Media Advisory December 17

Based in the “Silicon Savannah” of Nairobi, a University of Waikato computer science student is trying to unify the East African tourist industry. Doctoral student Paul Hunkin’s skills have sent him jet-setting around the world as a freelance programmer. He has been offered US$25,000 from a venture capital firm called Savannah Fund, to develop a unified searching and booking platform for the East African tourist industry. The platform he is designing is called SafariDesk, and aims to unify the $3.5 billion a year industry under one online platform to make East African travel as easy as possible to search and book. Paul came up with the idea when trying to find a Mt Kilimanjaro climb. With no centralised information hub he had to Google and email individual companies to get basic information. While the project is still in the early stages, a couple of hundred travel providers have already signed up for SafariDesk, and Paul hopes to launch it before the end of the year. “It’s quite exciting, as this is the first programme of its kind in Africa,” says Paul. “Basically Savannah is a three month program where they provide initial seed funding and on-going mentorship to build the company, and in January there’s a ‘demo day’ to attract more local and international investment.”

The University of Waikato has won two out of six 2012 Teaching and Learning Research Initiative projects, and is collaborating on a third. The projects are funded by the New Zealand Council for Education Research (NZCER), and are worth more than $400,000. Two of the projects are being conducted by the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato. Dr Brenda Bicknell and Associate Professor Jenny Young-Loveridge have been awarded $130,000 over two years to investigate the use of multiplication and division to help young children develop a greater appreciation of the properties of numbers. Dr Elaine Khoo has been awarded $130,000 over two years to investigate software literacy, and how it develops and impacts on the teaching, learning, and knowledge understanding in engineering and media studies. Dr Margaret Franken is working with the New Zealand Council for Education Research and three New Zealand schools, looking at conditions teachers need for on-the-job transformational learning to meet the needs of 21st Century learners. The project is worth $200,000 over two years. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) co-ordinates the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative fund and its associated research programme on behalf of the Ministry of Education. Projects are funded once a year

A University of Waikato academic has investigated the benefits of building a combined hydro-power station and pump storage system between Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Earth and Ocean Sciences Associate Professor Earl Bardsley wants to get Otago residents’ opinions on the possibility of having a power station which could send water between the two lakes, controlling Wanaka water level fluctuations and generating electricity. It’s a PhD project he is supervising, that proposes taking advantage of the fact Lake Wanaka is only 2km from Lake Hawea at ‘the Neck’ but 65 meters lower. This enables water transfers between the two lakes via a short tunnel. “There would have to be some changing of the wording in the Wanaka Preservation Act for this to be considered a possibility, but it’s an interesting hypothetical study,” says Dr Bardsley

The Waikato Enactus team is going from strength to strength this year, winning the Innovative and Creative Ideas and Projects Award at the Hamilton City Council Recognyz Youth Awards last week. The Enactus group, formerly known as SIFE (Student in Free Enterprise), was nominated for two out of the eight awards, taking out the projects award in recognition of the team’s community projects this year. In July this year the Waikato group won the national SIFE title, beating all other New Zealand university SIFE teams. They went on to represent New Zealand at the SIFE World Cup in Washington DC in September, where the announcement was made to change the name from SIFE to Enactus; reaffirming its long-standing commitment to using entrepreneurial action as a catalyst for progress.

The University is again bringing together scientists and Bay of Plenty iwi for the second Treasuring the Bay coastal economic symposium. It is a chance for the community to engage with experts about research and economic developments taking place in the Bay of Plenty. Agribusiness Professor Jacqueline Rowarth will present the keynote address on sustainable agribusiness looking at how we balance the long-term sustainability of our resources with the increasing pressures on our environment, and a government urging economic growth. Other presenters will include the university’s Professor Chris Battershill, economist Dr Dan Marsh, and Professor Rocky de Nys from Australia’s James Cook University and the Rena Research Group. There will also be a discussion on the Mauri of the Bay by iwi representatives. The symposium is a free public event and will be held from 9am-3pm, Friday 25 January at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic Bongard Centre, 200 Cameron Road, Tauranga. Bookings are essential for seating and catering purposes. For further information and to register, please visit

University of Waikato student Jordan McMahon has received a prestigious scholarship to study in the United States.He’s one of nine recipients of 2012 Rutherford Foundation awards, and has been given an International PhD Scholarship to study abstract algebra at the University of Michigan.The Scholarship is for $25,000 per year, as well as up to $7,500 towards course fees for up to a maximum of three years, and a yearly return airfare between New Zealand and the host research institution.“Ever since primary school, I’ve always had an interest in maths and wanted to be a mathematician,” says Jordan. “It’s one of the purest fields of study.”While there he will be conducting research into the field of abstract algebra, which is the study of mathematical objects and their properties. He will be specialising in non-associative algebras, which is a fundamental research field in mathematics and has particular importance in quantum physics.

Interactive, hands-on field and lab work were the highlights for students attending the Hill Laboratories Waikato Science Summer School last week. The week-long Summer School ran from 4-9 December at the University of Waikato, and gave 40 talented Year 12 students from around the central North Island the chance to see what it can be like to study science and engineering at a tertiary level. The adventure began with a two-day field trip exploring the Waikato River and surrounding areas and was followed by two days in Waikato University’s science and engineering laboratories. “I felt we had a really special group of students at the Science Summer School this year. I was really impressed with the students’ level of interest, and the fascinating questions they asked throughout the week”, says Dr Ian Duggan, Science Summer School Convenor. Waikato University’s Summer School is an annual event run by Rotary District 9930 and Waikato University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, with sponsorship from Hill Laboratories.

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