cards Heather designed tests using captive weka to determine the mechanisms of those interactions and the extent of potential poison ingestion. Based on those results a design for an optimally hung, poison laced card, baited for possum control yet safe for non target species was developed. The potential savings in terms of financial and environmental costs resulting from this research may be quite significant.

Logan Glasson, 15, Burnside High School
The Department of Conservation (DOC) spends approximately $5 million on pest trapping in New Zealand every year. DOC is only one player in the pest trapping industry. Landcare Research, farmers and private conservation estate owners also have a vested interest in this area. There are traps that are designed to catch possums, stoats, ferrets and rats. Effective and efficient trapping is vital to the preservation of New Zealand’s native bird life. This and personal experience is the motivation for Logan’s work.

Logan’s Mesh Monitoring Pest Trap Management system addresses many of these issues. He has developed a wireless system that fits into existing traps and communicates its “status” in a mesh-like way (the paths used to communicate can adapt based on the geometry of the traps layout in the field). The project has involved hardware and software development. The hardware has been thoroughly researched and uses some suitably powered transceivers controlled by an ATtiny2313 microcontroller. The potential for time saving here is enormous.


Anne-Sophie Page, 14, St Hilda’s Collegiate School
Sophie has a fascination for Mud Whelks and has been studying them for three years now. Mud Welks (Cominella glandiformis) are common on the intertidal mudflats of Otago Harbour where Sophie walks her dog. Some days she sees large numbers of whelks gathered on dead animals on the mudflat, while other days there are none to be seen. Mud Whelks are scavengers which scrape rotting flesh with their radula (a long zipper-like tongue). This year Anne-Sophie investigated the movement of whelks, to see whether they were always on the move or if they had a home territory.

Meran Campbell-Hood, 13, Logan Park High School
Meran investigated differences in the chemical composition of soil through the statistical analysis of plant photos. This has been an investigation that she has carried out over a period of three years. In 2011 she explored whether her technique of colour comparison would work with plants grown in soil, as the soil might act as a masking agent. If growing plants in soil prevented detecting differences, testing the technique in the field would be pointless. She chose mustard in seed trays filled with potting mix, one set receive filtered water, one got filtered water plus copper sulphate, and one iron sulphate. The only differences in the growing conditions of the trays were additives. After the initial growth period Meran began regularly photographing each seed tray, and analysed the photos. She used an image editing program to remove the parts of the photo that were not plants and conducted a Principle Components Analysis to look at how the colour relationships between the sample groups varied over time.

Meran found that there were statistically significant differences between the samples. These differences were present in every day that she compared. Though the actual colour differences were small, the large sample sizes meant the small differences were significant. Having established that soil does not act as a masking agent, she intends to see if the technique holds for different kinds of plants, and conduct field trials of the technique.


Jackson Hercus, 17, James Hargest College
The Dropski was a project that began out of necessity. Jack’s family and friends all enjoy a typical kiwi day on the lake boating and water skiing, but they all have one problem in common. When a water skier is progressing from skiing on two skis to skiing on one ski, they drop a ski, leaving it floating in the water. This floating ski is barely visible, difficult to find and a potential hazard to other boaties. After hours of searching for water skis that have been left floating in the water, Jack decided that it was time to do something to solve the issue. After researching registered patents and products available online, he found that there was nothing available to buy that was effective at solving the problem and user friendly.

After some initial concepts, Jack decided on a simple yet effective design to further develop the water ski fin as a flag. His first prototype was kept simple to test the theory of his design and also the construction methods and materials that he had chosen. After evaluating this prototype, Jack made some refinements to it and produced a design for his next prototype. This prototype included a water ski that could be skied on to test his mechanism; it was also improved by using lighter materials. The testing of this prototype showed some good results; the ski performed well and the design worked when the ski flipped over. Jack is currently in the process of improving the design even further.

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