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Youth Science Wizardry on display


Realise the Dream: Young people's problem-solving potential improves their World

Thirty-five of the best and brightest student minds will arrive in Wellington on Monday to demonstrate their ideas, research and proposed solutions to problems in the world around them. From using used nappies, through to trying to prevent date rape, these young people have found ways of making the world a better place.

Genesis Energy's Realise the Dream, organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand, will showcase the bright ideas and research talent of students aged between 12 and 17. It will be held from December 8-12 in Wellington.

In order to qualify for Genesis Energy's Realise the Dream students have competed in a variety of competitions. This national sciences and technology expo now has a new focus including students from history and geography and those who have applied the No 8 wire spirit to problem-solving.

The projects they have come up with are wide and diverse, and will be presented on Tuesday 9 December from 11.00 am to 2.00pm at the Hunter Building, Lecture Theatre 323, Victoria University of Wellington. Each student will give a three-minute talk on his or her project. During the week they will also participate in workshops. Award presentation will take place at a formal dinner with the Hon Marian Hobbs and CEO's from many organisations attending. From 15-21 December the public will be able to see the award winners at a free display at the Wellington Central Library.

As in previous years the students are eligible for a wide variety of prizes, including a study scholarship from the principal sponsor, Genesis Energy. New this year is a three-year degree scholarship from Dexcel. The other awards will be either cash scholarships for tertiary study, cash grants and assistance in commercialising the results of their work, or travel to international events.

A list of the award winners will be available to media from Debbie Woodhall on Wednesday morning, however as the students will not be told until Thursday evening these results are EMBARGOED until Friday morning. Although the projects cover wide and diverse issues this year the theme of preserving their environment has been prevalent in many of the young people's minds.

If your media organisation would be interested in interviewing some of the young people on their views on the problems with the environment, and how they can be solved, we can arrange to have them available for you.

You might be interested in either interviewing them as a group/forum/panel discussion, or as individuals. A full list of their projects, prizes, and sponsors is at our web address:

Attached is a rundown of projects with the common theme of enhancing and protecting the environment.

Other topics in different areas this year also included:

· Experiences of Islamic Women - interviews and a literature review. · Which hula hoop hula's best? · What should time capsule contents tell us? · How effective are facemasks at keeping bugs at bay? · Should Transmission Gully go ahead? · Should a new cellphone tower be permitted? · Stopping your scissors and stapler from being stolen off your desk. · Keeping robots on a straight line. · The effect of colour on catching a ball. · Creating a pet robot. · Stopping smelly feet. · Whether the Springbok tour would have the same effect today.

Details on these projects and others can be found at:


Hugh McKenzie, 12, Whangarei Intermediate School, Whangarei

DOC's dirty trucks provided an ideal sampling ground for Hugh, who wanted to investigate if four wheel drives were spreading weeds around native reserves. He identified 506 plants that were transported by the vehicles of which Kikuyu, veld grass, wallflowers and white clover were a major concern. He's since recommended DOC wash their vehicles!

Zoe Brooks, 13, Hibiscus Coast Intermediate School, Auckland

Zoe refused to take a developer's word at face value when he said that one 37-storey tower cast less shadow than three 10 storey towers. Surely, if they were both the same size wouldn't they cast the same area of shadow? Using simple models, her initial results appeared to show that both options would generate the same amount of shadow. But taking into account the annual movement of the sun, she was surprised to find that one tall tower would cast an even greater shadow - proving the developer wrong.

Bronwyn Heath, 18, Manurewa High School, Auckland

Intrigued by weta and worried about their possible vulnerability to extinction, Bronwyn kept 10 weta in captivity in order to find out more about their social interaction, food requirements and mating habits. Steven McCabe, 16, Morrinsville College, East Waikato In his quest to design a remote operating underwater vehicle for search and survey of the marine environment, Steven had to create five different systems that worked in harmony. His attempts lead him to design propulsion, manoeuvring, diving, imaging and control systems. Tests in a local pool helped him waterproof his design and he plans to test it at greater depths with the hope that it will be commercially viable.

Lina Shroeter, 15, Awatapu College, Palmerston North

After hearing reports of arsenic in the Waikato River, Lina wanted to find a way to warn people if levels got too high. Choosing three aquatic plants, she tested their arsenic-absorbing capabilities and concluded that the one with the highest arsenic-absorbing capability would be a good bio-indicator and arsenic decontaminant to make drinking water safe. Michael Hoy, 12 Otumoetai Intermediate School, Hawkes Bay

Water quality also interested Michael Hoy who wanted to find out how prolific water weed is. After carefully collecting samples, and trying not to fall into the river, Michael grew the water weed at home, varying experimental conditions to assess the effect on growth. He's now discovered which is the toughest and fastest growing weed of all, and which is most likely to have a negative effect on the environment.

Hana Christenson, 14, Wellington Girls' College, Wellington

Hana was concerned about the effect painting her parent's boat with anti-fouling paint would have on the environment, when she learned that the highly-toxic metals, copper and tin, were used in anti-fouling paint. Taking soil and sediment samples from Wellington Harbour, Hana investigated the effect that amount of metal being leached into the harbour appeared to be having.

Oliver Whalley, 17, Nelson College, Nelson Watching forklifts at work made Oliver realise how heavy transport can damage fragile environments. Inspired by the inching movement of the earthworm, Oliver has designed a prototype, which he believes could effectively carry heavy loads but with minimal impact on the environment.

Hilary McConnell, 12, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch

Hilary wanted to avoid the ghastly experience of coming home to dead fish after school holidays. After two unsuccessful ideas, she designed an effective slow opening slide mechanism. Another success was persuading her sister to let her tear apart her clock to use for parts.

Natalie Crimp, 14, Linwood College, Christchurch

Most people want to get rid of used nappies as fast as possible, but Natalie had other plans. Calling on the services of the babies at the local day care centre, she worked out that once shredded, used nappies made good compost. She also investigated the safety of the compost, and the economics of setting up a citywide recycling scheme.

Peter Smallfield, 12, Balmacewan Intermediate School, Dunedin

Peter made the surprising discovery that amongst his acquaintances 70 percent of the boys used hair gel. A hairdresser also told him that the fat residue from hair gel was best removed by dish washing liquid. Keen for an alternative, he decided to exploit the versatility of the cabbage tree, which he investigated for another project last year. Knowing one of its chemical properties is to break down fats, he's concocted a special recipe that he reckons is just as good as anything in the shops.

Esme O'Neill 17, Nicola Williams 17, Coluba College, Dunedin

Esme and Nicola were worried at the prevalence of drink spiking that was being reported. Wanting to improve personal safety for young women, they evaluated several concepts and have settled on a simple cork design that is designed to deter the unscrupulous.

Euan Cox, 12, Rimu Primary School, Invercargill

Euan has studied the movement of Kokupu (whitebait) up streams and discovered that we are making it hard for them to get where they need to go, and unless we improve the culverts and streams we may see less whitebait.

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