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Announcement by the Royal Society of New Zealand

Announcement by the Royal Society of New Zealand

Tuesday 27 April

"You may only speak to the Principals of the winning schools before 12noon"

Three School Teams Selected For Transit Of Venus Expedition

Three schools have been selected from 72 entries to go on the 2004 Transit of Venus Expedition to the UK, leaving New Zealand on 28 May. Dame Anne Salmond (University of Auckland) and co-judges from the principal sponsor, Freemasons New Zealand (Dr Alex Davidson and Mr Noel Ryan), and the British High Commission (High Commissioner Richard Fell and first secretary Paul Noon) chose the following teams from ten finalists put forward by a preliminary judging panel.

Their success came as a complete surprise this morning when announced at special school assemblies by the Principals. Contingents of judges, organisers, and sponsors, travelled to each of the schools to make the surprise announcements.

Nelson College, phone 03 548 3099 Michael Holmes, Patrick Downey, Michael Potton, Dave Fairley (teacher) Gary O'Shea (acting Headmaster) School assembly at 12 noon Announcement at school made by: Deputy British High Commissioner, Martin Bourke; Colonel John Masters and Mr Graham Catley, Freemasons New Zealand; Faith Atkins, Royal Society of New Zealand. Pakuranga College, Pigeon Mountain Road, Bucklands Beach, Auckland, phone 09 534 7159 Sandy Tsai, Sarini Naidoo, Riddhi Gupta, Gordon Lawrence (teacher) Bali Haque (Principal) School assembly at 10am Announcement at school made by: Dame Anne Salmond, chief judge; Noel Ryan, Freemasons New Zealand Tolaga Bay Area School, Resolution Street, Tolaga Bay, phone 06 862 6765 Hana Parata-Walker, Sara Pethybridge, Dexter Waru, Eileen Harrison (teacher) Nori Parata (Principal) School assembly at 11am Announcement at school made by: John Roil, Freemasons New Zealand, Paul Noon, British High Commission; Felicity Connell, British Council New Zealand; Mike Waiser and Matt Novack from the Royal Society of New Zealand

The other seven finalists were:

Burnside High School, Greers Road, Christchurch, phone 03 358 8383 Caitlyn Westbrooke, Hannah Smeele, Lucy Dalton, Lynda Keer-Keer (teacher) N.R. Noordijk (2nd Principal)

Macleans College, Howick, Auckland, phone 09 535 2620 Lara Markstein, Amy Castle, Natalie Frew, Lesley Shepherd (teacher) Byron Bentley (Principal)

Napier Boys' High School, Chambers Street, Napier, phone 06 833-5900 Daniel Wallis, Elliot Limm, Grant McBride, Hugh Forlong-Ford (teacher) Ross Brown (Headmaster)

Northcote College, Kauri Glen Road, Northcote, Auckland, phone 09 481 0141 Sophia Blair, Matthew Harnett, Martin Nagels, Graeme Ball (teacher, history) E.A. Benton (Principal)

St Cuthberts' College, Epsom, Auckland, phone 09 520 4159 Helen Broome, Verena Tan, Sophie Rennie, Faye Booker (teacher) Lynda Reid (Principal)

Tauranga Boys' College, 664 Cameron Road, Tauranga, phone 07 578 4029 Rawiri Jobe, Mark Sands, Cameron Magowan, Garry Carpenter (teacher) Graham Young (Principal)

Wellington Girls' College, Pipitea Street, Wellington, phone 04 472 5743 Jenny Choi, Isabella Doak, Josephine Hall, Raewyn Baldwin-Denton (teacher, ICT Manager)

Margaret McLeod (Principal) Each school team had to produce a 5 minute video and supporting material, which in most cases was a website. The choice of topics ranged from the history of the Transit of Venus to the impact of Cook's crew on the people of the Pacific. Chief judge, Dame Anne Salmond, whose recent book "The Trial of the Cannibal Dog" provided a good reference work for many of the teams, said that "the students gave us very competent, informative and, in some cases, highly entertaining, documentaries and dramatisations of European and Pacific voyaging, and the history of astronomy and the Transit of Venus. The three winning entries we have chosen had what you might call the "X factor".

"There were noteworthy aspects of all the finalists: the Burnside girls had a good creative concept (Venus Television) and made great use of local talent; the Macleans College entry was highly aesthetic and original; Northcote College showed a wonderful sense of humour; Tauranga College had a very good original score; St Cuthberts' College bravely tackled the difficult topic of dark matter (the only ones to do so); and Wellington Girls showed their authoritative grasp of the topic. You could see that many, many hours had gone into these projects, but that they had also had lots of fun as well."

The Royal Society staff also commended the entries by St John's College in Hamilton, and Hauraki Plains College in Ngatea. In a true spirit of scientific enquiry, the St John's team camped out all weekend simulating the hardships of long Pacific and European voyages. The Hauraki Plains team used the local history relating to Cook's first voyage as the basis for their very informative video.

Freemasons New Zealand, which has sponsored the competition, were so impressed by the finalists that they have decided to bring the other seven teams to Wellington for the big event at Te Papa on the night of the Transit, Tuesday 8 June. Radio New Zealand will be broadcasting a live three-hour programme from Te Papa, 6-9 pm. The students and their teachers will celebrate afterwards at Carter Observatory and sleep under the stars there. There will also be a chance for them to present their videos to the Royal Society.

There will be a big farewell party for the three winning teams at Auckland's Maritime Museum on Thursday 27 May. Here, they will receive their final instructions from the President of the Royal Society, echoing the events of 1768/9. Captain Cook was commissioned by the Royal Society of London to observe the Transit of Venus in Tahiti; taking advantage of the scientific mission, the Admiralty slipped Cook secret instructions to check out New Zealand and see if it formed part of the so-called Great Unknown Southern Continent, which many supposed to exist as a counterbalance to northern hemisphere landmasses.

The videos, websites, and much else besides may be seen on which has been developed in support of this education programme, by e-net Ltd and the University of Auckland with a grant from the government's Science and Technology Promotion Fund.

Further details about the Expedition's itineraries in the UK will be released soon. Unlike Cook's Expedition, the 2004 crew will have no difficulty reporting their findings back home. Vodafone and Apple are equipping them with the latest mobile phones, laptops and video cameras. And instead of taking years, British Airways, which has provided an extremely generous concession on airfares, will have them there and back in two weeks.

The British High Commission and British Council New Zealand are providing both financial and organisational support for the wider Transit of Venus programme. UNESCO is also backing the programme by sponsoring the Te Papa event, and radio and other links to the Pacific.

The Royal Society congratulates all the winners, finalists, and the many competition entrants who produced such good work. It is clear they had a lot of fun and learnt a great deal in the process. The teachers deserve credit for the extra work they took on leading these projects.


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