Science fair – chance for young researchers to shine

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Entrants . . . Four of the Fairfield School pupils entered in the Aurora Energy Otago Science Fair are (from left) Nate Wilson (12), Abi Gibson (12), Aiesha Goswami (12) and Jonathan Tucker (13), with the hybrid bridge that Jonathan made. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Bridges and insects are some the subjects of projects in this year’s Aurora Energy Otago Science Fair.

Seventeen Fairfield School pupils have entered the science fair, which started on Monday and will end on Sunday.

Abi Gibson’s project – Moths by Moonlight – was to find out whether moon phases affected moth activity at a light station.

She thought of the idea when she noticed the amount of moths surrounding the light outside her house varied each night, so set up her own light station to test it.

She thought there would be greater moth activity at the new moon phase, and less at either the first quarter moon, full moon, or last quarter moon phases.

She carried out testing for four months, and was pleased her hypothesis was correct.

“I like the science fair because you get to do something which you really love doing, and it isn’t a set topic – you can do whatever you want.

“It’s a really good opportunity to learn about something which you might’ve even wanted to learn about for ages but you haven’t had the resources or the time to do it.”

Nate Wilson researched the plankton population in the Otago Harbour.

For his project, called Monkey Sea Monkey Do, he left a trap overnight at five different parts of the harbour – Steamer Basin, Andersons Bay Inlet, Port Chalmers, Te Ngaru and Aramoana – to compare the plankton population in each place.

He thought the inner harbour sites would have more plankton because they were more sheltered.

Each site had a variety of plankton, and the cumacean hooded shrimp was present at them all, he said.

Aiesha Goswami used tracking tunnels to see if the types of pests changed as a body of water changed.

For her project, called From Stream to Sea, she placed about thirty tunnels with peanut butter and beef cubes for bait, at three locations: Kaikorai stream, estuary, and sand dune area.

Each of the tunnels had ink inside, so she could track which type of pest was in the area.

“Mice was the most common in all three places.”

There were only mice at the stream, the sand dune area had mice and insects, and the estuary was the most diverse with rats, mice, insects and a possum present.

Since she was using animals in her experiment, she had to get an animal ethics approval, which involved outlining her project, which predators were involved and the results.

For his project called Will it Hold?, Jonathan Tucker looked at different bridge designs to see what one was the strongest.

He researched the four most common types – beam, arch, truss and cantilever – and made each from wood.

He then tested how much weight each could hold.

“I thought [the truss bridge] would take the most weight because this is the most commonly-used bridge around the world for train bridges and big trucks.

“This one actually ended up taking the least amount of weight.”

The beam bridge held the most weight – 93.2kg.

“After all of my testing I came up with my own design of bridge where I combined some of the features together.”

The bridge, called the hybrid bridge, was a mixture of the arch, truss and beam bridges.

Jonathan said he was always been interested in building models and engineering, and thought this would be a fun project.

Teacher Amy Monaghan said the pupils had chosen a vast range of topics for their projects.