23 Oct 2014

Celebrating Young Science Orators

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 23 October 2014

By Veronika Meduna Veronika.Meduna@radionz.co.nz  

The Governor General, Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mataparai and Lady Janine Mataparai, with the finalists from the 2014 Eureka Sir Paul Callaghan awards at a ceremony at Government House.

The Governor General Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mataparai and Lady Janine Mataparai, with the finalists from the 2014 Eureka Sir Paul Callaghan awards at a ceremony at Government House. Photo: Jo Blick

The late Sir Paul Callaghan wanted New Zealand to be ‘the most beautiful, stimulating, and exciting place in the world in which to live and work.’

As part of an effort to encourage young people to be part of this vision, the Rotary Club of Wellington organised a speaking competition for students with a passion for science and named in Sir Paul's honour – the Eureka Sir Paul Callaghan awards for young science orators.

The idea for the speech competition was born when Francis Wevers heard 15-year-old Hadleigh Frost speak at Rotary Club of Lincoln about his passion for physics. Now in its third year, 2014 was the first time that regional competitions were held to select 12 finalists who then went on to give their presentations at a national symposium. In a 12-minute speech, each student had to demonstrate knowledge of an area of science, present it clearly to a non-science audience, and set out its practical application and relevance to New Zealand.

The premier award went to University of Otago neuroscience student, Sam Hall-McMaster, for his presentation on the potential value of nanotechnology for New Zealand, economically, socially and environmentally. He was interviewed on Saturday Morning with Kim Hill.

In this feature, four of the finalists present their ideas. Correspondence School student Siska Falconer raises the issue of antibiotic resistance, which you can also read about in her blog about the evolution of superbugs; University of Waikato engineering student Rochelle Molina discusses how fish scales could be used to produce new biodegradable plastics; St. Patricks College student Jack Wynne explores the future of quantum computers; and Grant McNaughton from Logan Park High School argues that scientific literacy should be as important as reading and writing.

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