Hero photograph
Year 11 ARA Chemistry competition
Photo by Rebecca O'Loughlin

Science in 2020

Rebecca O'Loughlin —

Student activities and successes in the Science Faculty for 2020


Despite a very different year to what we had planned 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:

Early in Term One we had six Year 11 students; Grady Kenix, Polina Collins, Ritvik Sharma, Carol Khor, James O’Connor and Meshwa Soni undertake the Brain Bee 2020 challenge. This is an online competition where students study neuroscience and then complete an online test covering all of the learning they have done. Due to Covid 19 these students were doing this work from home and logged in to sit the test during lockdown. All six students did really well but unfortunately Round two had to be cancelled. Hopefully they will be able to continue with this in 2021 along with keen Year 11 students!

On July 29th, two teams of students from Burnside High School competed in the Epro8 challenge using various equipment to design and build a machine which fulfilled the requirements of the selected challenge. Using their knowledge of Science, Mathematics, Electronics and problem solving skills, they tackled the challenges with valor and wit. The Year 9 team consisted of Flynn O’Connor, Tor Chiles, Monet Mo and William Wang. The Year 10 team consisted of Victoria Ding, Ryan Gillman, Ameya Raut and Max Wallace.

We had two teams of three Year 11 students enter the Year 11 ARA Chemistry competition in Term Three; Burnside team 1 consisted of James Wang, Grady Kenix and Ritvik Sharma. Burnside team 2 consisted of Carl Khor, Jacky Zhang and Oscar Chin. The teams competed against thirteen other teams from Christchurch high schools to carry out three Chemistry tasks over a sixty minute period. The first task required them to complete a reading around climate change and then put forward an argument for a government response and an individual response. Task two was using chemical tests to identify six unknown white solid chemicals and the last task was using further chemical tests to identify six unknown colourless solutions. This is a big task to complete all activities in only sixty minutes and both teams did really well dividing up the tasks and working to complete all three activities.

We had 16 Year 9 to Year 11 students participate in the International competitions and assessments for schools (ICAS) Science competition in 2020 at the start of Term Four. This consisted of a multi-choice online test done over a 60 minute period. We await the results!

Six Year 10 students Leilani Amataiti, Noah Craw, Kester Moore, Mya Neho, Lucas Tomlinson and Kate Vernon were selected to participate in the project, He Puna Pūtaiao in Term Four of 2020. This project is in collaboration with the University of Canterbury and involves 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 have completed the sessions at the University of Canterbury and will be presenting their posters in early December.

Our Year 11 Extension Science students went to the University of Canterbury as part of their study of Radioactivity and Models of the atom. There they conducted experiments looking at the activity of different Radioactive sources and half-life. The other part of the day was spent interacting with resources from Rutherford’s Den around the history of the atom before getting a tour of the Physical Sciences, Geology and Geography departments to look at applications of Physics.

Several students have received scholarships to attend Science camps. Amy Paull and Aaron Loh received Bishopdale-Burnside Rotary scholarships and attended The Rotary National Science and Technology Forum in January of 2020. William Wray, Blaithan Altenburg and Kush Desai have all received the same scholarship to attend in January 2021. Ritvik Sharma and Taylah Peek have both been accepted to attend Hands-on-Otago in January 202`1. Fantastic experiences for all students and we look forward to hearing about all the cool Science they are exposed to.


The year started off with visiting lecturer Dr Peter Olsen and his team from Ara Institute of Canterbury speaking to your Year 13 Biology students. Dr Olsen discussed aspects of blood pressure linked to his research and provided students with information about planning investigations. This was extremely useful for students as they began their first internal assessment. Following this visit students spent several weeks collecting data they could then analyse and write a report on, linked to how humans maintain blood pressure.

During Term three Year 13 Biology students learnt from a leader in the field of selective breeding when Professor Jon Hickford spoke to them. Professor Hickford, from the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Lincoln University, is a world leading expert in animal breeding and genetics. He spoke to the students about his studies on selective breeding in sheep, starting with a historical overview of sheep breeding, then discussing the implications and technological innovations that are now involved in this process. Professor Hickford also shared some of his studies and findings with the students. Students used this information to help them develop their reports on an assessment about genetic manipulation.

Also in Term three all Year 13 Biology students visited Orana Park as part of the Human Evolution topic. This involved observations of several primates, including the spectacular gorillas, as well as time in the newly constructed Zoo School discussing and comparing replica skulls of our distant ancestors. Under the guidance of Zoo School staff, students were shown the major anatomical differences between modern humans and other primates as well as the trends in evolution as our distant ancestors evolved into modern humans. The students enjoyed this experience and noted it as a highlight of their year in Biology.

Year 12 Biology students started off the year dissecting insects, fish and sheep lungs to allow them to investigate gas exchange in the three different animal groups. Observations and diagrams or photos were used as part of their report for this topic. Following this the Year 12 Biology students investigated the goal of Aotearoa becoming predator free by 2050.

Carol Khor and Fiona Li sat the New Zealand International Biology Olympiad Entrance Exam in August. Both students received Bronze Certificates for this and are eligible to take part in the Biology Olympiad training tutorials. These tutorials will continue into 2021.

Six Year 12 Biology students will be working with scientists in 2021 to investigate and formally describe a small butterfly known as the Canterbury copper boulder butterfly. These students met with Ruud Kleinpaste in Term four to learn more about their role in this project and aspects of the butterfly. The students are very excited to be part of this project that involves working with Burnside Primary School as well as scientists. Watch out for more information about this amazing opportunity in 2021.


A team of three (Thomas James, Robin Kunwar and E Wen Wong) entered and won the regional Young Physicists’ Tournament hosted at the University of Canterbury in March. The students are given months to research their chosen topics, then on competition day they have to present and defend their findings against opponents from other local schools. A great deal of fun, and a great way to learn how Physics researchers carry out their work.

Many of our students at all year levels entered the inaugural NZPMC (New Zealand Physics and Mathematics Competition), and Burnside came away with some fantastic results. In the Junior division (Y9-11), James Wang (Y11) took out 1st with a perfect score, and Daniel Lough was 3rd equal (especially impressive as he is only in Y9!). Of the 32 students awarded a Distinction in Junior division, a quarter are Burnside students. Joseph Grace was our top-ranked student in the Senior division (Y12-13) at 5th, and Burnside again performed well with six students each gaining one of the 32 Distinctions awarded.

Twenty of our aspiring engineers entered the Engineering Science Competition run by the University of Auckland. The competition ran one Saturday in August over nine hours, with the challenge being to answer this question posed on the morning: How many satellites can be launched into orbit before astronomers on Earth can no longer observe the night sky without interruption? Five teams of four students spent the day researching, mathematical modelling and writing reports. A long day, but a great learning exercise.


Ruth Gao is a passionate Chemistry student and was selected to train for the International Chemistry Olympiad team. After the examination for this in March, Ruth was invited to attend the final training camp in Auckland. Unfortunately Ruth was unable to take up this opportunity, however this was a fantastic achievement which recognised her outstanding knowledge of Chemistry.

The process for selecting the 2021 Olympiad team started in September with 10 of our Year 12 students entering the competition. Tomson Zhang, Shanika Yu, Oliver Fan and Fiona Li all did very well in the initial test and have been offered places in the training sq uad for 2021.

Three classes of Year 13 Chemistry students used the University of Canterbury labs to carry out extended practical investigations. The groups carried out a range of investigations including looking into changes in dissolved oxygen in a pond, patterns in chloride ion concentration in rivers and estuaries and changes in calcium ion or vitamin C when foods were cooked. The results for some groups were unexpected and led to some good plausible explanations of why their hypothesis was not correct.

Miss O’Loughlin, HOF Science