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Young women in environment science fair awards

August 13, 2005


Young women scientists dominate environmental awards segment of Canterbury Westland Science Fair

Young women scientists and inventors took out five of the six awards made by Environment Canterbury to school students in this year’s Canterbury Westland Science and Technology Fair.

However one boy did provide a shining light. Daniel Innes, a 13-year-old student at Kirkwood Intermediate, won first equal in the junior section of the ECan awards for his inventive and practical back-up power generator. His prototype worked on battery-power and reused magnetic energy as it did so. Daniel’s idea became even more relevant during the snowstorms which hit Canterbury in June and subsequent power outages. Daniel has been working on a way to provide efficient, non-polluting, cheap heat or light for short periods of time, perhaps for people who do not want to make a costly investment in a large diesel-powered generator. Daniel estimates his system, which he built himself, could be mass-produced in a factory for $100-$150, with $48 batteries (three are needed) on top of that.

Daniel was first equal with Cathedral Grammar School pupil Philippa Trevella, aged 11, who has been testing stored tap water drinkability and safety from a health angle, over a five month period. The awards are not the end of the experiment for Philippa who is going to keep testing her samples of stored water to see how long it can last. Philippa’s experiment also ties in with power outages and the need to have water stored for use in a civil defence emergency. During the June power cuts, many people in rural areas of Canterbury had no tap water as they relied on electricity to pump water from their well.

The key finding of Philippa’s experiment is that you should not store water in old milk containers. “Once they’ve held milk, they are contaminated and coliforms will form on the residues eventually and also affect the water’s drinkability,” Philippa said. However, the water that was stored in clean, recycled juice bottles or plastic containers did not have this problem. After five months, the water stored in the old plastic juice containers was just as drinkable, with no measurable bacteria, as it was five months earlier.

Second equal in the junior section were Amy Clucas, 12, and Anna Pratt, 11, of Cobham Intermediate with their smog-reducing attachment for chimneys and Jade Jeffery, aged 12, also of Cobham Intermediate, for her experiments comparing dairy farm leachate to landfill leachate and how each could potentially affect groundwater.

Jade found that while both samples had high levels of undesirable leaching chemicals, the heavy metals leaching from the landfill sample were much higher than the dairy farm sample.

Amy and Anna’s chimney attachment recycled smoky pollution particles through water significantly reducing what was released to air. The girls acknowledged that the black liquid they were left with posed problems of its own. “It’s quite poisonous and can’t be released into the sewage or stormwater system,” Anna said. They would look at evaporating off the water and looking at alternative uses for the solid pollution particles as a possible follow-up.

No senior top prize was awarded by ECan judges this year but two students, both from Oxford Area School, shared an equal runner-up award. Kimberley Whitwell, aged 14, collected discarded food packaging from a Darfield pre-school over 20 days and found that 73 percent was completely unrecyclable (yoghurt containers, cellophane chip packets, cheese dippers). Her conclusion is that where possible, parents could look at buying more in bulk eg the large package of raisins, the bigger block of cheese - and dividing these into smaller, paper-wrapped portions at home, rather than letting the manufacturer do it for them.

Chloe Sanders, 13, also of Oxford Area School, investigated alternative uses for plastic milk bottles and found that they made an effective chilly-bin material when squashed up and flattened. Compared to the existing polystyrene chilly-bin, they kept products at the right temperature just as effectively.

Sir Kerry Burke, ECan chairman, presents the Environment Canterbury awards to these students tonight, August 13, in the Limes Room, Christchurch Town Hall, 7.30 pm. There is a photo opportunity for media at 6.30 pm in the Convention Centre, the exhibit site.

The public can have a look at all the exhibits from 9am to 4.30 pm, ground floor Convention Centre, Monday, August 14, for a gold coin donation.


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