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Youth Science & Technology Fair

Youth Science & Technology Fair Offers Space Prize To High-Flyer

Two high-flying students in New Zealand could soon soar above all others - as the winners of the Genesis Energy National Science and Technology Fair. The two top awards offer the chance to go to Space Camp in Alabama, US, or the champions can choose to go to London, where the International Youth Science Forum takes place in August 2003. While the winners won't get aboard the next space shuttle, the experience will be an opportunity to rocket ahead with scientific discovery, and experience Zero g!

Next week the exhibitors aged 12 to 18 years will get to size up the competition as they display their project at the Bruce Mason Centre, in Takapuna, Auckland where the 26th National Fair is to be held from 10th-13th of December 2002, with public open days on 12-13 December.

The National Fair, which is co-ordinated by the Royal Society of New Zealand, aims to show young people that science and technology is happening all around us. While the exhibitors wouldn't say it was child's play, the Fair shows that Science & Technology is not something you need a PhD to understand, as many of the exhibits will demonstrate. Projects include ideas such as sound-proofing a hairdryer, warming up a French horn in record time and getting students to use computers to order their lunches at school.

To get this far, the 28 regional winners have already competed successfully at their local school and regional fair to gain entry to the National Fair. They are competing not only for the top award but also others that include the opportunity to travel to the Taipei Science Fair, the San Diego Engineering Fair, as well as other cash prizes totalling $10,000.

A judging panel of 12, led by chief judge Glenys Ross of Kerikeri High School will assess the entries, looking at originality, method and the collection and interpretation of data. Along with this year's prizes, a Gold CREST Award* will presented to Graeme Fielder from Manurewa High School for his research into the cancer-fighting properties of substances found in NZ marine fungi from the Mangere Estuary.

Royal Society Fair Manager, Deborah Woodhall, said that the fair is bigger this year with a larger international contingent attending from Namibia, Brunei and Taipei-China. These contestants are judged separately from the NZ entrants, but have each won their own national competition in order to visit New Zealand and participate.

While in Auckland, participants will have the chance to visit the bird sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi Island, off the Whangaparoa peninsula, and go to the Sky Tower, and Kelly Tarlton's and some research organisations.

Winners will be announced on Friday 13th December at 6.30pm. The guest speaker at the award ceremony will be the Hon Pete Hodgson.

Information on the CREST awards is at:


Region: Far North

Name: Michael Verhulst School: Kerikeri High School Age: 16 Title: Eco Engine Parts

Eco Engine engineering - faster, better, cheaper

With a strong interest in motor-cross and mechanics, Michael Verhulst from Kerikeri High School, really wanted an engine that went faster. Searching for ways to do this, he produced an afterburner that burns up to 60% of the exhaust gases, which cuts down engine pollution. Secondly, he made the engine more efficient by creating a device to heat the fuel. Lastly, he produced an oil cooler that stops the oil overheating, and losing its effectiveness. Together, these modifications made an engine that was more economical and was better for the environment.

Region: Central Northland Name: Tina Alderton School: Kamo High School Age: 17 Title: Girdle Those Brown Fuzzies

Girdling canes to grow bigger kiwifruit

Tina Alderton set out to explore the idea that removing a thin layer of bark from kiwifruit canes can trap nutrients in the shoots for greater fruit growth. This girdling of the bark has to be done carefully because there is a danger of cutting off the supply water and nutrients completely. Tina results were positive: she found that fruit on girdled canes were on average 21.5g heavier. She believes the process should be trialled commercially.

Region: Auckland City

Name: Fiora Au School: Auckland Diocesan School Age: 18 (home) Title: Allelopathy Rhododendrons

Personal Space - the effect of rhododendrons on other plants

Fiora Au, an Auckland Diocesan School student, noticed that rhododendrons have few grasses and weeds growing beneath them. Reading up on this phenomena, she found that it was called allelopathy - inhibiting the growth of other plants. Fiora compared the allelopathic properties of rhododendrons to four other plants on the growth of rye grass and clover. Having found that rhododendrons did inhibit the growth, she looked at how the age and condition of the rhododendron leaves changed the allelopathic effect.

Name: Haydn Luckman School: Auckland Grammar School Age: 17

Energy from Effluent

In Haydn Luckman's household, like many others, teenagers have a tendency to hog the hot water. Haydn, from Auckland Grammar School, found an innovative solution in recycling the heat from the warm wastewater of the shower. His system pre-heats the incoming cold water, reducing the heat needed from the hot water cylinder.

Haydn's project encompassed the full spectrum of development from market research, design, development of a prototype, testing, analyzing of results through to commercial appraisal and investigation for patenting. As well as entering the National Science Fair, he is working towards a Gold Crest award.

Region: North Harbour

Name: Katherine Mitchell School: Carmel College Age: 15

Name: Jessica May Age: 15 Title: Dying for a cup of tea

The Romans had lead pipes, our grandparents had lead house paints, and some of us, found Katherine Mitchell and Jessica May, may still have lead in our tea cups. The Carmel College students compared the levels of lead in cups of different ages. They placed teacups of different ages in vinegar for 24 hours and tested the resulting solution for the presence of lead. Cups older than 1980, they found, all contained small amounts of lead.

Region: Waitakere

Name: Benjamin Wood School: Kelston Boys' High School Age: 13

Name: Shaun Saric-Terrill School: Kelston Boy's High School Age: 14 Title: Pond Poo or Pond Clear?

The Manawa wetlands are a series of three ponds, which were constructed in 1998. They were designed to improve the water quality of the Rewarewa stream before it joins the Manawa stream, which flows into the Whau River then the Waitemata Harbour.

Shaun and Ben carried out tests to determine the effectiveness of the ponds and found that although their results show that the wetlands are helping to remove the heavy metals zinc, cadmium, copper and lead from the stormewater input, E. coli bacteria are increasing, especially in the middle of the wetland, and the number and diversity of macro invertebrate species is also low. On average the dissolved oxygen and water clarity decreases as the water goes through the ponds. Higher water temperatures and phosphate levels were recorded in the wetlands compared to the original inflow. This may be due to the wetlands trapping sediments and organic materials as well as being heated up by the sun. Based on their findings Shaun and Ben recommend that more trees and wetland plants are needed in the area.

Region: Manukau

Name: Brooke Loader School: Manurewa High School Age: 15 Title: Happy Horns

Brooke Loader found herself spending excessive amounts of time blowing in her French Horn to warm it up to the ideal pitch. So the Manurewa High School student investigated why warming the horn was necessary, and found that different atmospheric conditions made her French horn go sharp or flat when it was cold. She then tried a combination of different microwave-warmed wheat bag on different areas of the horn, and found that placing a wheat bag inside the bell of the horn produced the ideal pitch change in almost half the usual time.

Region: Waikato

Name: Michael Walmsley School: Church College of NZ Age: 17 Title: Better swing bowling

Keen cricketer Michael Walmsley decided to investigate the ideal conditions for swing and reverse swing bowling of plastic-coated day glow balls. His team was frustrated by their inability to control such balls at last year's Hamilton Twilight Cricket Competition.

Michael, a Church College of NZ student, set up an apparatus for testing the high velocity bowling. He then used this to test five variables: the speed of the ball, the angle of the seam, the size of the seam, the roughness of the ball and the type of ball. Now he believes he can predict, depending on the conditions, where to aim the ball to hit the middle stump. Achieving true aim is a different matter!

Region: East Waikato

Name: Natalie Miedema School: Morrinsville College Age: 16

Name: Vonny Tarrant School: Morrinsville College Age: 16 Title: Warm, Cosy & Toxic

Morrinsville College students Natalie Miedema and Vonny Tarrant were concerned that the use of portable gas heaters in homes could cause carbon monoxide (CO) to rise to unacceptable levels, after reading reports of various deaths due to CO poisoning. In particular, Natalie, whose grandparents use a portable gas heater for warmth, wanted to know the effects on their health.

Their investigation found that in an average-sized living room carbon monoxide levels became dangerously high after only an hour of use and that oxygen levels also decreased dramatically over that time. As a result of their investigation, they recommend that these heaters should not be used for more than an hour, and never in a bedroom.

Region: Bay of Plenty Name: Hana Christenson School: Taupo Nui-A-Tia College Age: 13 (home) Title: Nitrate Budgeting Around Lake Taupo

How wetlands help water quality - a Lake Taupo case study

Seeing lots of algae in the area that she swims in summer got Hana interested in the impact land use practices are having on natural resources. Living on a farm, she was interested to know if the amount of fertlizer on the farm was moving into the local waterways, or being absorbed by the wetland area. Sampling both her farm, and the neighbours farm over a three month period and comparing them with a control area, Hana found that nitrates were entering the water from the soil, which was a waste to the farmer, but that wetland areas reduced the amount of nitrate that reached the water table.

Region: Gisborne/East Coast Name: Stephen Florance School: Campion College Age: 18 Title: 'Laser'

High-powered hobby - a steel-cutting laser

In a project that started as a hobby, Stephen began designing a high-powered laser that would cut through steel. Over many months, he's faced many problems to get this far - mixing gas, leaking gas, and problems with trying to find the right sort of mirror and then trying to get it aligned correctly. Now, he believes he's close to a final working product that is made from his own electronic stockpile and recycled parts, and so far cost him about $300. One of Stephen's personal goals has been to succeed in spite of opposition - while he received a lot of support, he also had to persevere when he met others who disagreed with his proposal.

Region: Hawkes Bay

Name: Michael Calcinai School: Taradale High School Age: 14 Title: Circle of Lights

On a trip to Los Angeles Michael Calcinai noticed the number of LED's used in electronic signs. He wondered if there was a way to reduce the number needed without changing the effectiveness of the signs. The Taradale High School student tried using five LED's on a rotating rod, but found this was a failure. Still, it had provided him with valuable experience. He took another trip - this time to the $2 shop, where he found a device that helped him overcome one of the principal problems of his first design, but after more work he developed a working model, which he now says works "perfectly".

Region: Wanganui

Name: Ian McIntosh-Oakley School: St George's School Age: 12 Title: Got your lunch?

Ian McIntosh-Oakley had a problem. When lunch arrived in the classrooms at his school, from a central kitchen, they were often missing anticipated items - such as rolls or drinks. So, he and others had to head down to the kitchen and hunt out replacements. Ian reasoned that if the computer was used to place order, it might improve efficiency. Finding a suitable computer program was the first hurdle - and eventually one called ShopFactory v3.3 turned out to be the most effective. However, the problem was its software did not allow for forms to be changed. However, after contacting the program maker he found there was away to overcome this. Ian now hopes that others can benefit from the program.

Region: Taranaki

Name: Jithan Varma School: New Plymouth Boys' High School Age: 12 Title: The Smart Mouse

Surprised at the cost of commercial dataloggers, Jithan Varma set about creating his own cheaper version. Dataloggers are used to collect data from the environment and record it for further analysis - such as temperature and humidity in weather stations. Using Qbasic for programming, the Jithan created a "Smart Mouse" which uses a photogate circuit to send a signal to a computer when a beam of light is blocked. Jithan says his device can measure frequency of movement - for example the swing of a pendulum. As the mass of the pendulum swings to block the light from the light deterctor, a time interval can be recorded. It can also measure velocity and acceleration.

And, Jithan says it's less than the $1500 pricetag for a commercial unit !

Region: Manawatu

Name: Sarah Palmer School: Carncot School Age: 11 Title: Lime 'n Time

11-year-old Sarah Palmer wanted to see how applying powdered limestone affected soil, vegetation and worms. So the Carncot School student set up five pairs of test plots on an ancient peat swamp and adjacent sand dune. After liming one of each pair, the sites were sampled three and six weeks later for changes in pH and number of worms.

Sarah concluded that lime is beneficial for the soil but that it takes about 3 weeks to move through the soil. She recommends that you dig lime in for maximum effect, but remember not to use too much if you want lots of worms!

Region: Wairarapa

Name: Api Dawson School: Wairarapa College Age: 15 Title: Theory of Mind

Watching a television which examined the ability that children have to lie, Api - who has a fascination with psychology - determined he wanted to test this for himself. The program outlined how, by telling a short story, children could be asked a question that uncovered their thoughts on deception. Exploiting the fact that his Aunt worked at a childcare centre, Api sought permission to question the children there to test the theory explained on the programme, called the "Theory of Mind". He told the children the story of some missing money and asked them where they thought the owner would look for it - where it was taken from, or where it had been hidden. Depending on which answer they gave helped Api determine whether they had developed "Theory of Mind" and based on his investigation he concluded that children develop "Theory of Mind" at about three years of age.

Region: Wellington

Name: Elizabeth Carr School: Queen Margaret College Age: 17 Title: The Physics of the Trebuchet

A 400 year old weapon caught Elizabeth Carr's interest as she wondered how accurately trebuchet's - which batter castles to pieces by hurling stones at them - could hit their targets. Lacking a castle that needed battering down, Elizabeth built a miniature trebuchet about two metres tall that could throw a two kilogram stone over 40 metres. Elizabeth discovered that it was difficult to predict the distance, and worked out it was due to friction and the changing angle of release. She then determined that friction caused the loss of 20 percent of the catapult's energy and found this improved her ability to accurately predict the distance of the stone. She then examined calculations involving the angle of release, and hypothesised that if she was able to accurately observe the angle of release, it would also be possible to accurately predict how far the stone would go.

Region: Nelson Name: Matt Appelman School: Waimea College Age: 17 Title: Fuel Economy

Matt decided to investigate the relationship between the most efficient speed for each gear and fuel consumption. He had many variables to control: friction, temperature, wind speed, tyre pressure, acceleration, speed, distance, road gradient and weight. He found that each gear's most efficient speed is directly proportional to the fuel consumption rate. Unfortunately the optimal engine speed in gear relates to very low speeds - good for built up areas but useless for the open road, unless you've got all day!

Region: Marlborough Name: Kali Stratford School: Marlborough Girls' College Age: 15 Title: The NET Result

Keen table tennis player Kali Stratford noticed that the increasing speed of the game has made rallies very short. Last year Kali's award-winning project looked at slowing the game down by increasing the ball size by 2mm. This year the Marlborough Girls' College student investigated the effect net height has on the speed of the ball, spin and rally length. She found that increasing the height of the net by up to 10cm decreased speed and spin and as a result rally length was increased. However, going above 10cm, decreased the rally length.

Region: Canterbury/Westland Name: Natalie Crimp School: Linwood College Age: 13 (home) Title: Heathcote: Eco-desert or Healthy River

Natalie Crimp's home in Christchurch, the Heathcote River becomes very muddy after heavy rain. This turbidity, Natalie was told, was an important environmental issue, so she decided to research it further. By sampling the river along its length before and after rainfall she found that turbidity increased to unacceptable levels after rain. Then after testing upstream and downstream of sites with logging, farming or soil exposure she found that, for example, exposed soil on logging sites increased the turbidity a hundred times. Natalies's investigation proved to her conclusively that turbidity increase is caused by activities such as logging, crop farming and subdivision development, which all increase the exposure of the soil to the elements.

Region: Central South Island

Name: Alain Richardt School: Timaru Boys' High School Age: 17

Name: Mark Stewart Title: Factually Free Energy?

Free energy has long been the dream of many - Timaru Boys' High School students Mark Stewart and Alain Richardt wanted to know if they could achieve it. They knew the theory that free energy must come from a reaction that continues indefinitely - switching from one state to another and returning. They attempted to create this using an electromagnetic reaction and Mercury. They found they could create a current, but their experiment would not continue indefinitely, as it eventually uses up all its reactants. However, the two boys don't see their experiment as a failure - but as a step forward to finding the answer to the question that fascinates them.

Region: Otago Name: Thilinie De Silva School: Otago Girls High School Age: 17 Title: Powering on with Methanol Fuel Cells

Hydrogen fuel cells are heralded as the future of clean efficient energy distribution. They convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy without producing much pollution, but are very explosive. So Otago Girls High School student Thilinie De Silva looked at an alternative fuel source: methanol. The fuel cell Thilinie created used 40% methanol in an aqueous solution with air as an oxidant. It worked very well and she hopes that her study will contribute to the production of cheap, easy to manufacture and pollution-free cells.

Region: Southland Name: Jessie Lineham School: St John's Girls' School Age: 12 Title: Hair Hear

When Jessie Lineham was given a hairdryer for her birthday, it was so noisy it made her ears ring after she had used it. So she decided to design a silencer for it: using puffed cereals!

Talking to a scientist in the United States, she discovered that some acoustic research had been carried out suing puffed cereals. So she set out to give it a go and produced a prototype silencer using popcorn. She established that it was effective, then had the device professionally made so that it would clip securely onto the back of the hairdryer but is removable so the popcorn can be replaced. Such a simple idea, Jessie feels, could have wide-ranging applications, especially as 12 of the 19 hair dryers she tested in a shop exceeded a safe noise threshold.


The Genesis Energy Premier Award (Technology) A trip to the Alabama Space Camp or the London International Youth Science Forum. [Last year's winner: Jeremy Clark, Whakatane Intermediate, for "Rotate a Site" a device to help diabetics record their injection sites and rotate them.]

The Genesis Energy Premier Award (Science) A trip to the Alabama Space Camp or the London International Youth Science Forum [Last year's winner: Michael Walmsley, Chruch College, Waikato, for "Building and buying better cricket bats" - showing customers how to get the best size bat.]

IPENZ (Institute of Professional Engineers) Award - Trip to the Taipei Science Fair

Kiwanis/Executive Travel Award - Trip to the San Diego Engineering Fair

Genesis Energy Award for Excellence in Technology - $2,500 Genesis Energy Award for Excellence in Science - $2,500 NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) Award - $1,000 NZASE (NZ Association of Science Educators) Award - $1,000 Royal Society Technology Award - $1,000 Royal Society James Duncan Award - $1,000 Electricity Supply Industry Training Organisation Award - $1,000


Glenys Ross, Chief Judge, HOD Science, Kerikeri High School Ross Scobie, Northland Polytechnic Sally Birdsall from Auckland College of Education Murray Black, Lynfield College Sally Barclay - The Manurewa High School Dr Petter Hodder - Waikato Polytechnic Michael Campbell - Genesis Energy Dr Jeff Reid - Crop & Food Murray Carter - New Zealand Milk Products KeIth Beautrais - Wanganui Judi Adams - Wairarapa Kaye Wilson - Otago University Dawn Coburn - Dunedin College of Education

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