Media Advisory July 29

The launching of New Zealand's first MOOC (massive open online course) came a step closer this week as the Department of Computer Science's Professor Ian Witten found himself in front of a video camera filming a trailer for the University's new MOOC in Data Mining. Professor Witten is producing a series of videos that are an important feature of the course. The videos are a good way to simply and clearly explain to potential students how the course will work, what they will need to complete it and what they will get at the end of it. "People are now taking data mining very seriously but they tend to think it's somewhat mysterious," Professor Witten says. "What this course will do is unravel the mystery and provide students with the tools they need to work on their own data sets using the Weka software developed here at the University of Waikato."

Britain’s Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, will be in New Zealand between 5-8 August, visiting Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington. Speaker Bercow will spend a day in Wellington observing the New Zealand parliament in session and meet with New Zealand Speaker, David Carter. Mr Bercow has an interest in the experiences of different ethnic groups (particularly New Zealand’s Pasifika communities) in the political process, as well as youth and gender issues. On Thursday 8 August, Mr Bercow will give a public lecture on the “Parliament of the Future” at The University of Waikato’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts from 12.15pm-2pm.

A new online system is being developed that might one day help kiwifruit growers make decisions on when to spray orchards for pests and diseases. The system is in the early stages of development in a joint project between the University of Waikato and Plant & Food Research. The web-based tool should help reduce time and costs associated with pest monitoring in kiwifruit orchards and spray application. The current process of physically monitoring pest levels is time consuming, says University of Waikato summer research scholarship student Michael Fowke. With a web-based service, growers would not have to check orchard pest levels by hand but could simply enter a grower ID and orchard block name to receive a spray/no spray/keep monitoring decision onscreen. The system works by accessing past spray and monitoring data for each orchard block and predicts current pest levels. It then gives the grower a decision.

The University of Waikato Winter Lecture Series kicks off on August 7 with “An Unexpected Result: The Business of Hobbits”. Tourism heads and researchers discuss the benefits to the region of having parts of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies filmed here. The speakers are Hamilton & Waikato Tourism head Kiri Goulter, Matamata PR Association manager Sue Whiting and the University’s Dr Carolyn Michelle, who has been carrying out worldwide research on perceptions of and reactions to The Hobbit. This is the first of four lectures that will be on every Wednesday evening in August. The lectures bring together the latest university research and experts from the community to promote robust discussion on a series of topics. The Winter Lecture Series is held in the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. Lectures run 6-7pm, are free and open to the public. For more information visit the Winter Series page.  

Rapid advancements in science continue to impact on us every day, yet how are decisions about scientific developments made, and do we agree with the thinking behind them? At next week’s Café Scientifique in Tauranga, Professor Richard K Coll and doctoral research student Naren Prasad of the University of Waikato’s Faculty of Science and Engineering will explore the problem of how modern citizens should use scientific knowledge, and who they should believe when debates rage about the use of science. Café Scientifique is a forum for exploring science issues. It is organised by Julia and Warren Banks and supported by Waikato University. The next Café will take place on Monday 5 August, 6.30pm for 7.15pm start at Bravo, Red Square, Downtown Tauranga. For more information please visit the Café Scientifique page.

A group of Waikato University students has taken out two categories at the national Rialto Channel 48HOURS filmmaking competition with their short film called The Empath. Taking home the titles ‘Sexiest looking short’ and ‘Best original score’, the team of five, named Elysium Exit, won themselves a post-production package worth $15,000. The team was made up of Screen and media master’s students Jordan Browne, Jake Ngawaka and Daniel Trainor, Bachelor of Music student Jade Browne and Bachelor of Media and Creative Technologies student Moehau Hodges-Tai. The Empath is an abstract, non-dialogue short film, with a converging storyline; the film was different to the other entries as it left the viewers in control over their interpretation of it. To get to the finals, the team’s film was hand selected alongside 11 of the other best films from across New Zealand to compete in the grand finals. The team plans to use its prize package toward two new short film entries for the inaugural Tropfest NZ festival, the next big film-making competition being held in February 2014.

A group of renowned and accomplished writers is gathering at the University of Waikato on Thursday 1 August for a lounge-style discussion on their current work and the community is invited to join them. This event brings together New Zealand writers and visiting US writer Lynn Bloom for a lively exchange by diverse writers. Novelist Catherine Chidgey, poet and fiction writer Jack Ross, and creative nonfiction writer and expert, Lynn Z Bloom will read from their current work before joining in conversation with Tracey Slaughter, short fiction writer and Waikato staff member from the English Programme who will be emceeing the evening. The evening is timed to coincide with Lynn Bloom’s Fulbright visit to Hamilton and the completion of her latest book titled Hot Genres: Alluring Nonfiction, due for publication in 2015. Writers without Borders will be held at Te Whare Tapere Iti, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Waikato on Thursday 1 August, 6.30pm.

Dr Azouz Begag, former Minister for Equal Opportunities in the French Chirac Government and renowned author, is visiting New Zealand giving open lectures in Hamilton, Wellington, Palmerston North, Dunedin and Nelson. While New Zealand has not experienced the kind of unrest seen in France, similar inequalities, high poverty levels, low educational attainment and job market exclusion exist in parts of this country. In both NZ and France it is important to consider how issues of ethnic and/or religious identity intersect with socio-economic challenges, both in practice and in political debate. Waikato University’s Professor of Political Science Dov Bing will respond to Dr Begag’s address. Dr Begag’s lecture is on Wednesday 7 August at 5.30pm at the University of Waikato in Room SG.03.

Motivated by New Zealand’s poor record of child abuse, child poverty and the lack of national policies around child protection, Professors Michael Peters and Tina Besley from the University of Waikato’s Centre for Global Studies in Education have organised the Children in Crisis Conference to be held in Hamilton in October. The conference is aimed at teachers, counsellors, social workers, police, medical professionals and government agencies. There are four major strands that will be covered at the conference – child poverty, children’s rights, child abuse and policies and practices and Professor Besley hopes the conference will lead to on-going forums and a handbook designed to assist teachers dealing with issues that they may come up against in their day-to-day teaching. The conference is on 7-9 October. For more information visit the Children Crisis website.

A workshop covering how the physics principles of flight can help a paper plane to fly was just one of the activities on offer at the University of Waikato’s Science & Engineering Open Days last week. During each of the days, which were held as separate events, nearly a hundred Year 11-13 students and many of their parents or caregivers, moved between sessions to learn about the subjects offered by the Faculty of Science & Engineering. The selection of workshops gave potential tertiary students a taste of the fun and varied subjects available to study for a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science (Technology) and a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours). Students came from as far and wide as Kaitaia, Hawera and Napier. “From the positive feedback we’ve received, it’s clear that school students and their parents really value the opportunity to talk one-on-one with our staff and current students, while getting hands-on experience in our science and engineering laboratories,” says Faculty of Science & Engineering Dean Professor Bruce Clarkson.

“Marine science under the microscope – what’s it all about?” features presentations, interactive displays and the opportunity to speak directly with Marine Station staff and post-graduate students. The objective is to educate parents and students about the wealth of options available to marine scientists, and show how job options change with further study. There will be several speakers, including the University of Waikato’s Chair in Coastal Science Professor Chris Battershill, speaking on their pathways into science. “Marine science under the microscope – what’s it all about?” is on Monday 12 August at 5.30pm at the Coastal Marine Field Station in Tauranga.

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