Summer science fun at Waikato University

16 December 2010

Summer Science

Science Fun: Karamu High School Student Philippa Cogswell experiments with the Atomic Absorption Spectrometer at Waikato University during the Hill Laboratories Waikato Science Summer School.

A week packed full of exciting fieldtrips and lab work, coupled with fun team building activities and a tour of Hill Laboratories, provided a memorable end to 2010 for the secondary school students attending the Hill Laboratories Waikato Science Summer School last week.

Forty Year 12 science students from the central North Island descended on Waikato University on December 5-10 for the annual Science Summer School which is sponsored by Rotary International and Hill Laboratories.

The budding young scientists began their week with a fieldtrip to the Waihi area, investigating the region’s past and present mining sites. The students enjoyed a walk through Karangahake Gorge and a bus tour of the Favona Mine processing plant. Soil samples were collected from Golden Cross Mine, Gilmour Lake and Paeroa and the fieldtrip concluded with an afternoon at Bowentown to collect sand samples and explore the rocky shore.

The remainder of the week was spent in Waikato University’s science and engineering labs, analysing samples and experimenting with the university’s state-of-the-art instruments. Among other experiments, the labs included analysing water samples taken from Gilmour Lake, identifying rock samples from the Karangahake Gorge and testing Bowentown sand samples for magnetic minerals and Paeroa tailings for traces of gold. The students also had the opportunity to try biochemical engineering and electronic engineering.

On the last day, students presented their opinions on possible new mining sites in New Zealand, as well as rehabilitation plans for when mining has ended.

"I am very excited with the quality and enthusiasm of the students involved in this year's summer school. They maintained a keen interest in all field and laboratory activities throughout the week, and frequently asked intelligent scientific questions. I’m sure these students will embark on great scientific careers," says Faculty of Science and Engineering lecturer and convenor of the Science Summer School, Adrian Pittari.

Each student applied to their local Rotary club to be in the running to attend the Summer School. The 40 students were then selected by Rotary, from around 70 applicants. Rotary Science Summer School Coordinator Tony Tritt says the competition was especially high this year and choosing the top 40 proved very difficult.

Main sponsor Hill Laboratories is the country’s largest privately owned analytical testing laboratory specialising in a wide range of environmental, agricultural, food safety, food residue and air quality testing. 

 “Good science is close to our heart, and our strategic plan includes an intention to support young people as they pursue their own interests in science,” says Steve Howse, Hill Laboratories General Manager.

“The Science Summer School is a key event for us to support, as it provides an opportunity for young people to come together and learn in the field of science and technology – an important step towards a career in this industry.”

In addition to the academic benefits, the summer school also gave students the opportunity to experience student life, with accommodation at Waikato University Hall of Residence, Bryant Hall.

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