Year 11 wins big at Wellington NIWA Science Fair

A Wellington College pupil claimed two top prizes at this year’s NIWA Wellington Science and Technology Fair.

A Wellington College pupil claimed two top prizes at this year’s NIWA Wellington Science and Technology Fair.

Winning the NIWA award for Best Overall Exhibit, year 11 Jesse Rumball-Smith received $1,000 for his project "Driving Nudging Towards Zero: Technology to Reinforce Safe Driving". Jesse produced an interactive phone app to support people to make safer choices while driving, such as giving alerts if they are speeding. 

The project complements Waka Kotahi's "Road to Zero” campaign. New Zealand still has an unacceptable crash rate. Jesse’s project addressed the root of the problem - behaviour.

"It successfully lowered both speeding and distraction by ~35% and led to fundamental behavioural improvements on each subsequent journey,” said Jesse. 

Jesse also won the Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) Science Innovation Prize for best exhibit in the class, taking away $5,000 towards first year fees in a VUW undergraduate science or engineering degree. Jesse spoke highly of his experience. “The science this year was a blast. The judges were great, the atmosphere amazing, and you can really explore what you’re interested in,” he said.

Wellington Science and Technology Science Fair 2023 winner Jesse Rumball-Smith.

Wellington Science Fair coordinator and atmospheric scientist Sylvia Nichol was impressed by the high calibre of entries.

“The calibre of entries was exceptionally high this year, displaying the great talent that we have in New Zealand and the promising future these youngsters can look forward to. These fairs inspire students to think and behave like scientists and engineers, letting them explore topics that are important to them in a hands-on, creative way,” said Sylvia. 

This year’s NIWA Wellington Science and Technology Fair took place from 30-31 August at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. Providing major sponsorship for many of the science fairs throughout New Zealand is part of NIWA’s long-term commitment to enhancing science and technology for young New Zealanders. NIWA is also a major sponsor of the Auckland City, South & East Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Canterbury-Westland and Waikato Science and Technology Fairs. 

Other top prize winners: 

Royal Society of NZ Wellington Branch Prize for the runner-up best overall exhibit and the Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Science Prize for the best exhibit in Classes 1 to 4 (an iPad) went to Isabelle Aduna, Year 9 student from Wellington Girls' College, for her project “Riding the Waves”. Isabelle was also 1st in Class 3.

First in Class 1 went to Gabriel Anthony, Year 7 student from Whitby Collegiate, for his project “I Sci With My A.Eye; Using Artificial Intelligence to recognise Science teachers”.

First in Class 2 went to Elise Hargreaves, Year 8 student from Wadestown School, for her project “Rongoā Rakau vs Pharmaceutical Antacid Remedies”. 

 First in Class 4 went to Nevaeh Hickey, Year 10 student from Wellington Tawa College, for her project “Does caffeine affect your sleep?”. 

View the full list of winners. For more information visit 

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