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Students compete for science research prizes

Tuesday 30 November 2004

Students compete for science research prizes

Thermal air curtains and a remote controlled lawnmower will compete against innovative fencing techniques and an investigation into the Maori King movement at this year’s premier science event for school students.

The Genesis Energy “Realise the Dream” competition, a five-day event involving school students from Year 7 to Year 13, gets started in Wellington next week and will culminate in an awards dinner at Te Papa on Thursday 9 December. The Minister for the Environment, Hon. Marian Hobbs, will attend the dinner as the guest of honour, and the prizes on offer include a one year scholarship to any university, sponsored by Dexcel; international travel; and cash scholarships.

The students, selected from various educational programmes for their demonstrated excellence in research and technological practice, will give three minute talks on their projects on Tuesday 7 December and have created A1 posters describing their work, which are available on show at Wellington Central Library, 11-16 December, and at Courtenay Central, 17-23 December. For more information on the projects of students in your area, see below.

During the week the students will participate in a programme of workshops, lectures, visits to scientific research establishments, and science-tourism localities in the Wellington region.

Other sponsors of this event include Dexcel, Victoria University of Wellington, the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Results will be available under embargo on Wednesday 8 December and more details on students from your area are given below. For more information contact Debbie Woodhall,, ph. 04 4705 762 or 025 229 6380, or Glenda Lewis,, ph. 04 470 5758 or 027 210 0997.


Holly Andrews, 14 Kerikeri High School Roundup Residue

Holly investigated whether residual amounts of Roundup on Kikuyu grass would affect the subsequent germination and growth of rye grass. Kikuyu is the dominant grass in coastal Northland, but it has low feed quality. Kikuyu grows during summer and autumn; during winter and spring ryegrass grows 2-3 times faster. Farmers spray kikuyu with Roundup Renew herbicide to kill it, then sow ryegrass a week later. The success rate of introducing ryegrass into kikuyu pasture is highly variable.

Sarah Trass, 14 Kamo High School BuoyZone

Sarah used to get annoyed abut the time and energy her Dad wasted in setting his cray-pot and having other people lifting it and reaping the benefits. She has designed a timing device inside a buoy that allows her Dad to set his Cray-pot at any depth and, after a programmed time, the buoy floats to the surface where it was originally placed. She constructed various models using various specifications and has come up with a model which performs well using a trigger system. This now means that when the buoy is triggered to float to the surface her Dad is there to collect the goodies!

Kieran Pullman, 12 Kamo Intermediate School Scunge Pitz Surf Buggy

Kieran loves to surf but it takes a long time for him to walk with his surfboard to the beach. There had to be a simple solution and he thought that attaching his surfboard to his bike was the answer. After checking local surf shops and the internet there appeared to be nothing available in New Zealand. Kieran has produced a safe, strong, lightweight and easy to use gadget that can be mounted on a standard bike carrier. The board is separately secured to a simple axle assembly by an ordinary bungy cord. Kieran has tested the surf buggy on gravel driveways and it handles like a dream. Other members of the New Zealand surf team are now using the unit.


Jordan Lloyd, 12 and Sam Love 13 Birkdale Intermediate School Shape the surf

Sam and Jordan are both keen surfers at Piha beach near Auckland. There is usually plenty of swell but the waves are good only every now and then. They decided to investigate what artificial reef shape would produce the best waves for surfing but realised they did not know enough about what makes a good wave. After researching waves they carried out experiments using various imitation reefs which in turn created different waves. Using a video in slow motion they analysed the shots of the waves and came to the conclusion that the corner cut reef produced the best wave!

Matthew Richardson, 16 The Manurewa High School EzyMow

Matthew thought about the difficulties of mowing the lawn by an elderly or physically disabled person without having to pay out mowing contractors. After a lot of trial and error with electronic motor control circuits, Matthew has made a remote controlled lawnmower which enables people to mow their lawns without having to face the difficulties presented by doing the job manually.

Jonathon Platt, 18 Kings College M24WS2 Multiple Mode 4 wheel steering system

Described by others as an awesome demonstration of top-level mechanical, electronic and programming skills, Jonathon has built a 4-wheel drive, independent 4-wheel steering system that gives a vehicle or robot limitless manoeuvrability. This product has significant implications for material transport and transfer, especially where a loader has to move in a restricted space, or, like a Mars Rover, is constrained by rocky terrain. The Rover is controlled remotely and can execute rapid and complex manoeuvres, including traversingthe sides of asquare. Each wheel is controlled by separate on-board Intel processors linked to independent servos. The programming is sophisticated and contains automatic proportional speed control, a sort of electronic differential gearbox.

Charles Gillard 17, and Sarah Balle, 17 Strathallan College, Auckland K9-4-kids

Media attention to numerous dog attacks motivated a group of students from Strathallan College to develop an educational resource package aimed at children from age 3 -7 to act appropriately around dogs and this product empowered teachers to deliver the dog safety message with impact. They determined a gap in the market and now are successfully selling their resource.


Caleb Bracey & Jarrod Schumacher Morrinsville Intermediate School Operation G.P.T.F. (Get past that fence)

Operation G.P.T.F.E. stemmed from Jarrod’s grandfather climbing through electric fences on the farm leaving Jarrod and the rest of his family behind! Jarrod and Caleb realised there was a need to make something to hold the wires apart so they could all climb through the fence without getting a shocking experience!

After several prototypes and trialling different strengths of steel they have a product that has stood up to the test. They can now all safely climb through fences on the farm. They have also had excellent feedback from other farmers about the product.

Daniel Hodder, 12 Hillcrest High School Mapping geothermal resources

Daniel wondered how people could find hot water and steam underground so that they could use these resources. He developed laboratory experiments that required only simple equipment which he developed using a 12V current to detect conductivity in salty water. He tested his method around various locations near Taupo and used his technique to map the flow of a small hot water stream at the edge of Lake Taupo and Karapiti.

Timothy Walmsley, 17 The Church college of New Zealand On Cue? A study of rebound angles in the game of pool

Timothy is a sports fanatic and loves to play pool. Since studying physics, he tried to understand the reason why certain events happened on the pool table. This investigation looks closely in the rebound of the cue ball off the side of the cushion. Three variables were identified that greatly affected the angle the cue ball reflected and these were velocity of the ball at impact, the initial angle the ball hits the cushion, and the spin on the ball.

Eric Doel, 15 St Peter’s School, Cambridge The M.I.G. A multiple image generator

Eric has designed a device to assist his father, who is a keen amateur photographer, to capture and analyse images from rapidly moving objects such as birds, athletes and cricket balls. The neat little box, which contains a picaxe micro and the electronics to drive the relays, connects to three differently coloured flash units linked to the camera. This enables millisecond timing and enables successive images to be displayed sharply in red, blue and white. This gives a stunning result and the device's potential as a study tool for natural science and sports science is obvious.


Kirsten Wesche, 12 Whakatane Intermediate School Silent witness

While travelling in the car Kirsten would often complain about the fumes emitted from vehicles and decided to research air pollution. She learnt that lichens are used as bio-indicators of pollution and so she researched lichens and found they were amazing organisms growing on any natural or artificial surface in some of the world’s harshest environments. She carried out many months of recording at many sites using a compass, magnifying glass and tape measure and it was clear from the huge amount of data she collected that the air near industries and highways was certainly more polluted resulting in less lichens growing in those areas compared to rural or forest areas.


Jackson Arlidge, 13 & Andrew Corkill 13 Opunake High School Dog’s best friend

This is another imaginative and technically amazing project, as well as being one that has already captured the attention of the local Taranaki media. Dog owners willqueue up forthese if they become available. The Dog's Best Friend is a device to provide your pet with some self-motivated exercise. Opunake canines have been canvassed and have voted with a collective wag of tails. The solidly constructed device launches a tennis ball into space, the dog runs after it, catches it and returns it to the mortar tube. Sensors record the balls presence, dispense a doggy treat from another tube and reload the powerful spring mechanism for the next ball. The dog can repeat the process until it is either tired or full! Electronics drives the servo motors to load the mechanism and release the treat and a picaxe microprocessor, smartly programmed, controls and coordinatesthe whole process.


Alesia Smith, 15 Awatapu College Solar for Older

A combination of Alesia’s interest in architectural design and a desire to find a way to prevent the power crisis from escalating led to the development of her idea. She wanted to develop a device/system that would heat particularly cold areas of her 98-year-old historic house and has developed a great solution using a combination of both solar energy and design features.

Paul Horne, 12 Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School Soiled Spuds

Michael always ended up with a dirty shirt when fetching the potatoes from storage. This led him to investigate the amount of soil left on potatoes in bags at supermarkets. He investigated whether the soil type affects the amount of soil left on potatoes and whether the quantity of soil sold with the potatoes compares with the soil lost from the farm through wind and water erosion. He compared many bags of potatoes from various regions in New Zealand and weighed the soil that he washed from the potatoes and the loose soil in the bag. Using mathematical formulae he found that the standard packhouse practice of adding an extra average sized potato to a bag of brushed potatoes more than compensated for the quantity of soil left in the bag and that the quantity of soil reaching the consumer was minimal compared to what was lost from the farm through wind erosion.

Ngaire Keenan, 18 Freyberg High School; Nitrogen and Nourishment

Clover and ryegrass are among the most commonly used pasture species throughout New Zealand. As high quality feed is related to quality milk production, the question of optimum nitrogen levels is of significant importance to agriculture. Ngaire investigated the optimum levels of soil nitrogen levels for clover and ryegrass to create the highest quality pasture at minimum cost.

Gavin Wolfe, 12 Morrinsville Intermediate School Simply the best post holder

Gavin’s idea of making the perfect post holder came about from his concerns for his Mum and Dad’s safety while they were replacing fence posts on the farm. Gavin brainstormed various ideas and made several prototypes using different materials and has come up with a tri-pod fence holder which can be easily folded and transported. His Mum and Dad are very pleased that they no longer have to stand under the tractor bucket holding the posts!

Andrew Landmark, 13 Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School Man versus machine

As a pamphlet boy, Andrew’s job is to fold, collate and deliver 2700 pamphlets at a time. You would think that the delivery would be the hardest part but surprisingly the folding is the hardest and most time consuming. After studying the art of folding Andrew has created a machine that can fold the pamphlets which helps him to get his job done faster.

Matthew Austin, 17 Awatapu College Flood Alert

Matthew's project arose from the demonstrated need (the February Manawatu floods) of farmers to have a device that would remotely monitor waterways near their property and enable them to take immediate action in the event of rising water. His knowledge of electronics is put to good use in his project, which is packaged as a neat product with an accompanying instruction manual, complete with colour photos.Four one metre wooden probes placed in risk areas contain the sensors that detect the water level. If this should rise, then this is displayed on a central monitor unit using different coloured LEDs. These successively turn on until a piezo alarm is triggered at a preset danger level. This is a well-conceived and executed design, ready for use in the event of heavy rain!


Avinash Rao, 17 Lindisfarne College Feeding the Fish

Avinash delved into the feeding habits of Silverfish. Silverfish are a common household pest and can be easily located within old documents/books. They are easy to keep as they can survive on paper alone. Avinash encountered an interesting phenomenon early in his investigation when he found that the weight of the paper used as food for the silverfish initially increased in weight despite being eaten! Having explained why, he was able to take this into account and found that in fact silverfish eat less as the population density increases.


Michael Dickson, 15 Wellington College Small tides in the narrows

Michael developed a mathematical model to investigate the interaction of high and low tides in the Wellington area. Hypothesising that there is a standing wave in the narrowest part of Cook Strait, he analysed tide date from the central region of New Zealand from Lyttleton to Napier, and found some evidence to support his hypothesis.

Simon McVeagh, 14 Rongotai College Why girls should not swim in Evans Bay

With family experience in yachting, Simon was well aware of the effects of the anti-fouling agent tributyl tin (TBT). He used the appearance of imposex (females developing male sexual organs) in dog whelks as a measure of the levels of TBT in Wellington and Porirua Harbours. In his study, Simon found that levels had dropped in the Porirua Harbour but not in the Wellington Harbour.


Stefanie Murray Marlborough Girls’ College, 17 The Dinoswirler

The Dinoswirler is a chair and desk designed to be a non-invasive restraining device for a child with specific special needs.

Stefanie started with an interview with the child’s mother to ascertain the child’s needs and then interviewed the teacher aide to find out her needs. After researching ergonomics, Stefanie gained sufficient background to move onto concepts. The chosen design is a pivoting chair on a railing surrounded by the desk.

She then made a small scale model of the chair and desk system and went on to make her final design which provides a secure working environment for the child and the teacher aide.


Thomas Cole & Logan Elliott St Thomas of Canterbury College StopCom 2004 ‘A technological journey’

Thomas and Logan have made an affordable cellular phone detector built and designed with New Zealand cellular networks in mind. It uses low power consumption and with constant usage will last up to 5 hours. This device will deter mobile phone usage in the classroom and so can also help detect cheating in examinations. Thomas and Logan have marketed StopCom throughout New Zealand and are receiving sales from secondary schools, some universities and 16 other countries.

Hilary McConnell, 13 Cobham Intermediate School Blow up your curtains and save energy

Leaning on a lilo looking out of a window sparked Hilary to investigate the possibilities of an insulating curtain using the idea of trapping air in between layers of fabric to act in the same way as double glazing. She has come up with a design of a three layer version of an air curtain. There are also many other potential applications this could be used including rescue blankets, swimming pool covers and camping clothing!

Jamie Schiel, 12 Cobham Intermediate School Building site run-off a sedimental journey

Building sites are always covered in piles of dirt, sand and concrete and, when it rains, silt washes into the street drains and into the streams and estuaries. Sedimentation is a major environmental problem. Jamie has researched and tested different types of barriers and has finally settled on the best option using muslin and barley straw in the shape of a sausage. They are effective, practical, cheap and environmentally friendly and best of all they work!

Nicholas Hinds, 13 Otepopo School Punching Plagiarism

Plagiarism it’s all over the place and how can we stop it? Nicholas has risen to the challenge! Choosing a computer language which is commonly used on websites he then learnt how to program. He carried out tests on many documents copied from the internet and his programme detected plagiarism. He then tested many pieces of original work and his programme did not detect anything, proving that it does not give out false information. This could be very useful for teachers or lecturers who mark student assignments!


Finn Butler, 12 Balmacewan Intermediate School, Dunedin The perfect foil

Finn is a keen fencer, the sports kind, not the number eight variety! He has designed a piece of equipment for the fencing club he belongs to that has enabled members tohone their Renaissance skills. This is a full-sized silvered mesh breastplate, which is divided into octants, each section having an indicator LED. An LED lights up randomly on the target, the fencer has to touch the corresponding sector immediately with the electronically linked epee. Timing is logged and score is kept and displayed on a computer screen. The project is technically advanced with sword, target and computer communicating through software, interface and logic board. The club is hanging out for the return of Finn's project.

Taarati Taiaroa-Smithies, 18 Taieri College, Mosgiel Te Kingitanga, the Maori King movement in the 19th century

Reading about Wiremu Tamihana sparked an investigation into Te Kingitanga by Taarati. In her research using primary and secondary sources of information, she formed the opinion that the Kingitanga movement of the mid-19th Century changed the climate of relations between Mâori and the British in New Zealand, and indeed contributed to changing Mâori identity. Taarati then designed and developed an innovative format to communicate her findings to others a 3D wall chart based around a whare with a Maori man and a European woman representing the Mâori King and the British Queen Victoria.


Jessie Lineham, 14 James Hargest High School, Invercargill CO2 conundrum

Have you ever held a tomato up to the light in the supermarket and wondered why they look so pale? Have you ever tasted a tomato and wondered why they taste so bland? These are often tomatoes grown in an environment using elevated carbon dioxide levels. Jessie looked at the effect of carbon dioxide levels on three micronutrients: iron, zinc and magnesium. The study made her think about the effect of elevated carbon dioxide levels have on our health. Her study concluded that as the level of carbon dioxide increases the amount of micronutrients decreases in the fruit.


Feng Yan, 17 Beijing The High School Affiliated to RenMin University of China MPEG-7 Descriptor Based Photo Image Classification

Feng started being interested in computer programming from a young age. Recently he has realized that computer vision and pattern recognition is becoming more helpful in people’s lives and has investigated this further. He chose to study content based image retrieval a vivid research field as his subject. The development of this technique is critical for photo imaging, software and building a web-based image search engine.

An YiFei, 16, Beijing The High School Affiliated to Ren Min University of China Weed and Lawn in Longcheng Garden

YiFei investigated the species of grass, growth, water environment, bird life and herbicides used in Longcheng Garden over a period of 10 months and the affect the weeds had on the grass. She has concluded that foreign grass seeds should be used as little as possible so as to leave more room for weeds, which would help the sustainable development of the living environments.

Yin-chu Chung, 20, Chinese Taipei Natural Tsing Hua University Improvement of the synthesis and the acticorrosive properties of polyaniline Polyaniline's potential as an anti-corrosion agent has been proven. However, the adhesion of polyaniline to metal is poor and so Yin-chu investigated improving the solubility of polyaniline in organic solution to enhance adhesion. She also developed a method to reduce the particle size to 50-60 nanometres and so enable suspension of it in aqueous or organic media. Having achieved this, Yin-chu proceeded to demonstrate improved adhesion and anti-corrosive protection by polyaniline films.

Ying-chun Liu, 17, Chinese Taipei Nei Hu Senior High School Modelling pond ecosystem connectivity in a city

Most freshwater biodiversity studies in the world have focused on typical ecosystems such as deep lakes, rivers and stream. However Ying-chun has investigated smaller systems like ponds which provide unique chance for modeling ecosystem connectivity.


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