Genesis Energy
Royal Society of New Zealand

Participant Projects: 2008

View the Participant Projects Archive: Click on the links: (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

29 students from all over New Zealand have been selected to attend Realise the Dream 2008. They were selected from over 70 nominations from programmes such as Science & Technology Fairs; Bright Sparks; CREST; Yr13 Geography Competition and the BayerBoost Scholarship Programme.

While the students are in Wellington they will be involved in visiting various science and technology organisations and Massey University, Welllington Campus have organised a full day of workshops for the students which involve workshops on physiological profiling (sport and exercise science); Blood compositions and its importance; Building a robotic car to move and be directed by light; Motion analysis: using prototype motion analysis equipment to detect body movement; Impact of environmental and human health and building a steam engine which produces electricity. The participants will also go out on a field trip where geology will be studied and participate in social activities.

All participants will give a two minute presentation to the judges about their project and then the judges will get the chance to ask the students questions.

Realise the Dream is also attended by five international students from Beijing and Chinese Taipei.

It is important to note that the project summaries below are purely just that, a small glimpse into what the students have researched or produced. All students have carried out a remarkable amount of research, some over a period of two years.

Students who have been selected from New Zealand are:

Lauren Wing (17), Kerikeri High School

Lauren Wing PROJECT TITLE: EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON FEEDING RATES OF MONARCH CATERPILLARS
Helping her mother investigate the food preferences and predation of Monarch butterflies in Northland stimulated Lauren's interest in them and their place in our eco-system.

She decided that measurements of feeding rates at different temperatures would be useful for conservation efforts.

In planning her study, Lauren researched the period of life the caterpillars fed the most and what they consumed. She also carried out trials to work how best to control their environment given the equipment restraints, as well as the optimal temperature range, time periods, number of repeats, caterpillars and leaves to use.

Through doing this, she was able to develop a simple method that would give her accurate results.

Joseph Windsor (15), Mt Roskill Grammar School

Joseph Windsor PROJECT TITLE: BOYS ON BIKES
Joseph investigated whether exercise affects concentration ability immediately afterwards in Year 10 boys.

Joseph concluded that moderate exercise has a positive effect on concentration levels but that strenuous exercise has a negative effect on concentration and memory.

Alwin Lim (17), Mount Roskill Grammar School

Alwin Lim PROJECT TITLE: FROST - THERE'S FROST ON MY CAR BUT ITS NOT FREEZING COLD
Using heat transfer theory Alwin researched why, under some conditions, heat loss from objects is enough for frost to form on them even though the surrounding air may be warmer than freezing point.

Kathleen Chatfield & Alana Wylie (16), Auckland Diocesan School for Girls

Kathleen Chatfield & Alana Wylie PROJECT TITLE: USE IT OR LOSE IT!
The purpose of this investigation was to research the effect of regular exercise on memory at different stages of life.

Eighteen mice were used as subjects: a young group who were 24 days old, a middle-aged group, 44 days old, and an older group, 63 days old. Each group contained six mice; three with running wheels and three without.

The results showed that exercise does improve memory in mice. However, starting at a young age does not make the biggest difference to the memory later in life. It is possible to start exercise at a later age and still make a substantial difference to memory.

Kathleen and Alana would like to relate the results to humans and investigate whether regular exercise may help to delay the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer's and retain a healthy brain function for longer.

Surita Manoa (11), Ponsonby Intermediate School, Auckland

Surita Manao PROJECT TITLE: THE ART OF SCIENCE
Surita was curious about the process and science of paint production and colour. She set out to make paints by mixing home-made binders with easy to find pigments to produce primary and secondary colours and tones of black, white and grey; and to research the science of chemical effects in paint production.

Surita ground and sieved fine pigments such as dried hibiscus, copper fungicide, annatto seed, and various herbs and spices. She then mixed these to test the most suitable binders to create a wide range of colours.

Abhilash Kamineni (16), Mt Roskill Grammar School

Abhilash Kamineni PROJECT TITLE: TIC-TAC-TOE PROGRAMME, MULTI PURPOSE ROBOT ARM, AND TOUCH SCREEN CLOCK
Abhilash believes that the future of user interfaces for many devices is in touch screens, which are intuitive and simple to use. He built an example of an electron clock that can be adjusted and programmed very easily through a touch screen interface.

Another part of Abhilash's project was a robotic arm that he designed and built himself, right down to making the gears. To demonstrate how the arm could be adapted for different applications he programmed it to play tic-tac-toe - an impressive combination of engineering and programming.

Alyosha Yashin (14), Macleans College

Alyosha Yashin PROJECT TITLE: HOW LUCKY WAS ROBIN HOOD?

Alyosha set out to determine how the accuracy of an arrow is affected by two variables: distance from target (range) and the pull back (retraction) distance of the string. His aim was to determine a function that would enable the accuracy at other ranges and retraction distances to be predicted.

Alyosha made his own equipment, including the bow and firing stand. He obtained co-ordinate (x, y) data for 40 shots for each of three range and five retraction distances, giving a total of 600 data points.

He then applied statistical methods, modelling the results to fit normal distributions. From these he predicted the accuracy (as percentages to land within a radial distance from the bulls-eye) and compared these to actual percentages at a new range and retraction distance (10m and 35cm respectively).

Lucy Rogers (15), Auckland Diocesan School for Girls

Lucy Rogers PROJECT TITLE: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
For many years, New Zealand's native bird population has suffered on account of pests like rats and mice. As a result of this, the government shifted large numbers of native birds onto offshore islands like Tiritiri Matangi, or more recently Motuihe Island. These islands are predator free and closely monitored for any new pests that might swim over from the mainland. On these offshore islands it was hoped that the declining populations of native birds like the North Island robin could be restored.

Once the population numbers were built up, it was decided that some of these birds should be returned to 'mainland islands' - pest free sanctuaries like the Ark in the Park in the Waitakere ranges. However, it quickly came apparent that for reasons we are yet unaware of, the robins flourished in some reintroduction sites and diminished in others.

Lucy wanted to find out why this occurred so that we could predict where the robins would flourish and therefore better manage where they are placed.

She carried out a detailed investigation into variables that might have affected the areas of the bush that the North Island robins selected as their territories in the Ark in the Park. She took measurements of light, canopy cover and litter depth, within territory and non-territory areas. Her comparisons required some very careful statistical analysis.

Shelley Moka & Te Hereripene Mau (13), Taneatua School, Whakatane

Shelley Moka & Te Hereripene Mau PROJECT TITLE: TRAFFIC TROUBLE
Shelley and Hereripene researched the behaviour of vehicle drivers speeding past their school gate. After many hours collecting data, followed by calculations, they worked out that the average speed outside the school was 53km/h (should be 40km/h). They then went on to investigate ways of slowing drivers down. They put a cardboard person on the footpaths but found that no-one took any notice. 'Slow down' signs made no difference either, but a student standing on the footpath with a high visibility jacket did help. Shelley and Hereripene decided that people slow down only if they think they are going to be seen and fined for speeding.

Carley Sheerin (18), Katikati College, Bay of Plenty

Carley Sheerin PROJECT TITLE: KATIKATI QUARRY - THE FUTURE OF THE QUARRY AND THE ISSUES IT CREATES
The Katikati Quarry is located down Wharawhara Road, near the township of Katikati. As a resident of Wharawhara Road, Carley chose to research this issue as it affects both the natural and cultural aspects of her environment.

Different groups within the community had differing social, aesthetic, economic and environmental perspectives on the quarry. Therefore, Carley's research aim was to find out the best course of action regarding the future of the quarry, so that most groups and individuals involved would benefit.

She realised she had to take a broad perspective whilst conducting her research, so as to exclude any bias in the decisions she made - after all she is a local!

First, she created a set of focussing questions. This broke her work down into topics that could be researched separately. Research methods she used were a questionnaire, emails, internet searching and visiting the quarry. The judges were impressed with Carley's approach to integrated economic, physical, and social aspects of the problem.

Carley concluded that the best course of action is a compromise between closing the quarry down and allowing the operators to continue exactly as they have been till now. This would benefit residents and the environment, with minimal cost to Katikati Quarries Ltd. and minimal economic costs to the wider district.

Olivia Thompson (14), Aquinas College, Tauranga

Olivia Thompson PROJECT TITLE: CFL'S, ARE THEY SUCH A BRIGHT IDEA?
Olivia tested a number of CFL's (connected singly to a mains electrical source). She compared their varying light intensity with standard 100 watt incandescent light bulbs and lights from direct current battery torches where there should be no flickering at all. The investigation was spread over 7 - 8 weeks.

Flickering of a number of CFLs was measured to be 100 Hz. Incandescent bulbs also flickered at the same frequency, but in a less "spikey" manner.

The information originally available to Olivia suggested that CFL's would flicker at much higher frequencies than standard fluorescent lights. Olivia sought more specialist advice and came up with a very plausible explanation for her results, suggesting that further research would be helpful.

The judges were impressed with Olivia's grasp of physics theory, and her research illustrated very well, physics concepts unfamiliar to the general public.

Melissa Thomson (17), Katikati College, Bay of Plenty

Melissa Thompson PROJECT TITLE: SICK OF CICADA'S
Amphipsalta zelandica, the chorus cicada, is the predominant cicada species in the Bay of Plenty region. It is found in a variety of habitats, including tall forest, scrub and grassland. However, due to its life cycle and feeding, the chorus cicada is also notoriously found in kiwifruit orchards.

The kiwifruit canes provide the female with a suitable place to lay her eggs, and this significantly weakens the cane and makes it more susceptible to breakage. This causes a huge problem in the orchards.

Most of the damage, however, is caused by the nymphs feeding on the roots and sucking the sap from them.

Melissa's project aimed to investigate the depth under the soil surface in kiwifruit orchards that nymphs mostly inhabit. Furthermore, she investigated the distribution of cicada nymphs in relation to size.

Her results showed a relationship between nymph size and the depth they are found below the surface.

Jake Martin (17), Cambridge High School

Jake Martin PROJECT TITLE: THE WOOD POWERED ENGINE
After discovering an engine that ran on wood, Jake looked at how he could build one to do the same, turning biomass energy and waste streams into a usable energy source for transport use.

In December of 2007 Jake started to build the Discovery Model Gasifier. In doing this, he conducted research into engineering, but he also made forays into biology and physics. Many people might have picked that he would find the charcoal (or biochar) waste product of his engine useful for growing plants but none of the judges could have anticipated his startling discovery that the biochar is magnetic!

Beth Hampton (12), Matamata Intermediate School

Beth Hampton TOPIC TITLE: STRETCHY TENT BAGS
Beth has always found getting a tent back into its original bag a challenge. Asking around, she found that many people had the same problem.

Beth researched existing technology in the same area and could find none. So she decided to develop her own stretchy tent bag.

Construction was started on a small scale and then moved to full size. The product was then trialled by family and friends and a canoe guide who uses tents constantly. Beth has suggested a few improvements but is happy with the final product.

She then went on to develop a marketing plan which included thorough costing and possible outlets for her product. She has had interest from a major camping company and has had a logo (BTB for Beth's Tent Bags), brochures and business cards made.

Anna Palmer (15), Palmerston North Girls' High School

Anna Palmer PROJECT TITLE: WARNING LIGHTS
Anna wanted to find out the purpose of the bioluminescent mucus produced by the native earthworm, Octochaetus multiporus. She also wanted to know what the worm's likely predators are. She suspected native birds such as Kiwi.

While collecting worms in the field she also discovered that O. multiporus have a double defence system: a fine double jet of fluid which squirts from its head and a drop of bioluminescent mucus produced in the area between the two fluid jets. The worms respond thus when disturbed and exposed to daylight.

Toxicology testing indicated the mucus is extremely toxic to bacteria but only mildly toxic to mammalian cell cultures. It is therefore unlikely that consuming the mucus will do Kiwi any harm.

Nika Thomson (15), Sacred Heart Girls' College, Lower Hutt

Nika Thomson PROJECT TITLE: SUGAR RUSH: WHAT HYPO TREATMENT IS BEST FOR TYPE 1 DIABETICS
Nika's research involved a controlled trial of different sources of glucose as treatments for hypoglycaemic episodes in children with type I diabetes.

Hypoglycaemic episodes or "hypos", are a fall in the blood glucose level leading to dizziness etc., and are a common adverse effect of insulin treatment. Diabetics carry glucose tablets routinely so they can counter a hypo episode quickly.

Nika observed that many children do not like the taste of glucose tablets, and the tablets are also relatively expensive and prone to crumble when carried around in sports bags and the like. This led her to think about other options.

All her procedures were well thought through and documented including the selection of six subjects, obtaining parental consent and the consent of the children themselves, and the provision of information and details of the procedures to be followed each time a hypo episode occurred, including when to revert to the standard glucose treatment.

Oliver Pooke (12), Hutt International Boys School, Lower Hutt

Oliver Pooke PROJECT TITLE: DIODE DISCOVERY
This project involved an examination of the electrical properties of oxidised metals, specifically their ability to rectify, which is to convert alternating to direct current.

Oliver had read that during WW II servicemen could pick up radio signals by building simple 'crystal sets' using rusty razor blades as the rectifying element. Oliver wanted to see if rusty razor blades and other oxidised materials, mainly metals, would act in the same way.

Oliver checked the electrical performance of a shop-bought resistor by making a simple circuit and measuring current flow through the device when the voltage changed from negative to positive. As expected, his results showed a straight-line relationship for a linear resistor.

When he repeated the experiment with an oxidised piece of metal he obtained a convincing diode or rectifying response. When a real semiconductor diode was used similar results were obtained.

All experiments were done by manually plotting the voltage and the resultant current.

Based on these results Oliver built a simple electronic circuit to drive the voltage, and also display the voltage-current characteristics on an oscilloscope, allowing him to investigate the properties of a variety of metals and other materials, display them uniformly and demonstrate easily that some were 'better' conductors than others from an examination of traces.

Liam Ellis (17), Hutt Valley High School, Lower Hutt

Liam Ellis PROJECT TITLE: VIPER (VERSATILITY IN PICAXE ENGINEERING & ROBOTICS)
The VIPER (Versatility in Picaxe Engineering and Robotics) is a small, multipurpose robot designed to aid humans.

VIPER demonstrates the full potential of the Picaxe programmable chip with added features that make the VIPER useful for search and rescue, gas leak detection, and as an aid for disabled people.

The VIPER uses tank style tracks that allow it to navigate over rough terrain and at angles of 45 degrees. It also has a robotic arm with 4 servos and a gripping claw to pick up and retrieve small objects.

Liam also created a reliable method of wireless control of the VIPER's movements (forward, back, left, and right, plus arm / claw movements) at the press of a button. When the remote is plugged into the computer the VIPER can be controlled via a visual basic programme Liam wrote himself. Information from the VIPER's onboard gas, temperature and light sensors can be received on demand using this software.

Liam has also fitted a wireless camera that transmits colour video, eliminating the need for the operator to see the robot to control it.

Sam Watson & Callum Sinclair (11), Tawa Intermediate School

Sam Watson & Callum Sinclair PROJECT TITLE: THE NATURE OF LIGHT
Sam & Callum investigated the nature of light. They discovered that they needed to separate light into its component colours or wavelengths, via dispersion through a glass prism or interference with a diffraction grating. So they built a spectrometer, an instrument capable of separating light spectra to a desired resolution.

Sam and Callum experimented with different light sources, obtaining particularly interesting results using a compact fluorescent bulb, where the spectral lines attributable to mercury were clearly visible.

Nathan Denmead (16), Waimea College, Nelson

Nathan Denmead PROJECT TITLE: ROCKETS AWAY
Nathan's original aim was simply to investigate how the propellant ramming pressure in his home made rocket engines influenced their performance. However this led to in-depth research into the performance of rocket engines (specific impulse) as a factor of propellant density.

Nathan soon discovered that controlling the variables for this investigation was going to be an immense task. It is his approach to the challenge that makes this piece of research worthwhile.

Not only did Nathan develop and make much of the tools and construction equipment needed, he also learned to use sophisticated measuring equipment.

Victor Kang (17), Burnside High School, Christchurch

Victor Kang PROJECT TITLE: TO MATE OR NOT TO MATE?
Weta are iconic New Zealand insects that evolved in isolation over million of years. However since the arrival of humans, the introduction of predators and the destruction of their habitat, the weta population has seriously declined. None more so than the endangered Bank's Peninsula tree weta, Hemidiena ricta, which may also face the challenge of hybridising with the Canterbury tree weta, H. femorata. Hybridisation, or the mating of parents from different species resulting in viable offspring, can decrease the genetic identity of one or both of the parent species over time.

Victor investigated whether H. femorata females preferred males of their own species over those of H. ricta. To do this he spent the summer of 2007/08 collecting weta and observing their mating behaviour.

Victor's results suggest a preference for H. ricta males by females from both species, determined by an increased time spent in proximity to H. ricta males in comparison to H. femorata males. Victor's results, whilst not conclusive, do show that the incidence of inter-species interaction is significant enough to support the hypothesis that these two weta species may be hybridising.

Logan Glasson (12), Westburn Primary School, Christchurch

Logan Glasson PROJECT TITLE: PEST TRAP MONITOR
The idea for Logan's Pest Trap Monitors came about after an 18 km tramp with his uncle, a DOC volunteer, clearing stoat traps set out along a track every 100m. On this occasion traps on the top 2 km of the track had caught no stoats meaning there was a lot of walking for no reason (although the view was great). Logan thought there must be a way to invent something to go in each trap which could communicate whether or not there was a catch.

Logan made a pest trap monitor designed to go in pest traps along a track, and relay the trap's status to the bottom of a track, meaning that the status of all the traps could be checked before setting out.

Logans prototype device used picaxe microcontrollers, cable connections between the traps, and a controller that indicated which traps had been sprung. The next step in his work is to develop wireless communication between the traps and the controller.

Reuben Posthuma (14), Home-Schooled, Canterbury

Reuben Posthuma PROJECT TITLE: COMPUTER REFRIGERATION SYSTEM CONROLLER
Reuben's project arose from a real need: how to create a cost-effective and flexibly controlled cooling system for a computer stretched to its limits whilst gaming.

Reuben created a fully functional device with a real-world application, fit for purpose and performing the task it was designed for. The project is neatly packaged and put together and also has a flash-drive interface control as an additional feature.

Reuben has also built in a demonstration mode, so the device can be put through its paces without being connected to a bulky, full-sized refrigeration system.

Rhian Gaffney (13), Logan Park High School, Dunedin

Rhian Gaffney PROJECT TITLE: JEMIMA PUDDLEDUCK

Rhian lives near a creek and has mallard ducks (Anas platyrhyncos) visit his garden every day. In 2005 he began a long-term study on when plumage change occurs in drakes and whether plumage change increased their chances of finding a mate.

More recently Rhian wanted to determine the factors that might influence duckling survival rates. In the wild, many factors influence their survival rates, but Rhian focussed on studying maternal experience and specifically older versus younger females.

Rhian tested whether female Mallards become more successful over successive breeding cycles in raising young to fully fledged (12 weeks old). If so, behaviour for raising young may be learned rather than instinctive.

At first sight, Rhian's results appeared to show that older females have a higher success rate. However, he astutely observed that this apparent effect was associated with a few atypical observations, and probably was due to chance. He concluded that there was actually little evidence to suggest that learning from year to year was significant. Therefore other factors must be responsible for this effect.

Rhian observed that duckling loss was more likely to occur overnight, due to contributing factors such as temperature, predation, parenting and nesting behaviour. Rhian intends to continue investigating the most significant factor of overnight duckling mortality.

Ben Mulholland (16), Taieri College, Dunedin

Ben Mulholland TITLE OF PROJECT: IPOD SUPERDOCK
Ben was inspired to undertake this project when he considered buying an iPod docking station. He discovered that there was only a limited range available, they were quite expensive, and they did not offer all of the features that he wanted - or had ones he didn't want. For example, most of the products available had integrated speakers, which he didn't need as he already had a good 2.1 speaker system. The speakers made the product unnecessarily bulky. This made him think - could I make a better one myself?

When he started around March this was to be a relatively simple project, but it got more complicated requiring him to constantly make changes and learn new skills along the way, both in the creation of circuitry, and designing and manufacturing the enclosure as well as an infra-red remote controller. The project took around 7 to 8 months to complete.

Maggie Fellowes (13), Limehills School, Dipton, Southland

Maggie Fellowes TITLE OF PROJECT: SALMONELLA BLUES
The aim of Maggie's research was to find out if vaccination for Salmonella Bradenburg affects sheep behaviour. Maggie used two groups of 34 sheep, selected from a healthy mob. One group was vaccinated, and the two groups were put into identical areas in the same paddock, at the same time. Both groups were observed and the number of sheep sitting and the number standing but not eating were recorded every 30 minutes for 4.5 hours. The observations were repeated for 2 days after vaccination.

Maggie's results showed a conspicuous effect of vaccination on the sheeps' appetites, reducing their food consumption in the day after vaccination. Although this effect did not last long, Maggie correctly pointed out that it could well have an important and undesirable effect of stressing animals so that their subsequent reproductive performance was impaired.

Maggie has done a lot of research on her topic and she has processed the data by putting it into tables and graphing her results so she could compare behaviour between the two groups. Her results are sure to be of interest to farmers.

Georgia Halcrow (11): Murray's Bay Intermediate School, Auckland

Georgia Halcrow PROJECT TITLE: MYSTERY NUMBERS
“Hundreds tables” and puzzles based on them are a very useful tool for teaching arithmetic to youngsters, but they can mean a lot of work for primary school teachers preparing and marking new challenges for their students.

Georgia has developed an elegant and very practical system for the preparation of puzzles by teachers and for the students to check the work for themselves. The system has been tested in schools and received a big thumbs up from teachers and pupils.

Georgia now seems to have a very good business opportunity from all the hard work she has put into developing and testing her product.

International Students

Lu Mengzhuo & Gu Peng, Beijing 101 School

Lu Mengzhuo and Gu Peng PROJECT TITLE: TAP WATER QUALITY IN PART OF BEIJING AREA
Abstract. To study whether or not the quality of tap water used by residents in part of Beijing area conforms to the Sanitary Standards of Drinking Water (whether the water can be drunk directly or not), we have conducted experiments for seven indexes such as odor & taste, objects recognizable with naked eyes, PH value, bacteria, chloride, ferric compound and suspending substance, and we also conducted the social investigation. In addition to analyzing the influence of water distribution network on the drinking water quality according to the experiment results, we put forward the advice on building the database of distribution network and the three sets of water network systems to improve the quality of the tap water at the users' end.

Kuo Hsiao-Jui (15) & Lin, Meng-Yu (14), Tainan, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Lin and Kuo PROJECT TITLE: MEASURING SURFACE TENSION BY A COMMUNICATING TUBE
Most instruments for measuring surface tension are expensive and fragile and therefore are seldom applicable in daily like or school education. They found that when the liquid in a communicating tube, of which one opening was lower than the other meant that fluid spilled out of the lower orifice. This study was carried out trying to evaluate the surface tension by measuring this fluid level difference.

Kuo Hsiao-Jui and Lin Meng-Yu studied the effects of the length, diameter and material character of the tube found on the lower head of the communicating tube, and measured the fluid level differences for each respective condition. They also compared the fluid level differences to the surface tension of standard liquids. Results showed that the surface tension of a liquid could be measured by this device, and the measurement would be accurate if using a small diameter tube made of hydrophobic materials on the lower head.

This study established a novel device for measuring the surface tension of liquids. The device is simple and low cost and is accurate and practicable and therefore is a good tool in routine daily practice or school education.

Ma Runchu (12), Beijing 101 Middle School

Ma Runchu PROJECT TITLE: MAGICAL TRICK VEHICLE
Ma Runchu has built a magical trick vehicle. This two-wheel vehicle is very compact.

Made up with two motors, a touch-inductor, two photoelectric sensors and a micro computer, the automation is not only moves on flat surfaces, but can also stand upright and circle. It can turns automatically when bumping into walls and adjusts the direction of movement automatically.