Community and Education news

2016 Award Winners from Nelson College for Girls
18 November 2016

Fair launches new science stars

The Cawthron Science and Technology Fair has been running for more than 30 years. The Institute has been heavily involved for much of that time - as a sponsor for 15 years, and as the Fair’s manager since 2012. The Fair contributes to Cawthron’s role of providing community education programmes to further scientific knowledge.

Hundreds of students have competed in the Fairs, bolstering their enthusiasm for science and offering a glimpse of a career in the field. This year there were more than 70 entries, with a total prize pool of $7000. Forty-five prizes went to 33 students.

Topics included researching the best substance to use as bait for ants (honey) and developing alternatives to plastic microbeads in personal care products, which end up in ocean food chains.

Community educator Cristina Armstrong says many projects this year were technology-based and had a focus on sustainability, including that of one winner, 13-year-old Nelson College for Girls student and keen mountainbiker Eva Lloyd. She developed a bike light that runs on hand heat when gripping a bike’s handlebars.

Armstrong says the Fair encourages students to go beyond their school science curriculum.

The 2016 Cawthron Science and Technology Fair was held at Founders Park

“Being student-led rather than teacher-led, it gets them really engaged because they're projects they feel passionate about; they go that extra mile and do all their own research,” she says. “It also gives a whole range of skills to the students so they’re not just working on science and technology but also on analysis, statistics, good display skills and communication skills with the interview they have to do. It’s a really good all-round thing that gets the best out of every student."

Armstrong says the fact that there are so many prizes encourages the students every year. “I think a lot of them will continue entering. I also think it encourages them to consider a career in science.”

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Past participant Amy Hill, now 24, was one of those students. After finishing a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Canterbury, she started work for a chartered accountancy firm before deciding to return to Canterbury to study for a Master of Science. Now, with the help of a 2017 Woolf Fisher scholarship, she’s headed to the University of Cambridge next year to study for her PhD in biochemistry. She has a special interest in antibiotic resistance and aims to investigate either the production of carbapenem antibiotics by various species of bacteria or the biology of bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria.

Hill entered the Cawthron Science Fair in 2009 with her friend Lancia Hubley when they were both in Year 13 at Nelson College for Girls. Their project studied how interference patterns could affect the sound quality in their school hall. To test this, they played a constant sound and measured how the volume changed at various places throughout the hall, and won a silver medal for their project.

“I’m excited about a career in science because it gives me the chance to perform research that can hopefully be used to help people in the future,” Hill says. “Science also provides a range of career options and excellent opportunities to travel and work overseas.  I’m really looking forward to beginning my PhD studies at Cambridge University next year and all of the opportunities that will provide.”

Click here for more information on the Cawthron Science and Technology Fair and other community and education events.