Hero photograph
Photo by Carl Johnston

Student activities and successes in the Science Faculty

Rebecca O'Loughlin —

There have been lots of great things happening across the Science Faculty this year, with students succeeding well, both in school and out of school. Some highlights are:


Nine year 10 students Franklin Altenburg, Kaea Christie, Heidi George, Ella Griffiths, Nakisha Kingi, Maunhaea Mamaru-O’Regan, Rerekiao Perenara-O’Connell, Mikaela Prasad, Cole Tainui were selected to participate in a project called He Puna Pūtaiao in term four of 2018. This project was in collaboration with the University of Canterbury and involved the students spending six days at the University carrying out an investigation into the water quality of Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere). The students did background research before going to Te Waihora to collect samples to analyse back at the University. They then had to present posters of their findings to University staff, Kaumātua and invited guests. All the students thoroughly enjoyed the project and produced some great work. The 2019 group comprises of Taylor Hennig, Alyssa Holton, Maia Jefferson, Milli Kerr, Shaun McRoberts, Taylah Peek, Mya Te Aho, Jasmine Turner-Bartlett. They have completed the sessions at the University of Canterbury and will be presenting their posters on 28th November.

Our Year 11 Extension and Year 12 Science students went to the University of Canterbury to carry out experiments with Radioactive materials.  They were also treated to a liquid nitrogen display and some cool physics toys. This was part of the "It's Radioactive" topic that looks at atomic and nuclear physics. 

We had a team of three Year 11 students, Yuma Guerin, Blaithan Altenberg and William Wray enter the Year 11 ARA Chemistry competition in Term 3 2019. They worked really well as a team through a series of both practical and written tasks and were placed second out of approximately 20 Christchurch teams.

We had 31 students participate in the International competitions and assessments for schools (ICAS) Science competition in 2019, with Sung Min Oh gaining a High distinction award and receiving a medal for gaining the highest score in Year 12. Lucas De Groot-Tsuji also gained a High distinction award in Year 9. Seven students gained a distinction award: Annabelle Brownsword, Johnny Lawrey, Woojin Song, Fiona Li, Aditi Sharma, Ruth Gao and Martin Xiang.

Several students have received scholarships to attend Science events. Thomas James was chosen by the Royal Society Te Apārangi to attend the 13th Asia Science Camp in Shantou China during Term 3 of this year. Amy Paull and Aaron Loh have received Bishopdale-Burnside Rotary scholarships to attend The Rotary National Science and Technology Forum in January of 2020. Fantastic experiences for all students.


Abi-Rose Withers and Rebecca Pullock (12NRYE) have been selected to attend the Blumine Island Conservation and restoration trip planned for week 8 of Term 4 2019. The Blumine Island project has been working for 18 years. Focused on returning the island to its original state, without introduced predators, and then developing a sanctuary for native animal and plant species at risk.

The Biology department was fortunate enough again this year to host Professor John Hickford from Lincoln University who engaged our Year 13 Biology students with an amazing talk on selective breeding vs genetic engineering and the research currently being undertaken in NZ in the sheep context. The Year 13 Biology students also got up close and personal with the Gorillas at Orana Park as they studied aspects of Human Evolution.

Year 13 Biology students, with the support of Dr Peter Olsen and his team form Ara Sports Science faculty, undertook an investigation this year - “The effects of body position and exercise on human blood pressure”. Students spent several weeks collecting data from each other as they biked, ran up stairs and lay on the floor to investigate the biological concepts behind how we maintain blood pressure.

Year 12 Biology students, undertook an investigation into the aspirational goal of NZ being Predator Free by 2050. This work included a field trip to Lincoln University where research scientist Tom Agnew took the students through the impressive predator free fence enclosure to talk about their work. Also, Dr James Ross gave a lecture about what Science is doing to help achieve this goal with the likes of genetic research and improvements to species specific targeting.

Seven students, Jennifer Shin, Emma Hollingworth, Bethany Hood, Fiona Li, Mark Ghobrial, Ruth Gao and Angie Park, have made it through to the tutorial round of the International Biology Olympiad. The students will compete against other NZ students to win a place in the representative team that will travel to Japan in 2020 for the international event.


A class of Year 13 Chemistry students used the laboratory at the University of Canterbury to carry out extended investigations. Some of the investigations carried out involved looking into changes in chloride ion concentration in waterways, the loss of iron from spinach as cooking time is increased and changes in vitamin C concentration of fruits and drinks.

In the 2019 International Chemistry Olympiad selection process, Felix Backhouse advanced through to the final examination stage by putting considerable effort into learning Chemistry concepts well beyond the level 3 curriculum. The 2020 Chemistry Olympiad process started in September with Angie Park and Ruth Gao entering. Both performed well and have been offered places to continue in the selection process.

A number of students entered the Australian Chemistry Quiz with three High Distinction Excellence awards for finishing in the top 1% of entries. These awards went to Qi (Fiona) Li in Year 11, Ruth Gao in Year 12 and Ethan Ng in Year 13. The following students all gained High Distinction certificates - Thomas Cochrane, Polina Collins, Ritvik Sharma (Year 10), Aditi Sharma (Year 11), Joseph Grace (Year 12) and Felix Backhouse (Year 13)

Ten students from our Year 13 Chemistry classes volunteered their time this year to be part of “Chemistry Club”. Emily Orange, Amy Xu, Felix Backhouse, Ian Loo, Sineth Balapuwaduge, Jasmine Shin, Vincent Lee, Nicholas Zhou, Ethan Baird and John-Luke Langford formed a group of mentors and worked with students from Cobham Intermediate on a Chemistry programme set up and run by the University of Canterbury (UC). The students carried out various chemical experiments around colours and odours and then used this information to make their own soap. As it was the International Year of the Periodic Table they also completed “Rock Art” of their favourite element to spread the word about how important the Periodic Table is. A massive thank-you to Senior Lecturer Jodie Johnston and Professor Richard Hartshorn from UC for running this outreach initiative and including our students in it.


Most Year 13 Physics classes visited the University of Canterbury's (UC) Electrical Engineering Department to find out more about this increasingly important field. The visit was organised and hosted by the EPE Centre (Centre of Excellence in Electric Power Engineering), an organisation with core areas of operation in education, research and industry interaction. Students found out more about electrical engineering at UC and visited the Machine Lab where students investigated wind turbines, the Embedded Systems Lab looking at signal transfer and a Robotics lab where students programmed solar powered racers.

The Year 13 Physics class that did not visit UC went on a longer field trip to the NIWA Lauder site. As part of studying Climate Science they headed south with an aim to determine how New Zealand scientists are involved in making climate measurements.

A group of aspiring engineers made up two teams from Burnside, Ethan Ng, E Wen Wong and Robin Kunwar in one team and Antonios Eskander, Lewis Grey, Jonathon Voon and Angie Park in the other entered the Engineering Science Competition run by Auckland University. The competition ran one Saturday in August over nine hours, with the challenge being to answer this question: “If you had a million dollars to spend on online marketing, what percentage of the NZ population could you persuade to sign a petition that you wanted championed?”. Two teams of four students spent the day researching, computer modelling and writing the report. A long day, but a great learning exercise.

As part of the “Wonder Week” organised to promote Engineering, some of our Year 12 Physics students had the opportunity to engage in several engineering projects run by Holmes Solutions testing facility. The projects covered aspects of Civil engineering and Structural engineering, such as constructing the tallest possible tower of dry spaghetti, and then putting it on their earthquake simulating shake table; and measuring the acceleration of road safety barriers when impacted by a heavy object. Students spent an entire day working with professional engineers to gain insight on what each did as part of their occupation.

Miss O’Loughlin, 

HOF Science