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Hastings Girls’ Shines At Science Fair

December 16, 2015
Science stars in the school lab, from left, Marie Jones, Grace Duncan, Caitlin Stent and Amanda Philpott.

Science stars in the school lab, from left, Marie Jones, Grace Duncan, Caitlin Stent and Amanda Philpott.

A will to reduce the use of plastics and a listless goldfish swimming at the bottom of a fish tank prompted winning projects in this year’s EIT-sponsored Hawke’s Bay Science and Technology Fair.

The top two projects were entered by students from Hastings Girls’ High School.

Taking part in the fair for the first time, Year 9 students Amanda Philpott and Caitlin Stent teamed up for their EIT Science and Technology Award-winning project Bottle to Blob:  Edible Plastic.

Keenly aware that plastic is polluting the environment, Amanda learned about a cooking process called spherification online.  She and Caitlin then looked at adapting the method for shaping a liquid into spheres to make edible and biodegradable bottles.

“We didn’t get exactly what we wanted,” says Caitlin “but we did demonstrate the possibilities for replacing plastic bottles.”

Marie Jones and Grace Duncan won the fair’s outstanding project award, the National Aquarium award for the best exhibit relating to aquatic animals and the University of Otago award for their entry, What’s weighing you down? 

Having noticed a goldfish hugging the bottom of the fish tank at home, Grace teamed up with Marie, another Year 12 student, to look at physical and chemical equilibriums in fish and to relate this back to human divers as well as several classroom physics and chemistry experiments.

Without any intervention, the pet fish is now swimming normally.  Grace and Marie think it may have been having problems with its swim bladder or perhaps its digestion.

The pair’s prize includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the University of Otago’s Hands on Science workshop in January next year.

Hastings Girls’ High School excelled in the fair, scooping up nine of 11 prizes awarded for Years 11-13 projects as well as winning best in show.

Head of Science Mike Duncan, who has chaired the fair’s organising committee for the last four or five years, says the school always performs well but this year was its best yet.

“The science fair projects are the most interesting and real science we do.  We’re trying to get the seniors engaging more in the fair.”

Science, he says, is not just about learning facts and figures.

“It’s about giving kids the opportunity to learn problem-solving processes, anything that encourages them to look critically at what they are doing and then to follow processes to resolve whatever issues arise.

“That’s going to be helpful with anything they do in life,” he enthuses, “not just science.”