Power project wins Whakatane student top prize


A Whakatane home school student has with an ambitious project, entitled Wasted Watts, has taken out top honours in this year’s Bay of Plenty Regional Science and Technology Fair.

Year 9 student Elizabeth Howells investigated whether it was possible to save enough power from unplugging fully charged items in individual households. Her aim was to prove it may not be necessary for build a new hydroelectric plant planned for the Waitaha River on the West Coast of the South Island.

Elizabeth measured power used by a number of household items in her home and then carried out a survey of 100 households to determine how much electricity could be saved if all New Zealand households unplugged fully charged items. Her conclusion showed that, even with full compliance, it would not be enough to warrant not building the new plant. As well as winning Best in Fair, Elizabeth also took out the DOC Conservation Science Award and Junior Secondary Science Award.

She has plans to study astronautical engineering. "I want to be an astronaut. I've wanted to be one for many years, but it's only recently I've started telling people. It was after we visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington last year and that made me realise I really wanted to do it and I started saying it." 

The runner up award went to Kieran Butler of Awakeri School for a project he called Handy Hygiene.

Kieran wanted to develop a fun way for children to want to wash their hands for the full 20 seconds that is recommended for successful hand washing.  He altered an existing soap recipe to create a bath bomb type experience that fizzed and bubbled as children washed their hands and trialled this at day care centres. 

NIWA scientist Tracey Burton, who plays a lead role in the six NIWA-sponsored fairs each year, said the Bay of Plenty entries were impressive with some truly new solutions to classic problems. “But just as impressive was the obvious passion that was shown for the research topics.

“It's great to think that these young people are bringing critical thinking to things that are relevant to them personally and to the world around them. The standard was incredibly high.”

Overall winner in the NIWA Bay of Plenty Science and Technology fair 2017 - Elizabeth Howells. [Photo: NIWA]
Runner-up in the NIWA Bay of Plenty Science and Technology Fair 2017 - Kieran Butler [Photo NIWA]