Media Advisory December 05


The solar powered cars from Waikato University and Germany’s Bochum University of Applied Sciences are ahead of schedule on their New Zealand road trip. The cars and their teams of engineering students are currently Bluff-bound on their journey down the South Island, having left Christchurch on Saturday. “We’ve been making the most of the fine weather and have kept the car going with solar power for a lot of the South Island journey,” says Matthew Kerslake, one of the Waikato team members who built BEV the battery powered electric commuter vehicle. Matt says they had a stunning drive down the Kaikoura coast, seeing seals and getting plenty of honks of support from other cars on the road and from road workers enjoying the distraction. Waikato University lecturer Mike Duke says there have been many New Zealand electric cars converted from typical petrol engine cars and a few that have used the chassis of existing cars. “But the students have achieved an amazing result by designing and building completely from scratch the first ever fully certified electric car in New Zealand.” The German car is called SolarWorld Gran Turismo (SolarWorld GT) and relies entirely on solar power. A third solar vehicle will be joining the convoy in Christchurch for the final stages of the journey which will see the teams stopping in Timaru, Palmerston and Milton on their way to Bluff.


Some of New Zealand science’s big names will be at the University of Waikato this coming weekend, for the Thermophile Research Unit reunion. Among attendees will be Professor Don Cowan, FRSSA, FRSNZ, Director of the Institute of Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics, University of Western Cape, South Africa; and this year’s James Cook Fellow, Professor Greg Cook, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago. The unit, established in 1980, researches microorganisms associated with extreme environments and high temperatures, such as those living in hot springs, deep sea vents and compost. Professors Roy Daniel and Hugh Morgan, joint TRU directors, say the reunion will be a great opportunity to meet old friends and bring past members of the unit up to date with its activities over the past 30 years. The Thermophile Research Unit reunion begins on December 9.


How the digital world has changed the way primary school children learn and understand maths is the subject of a new book launched last week at the University of Waikato, Tauranga. Author Dr Nigel Calder, who is the university’s Partnership and Liaison Manager in Tauranga and a specialist in mathematics education, says his book, Processing Mathematics Through Digital Technologies, looks at the way children’s understanding develops because of learning alternatives offered through digital technologies. “Digital technologies open up a wealth of possibilities in mathematics learning, and as children work in that environment their learning develops,” he says. “Often they learn concepts that are normally well beyond their age because they are exposed to them regularly and in different ways.”


A week-long Science Summer School focused on the Waikato River will captivate the minds of 40 top Year 12 students this week at the University of Waikato. The Hill Laboratories Waikato Science Summer School, which runs December 4-9, is an annual event run by Rotary District 9930 and Waikato University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, with sponsorship from Hill Laboratories. The week will kick off with a visit to the Mighty Waikato exhibition at the Waikato Museum, followed by stops at Lake Taupo and Tokaanu Power Station, and an overnight stay at Turangi. The following day the group will travel back up the river, with stops to explore and collect samples at the Craters of the Moon, Wairakei, Aratiatia Rapids, Waipapa Dam, the Karapiro Stream and the Hamilton Water Treatment Plant. The students will bring their samples back to Hamilton where they will spend the rest of the week in Waikato University’s science and engineering labs, analysing their finds. The Summer School is designed to give school students a taste of what it can be like to study science and engineering at a tertiary level.


A free seminar offered by the University of Waikato Department of Policy, Culture and Social Studies in Education will examine raising the school leaving age this month. Professor Gary McCulloch, a visiting lecturer from the University of London, will examine the gradual raising of the school leaving age over time and the many contentious economic, political, social and cultural issues that go with it. The seminar will look in particular detail at the increase in the school leaving age in post-war Britain from 1945 to 1983, and the current planned raising of the age to 18. The hour-long seminar takes place at the Faculty of Education, Hillcrest Rd on Thursday December 15, starting at 4pm.


Three University of Waikato geochemistry students received top prizes at a conference held in Christchurch last week. The awards were given at the New Zealand Geochemical Group Conference, at the University of Canterbury. Eight students and two staff attended from Waikato University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. Waikato PhD student Lisa Pearson won the overall student poster prize for her four-year study of the way in which sediments in Taupo and Rotorua lakes interact with the overlying lake water. This is the third time the former John Paul College (Rotorua) student has achieved a top prize in a conference poster competition. Also winners were former Waiuku College student Anna Carter and former Western Heights High School (Rotorua) student Alex Keyte-Beattie. Both students received highly commended awards for their posters. The two undergraduate students were part of a seven member team which studied Lake Tikitapu (Rotorua’s Blue Lake).


Waikato University’s Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences recently announced three major prize winners at its 2011 postgraduate conference. The John McCraw prize for best overall presentation went to Tanya O’Neill. Emeritus Professor McCraw was the founding chair of Earth Sciences at Waikato. The conference has been held annually for more than 20 years and showcases a diverse range of student research. “An ability to communicate research findings effectively has always been an important facet of student training in the department,” says conference convenor Professor David Lowe. “We ask PhD students and second-year masters students to present short oral papers on their work and the students take the job very seriously by dressing smartly, preparing well and presenting high-quality papers.” The Michael Selby Prize for Best Overall Oral paper went to Megan Brink whose topic was Vertical and Lateral Variations in the Ongatiti Ignimbrite, Southeast of Te Kuiti. Emeritus Professor Selby was Waikato University’s first Deputy Vice-chancellor and a staff member of the department. Stephanie Lee won the PhD oral prize with her study on heat flow in the Southern Taranaki Basin.


This January the University of Waikato is hosting Bubble Dome summer education programmes in robotics and game design. Bubble Dome is a niche children’s educational publishing company that offers school holiday programmes and after school training workshops for both children and teachers. The courses, aimed at between six and 15 year olds, take place at the university between January 18 and 20. In the robotics class students will learn how to wire circuits for alarms and amplifiers, explore radio controlled racing and flight and create and program their own robots. Computer animation and game design students will be taught the skills behind design, animation and game making while being exposed to the art of character animation, games design and 3D world creation as they create industry level software. Registrations can be made online.

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