Hero photograph
EPECentre VR Car
Photo by Rebecca O'Loughlin

Student activities and successes in the Science Faculty for 2018

Miss R 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. Read on for the highlights!

Nine year 10 students Abi-Rose Withers, Carl Wall, Rain Waitere-Roper, Isobel Trotman, Noah Morcom, Jazmyn Higgs, Paris Hawthorne, Yani Hapuku and Luke Edwards were selected to participate in a project called He Puna Pūtaiao in term four of 2017. 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.

Through Otago University, seven students Ruby Glasson, Naduli Goonatillake, Ruth Palitog, Lucy Rae, Breana Riordan, Henry Smythe and Gagjalakshmiakshmi Thillaikkannan were selected to attend Hands-on-Otago in the January of 2018. This is a week long programme held at the University of Otago where the students got to experience what research scientists do by participating in their own research group and also experiencing “tasters” of other research projects on and off campus. All students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and highly recommend other students apply for this opportunity.

We had 38 students participate in the International competitions and assessments for schools (ICAS) Science competition in 2018, with Ethan Ng gaining a High distinction award and recieving a medal for gaining the highest score in Year 12. Twelve students gained a distinction award: Joseph Grace, Nicholas Grace, Eric Huang, Thomas James, Grady Kenix, Aaron Loh, Louie Lu, Nick Peters, Aditi Sharma, Robin Wan, E Wen Wong and Alexander Zhou. We also had 24 students take part in the Australian International Chemistry Quiz with High Distinctions for Akshat Goyal, Robin Wan, Alexander Zhou, Felix Backhouse, Ethan Ng, Eric Song, Sung Min Oh, Jordan Peters and Aditi Sharma. An outstanding achievement for these students.


Our NZ Young Physicists' Tournament team of Nick Peters, Abby Field and Ryan Worsley had to investigate lots of different physics phenomena, such as the 'Water Bottle Flip', the 'Dancing Coin' and the 'Heron’s Fountain', and prepare debate style seminars explaining the phenomenon. They then would present them in front of an opposing team, and a jury of engineers and science professors, who both would then attempt pick the proposals to pieces. They also had opportunities to challenge other teams from different schools, and try to oppose their solutions. Abby Field had the following to say: “This was incredibly terrifying, but we improved over the course of the competition. With help from the Burnside Physics Department, and an incredibly helpful ex-Burnside dux - recent engineering graduate (Ding-Chen Luo, our hero) - we managed to actually win the Canterbury Regional Competition, and go to the New Zealand Nationals, where we placed second in our pool! The three of us are so glad we participated in the tournament, as we were challenged in so many different ways, and all of us were pushed out of our comfort zones. We learnt lots of new physics and mathematics ideas that we wouldn’t have known otherwise, such as fluid dynamics and thermodynamic cooling, and improved our understanding of a range of others. It also allowed us the opportunity to experience a realistic approach to scientific investigations at a depth beyond what we had done in school. It was a cool experience and we wish the next Burnside teams the best of luck!”

All Year 13 Physics students 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 which focuses on power generation and distribution, the Embedded Systems Lab looking at signal transfer and the Nanofabrication Lab. A large Tesla coil was also harnessed to make music for our enjoyment. The trip finished with a chance to drive a virtual-reality racing car.

A group of aspiring engineers entered the Next Top Engineering Scientist competition run by Auckland University. The competition ran one Saturday in August over nine hours, with the challenge being to answer this question: “How many tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided in your lifetime if New Zealand transitions to a completely electric vehicle fleet?”. Five teams of four students spent the day researching, computer modelling and writing the report. A long day, but a great learning exercise.

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. Students spent an entire day working with professional engineers to gain insight on what each did as part of their occupation.   Students had the following to say about their experiences: “The engineering trip was very interesting and enlightening. Throughout the duration of the trip we saw what a civil engineer does on a day to day basis which included: reading plans and briefs, visiting work sites, and checking to make sure the work being done was up to standards. In my opinion the trip was a lot of fun and eye opening, since we got to see what we would be doing if we were to get into the industry and what it's all about.” (Adam Hamzah)

“The engineering trip was an amazing experience that allowed me to deepen my understanding of an industry that I want to get into, and to see the use of physics ideas that we've covered in class at Burnside in a practical context to solve a real-world problem helped to develop my comprehension of the topics.” (John-Luke Langford)


At the beginning of the year Owen Wong and Robin Wan put considerable effort into learning and preparing for the second stage of selecting a national team to compete in the International Chemistry Olympiad. Robin was offered a place at the final training camp in Auckland during the April holidays where he had an intensive few days of tutorials, practical tasks and testing. In October five Year 12 students participated in the first stage in the selection process for the 2019 Olympiad team with Ethan Ng, Eric Song, Esther Wong, and Felix Backhouse doing very well and being selected to continue with the training and selection process in 2019.

Professor Ian Shaw gave a lecture to our Senior students which focused on the Chemistry of plastics and what happens to them as they break down. The details of the work he is doing and the findings his team at Canterbury University are making was very interesting and his passion for Science was evident and prompted a lot of questions.

Five students from our Year 13 Chemistry classes volunteered their time this year to be part of “Chemistry Club”. Robin Wan, Alisa Chen, Hayley Khoo, Ali Zawari and Keetley Rate formed a group of mentors and worked with students from Burnside Primary, Fendalton Primary and Cobham Intermediate on a Chemistry programme set up by Post doctorate students from the University of Canterbury (UC). The students carried out various chemical experiments and then performed a show of these experiments for their families.


Ruby Glasson (13WAJ), Sofia Tuliau-Walker (12WCMJ), Lucy Rae (13PZS) were selected to participate in the week long Water Wise camp initiative. They were based at Lincoln University and looked at water conservation and management issues in the Te Waihora catchment. They met with local Iwi, farmers, University lecturers and other interested parties to discuss the issues and devise possible solutions to such a multi-faceted area of great concern. All students had an amazing time and really appreciated the opportunity to develop their leadership skills as well.

Ruby and Laura Duncan (12SMPP) have been selected to attend the Blumine Island Conservation and restoration trip planned for week 8 of Term 4 2018. Many thanks to Sophie Moloney (teacher) for giving up her time to attend the program alongside our students.

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 a new 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. As part of this work we were lucky to have Rudd Kleinpaste give an inspirational talk on why Biodiversity and scientific literacy are so very important as we are part of the fibre of Planet Earth.

Miss O’Loughlin, HOF Science