Young Scientists' Eureka Symposium

9 July 2013

Four Wellington students are among 12 of New Zealand’s best young science brains who will this week try to convince us what can be achieved with a bit of science and creativity.

Evan Brenton-Rule.

Evan Brenton-Rule at work on wasp control

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The Eureka Symposium and the Sir Paul Callaghan Awards for Young Science Orators are on this Friday (12 July) at the Massey University theatrette.

The finalists, selected by the Rotary Club of Wellington, will present ideas ranging from:

  • using natural enemies to fight invasive species
  • teaching primary school pupils to programme computers
  • a proposal to mine the moon.

Wellington City Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery says he is proud to encourage young scientists and very pleased to see four Wellington students in the final line-up.

“We want Wellington to take a lead in science, technology and innovation - this is what our 30-year plan for a Smart Capital is all about. These students all have an enormously important role to play, regardless of which one wins the top prize,” he says. The Council is a gold sponsor of the awards.

The Wellington finalists are Sebastian Hallum Clarke from Scots College, and Sasha Greig, Ratu Mataira and Evan Brenton-Rule from Victoria University.

Evan is concerned about the economic impact on New Zealand of invasive species, such as wasps. He argues that targeted biocontrol - investigating how natural enemies (pathogens) could limit the spread of these species - represents a cost-effective solution to a multi-billion-dollar problem.

Sebastian who, at 15, already develops and exports his own apps, has come up with an idea he calls the Genesis Project to encourage younger students to study computer science.

He says programming plays a vital role in areas such as medicine, sustainability and agriculture and can provide high value services. Sasha believes productivity and concentration in the workforce could be improved by sending electrical impulses directly to the brain in a procedure called trans-cranial direct current stimulation. She says this has been safety tested and is preferable to employees relying on coffee and other chemical stimulants to aid performance.

Ratu advocates that New Zealand considers supporting the use of thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive element, as a cheap and clean source of fuel. He argues that thorium is plentiful, does not produce carbon dioxide, is cheaper than power produced by coal or hydro-electricity and 90 percent of waste is safe within 30 years.

Symposium convenor Francis Wevers says finalists have presented a remarkable range of propositions for the judges to consider.

“Our objective has been to provide an opportunity for our passionate and articulate students to persuade our judges that their ideas will deliver real economic, social and environmental value for New Zealand.”