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New Zealand students compete to solve mathematical modelling problems
Posted on 27-Oct-2009 10:07. | Tags Filed under: News.

Students from Kristin School on Auckland’s North Shore have proven they have what it takes to be New Zealand’s Next Top Engineering Scientists.

A competition run for the first time by The University of Auckland’s Department of Engineering Science challenged teams of Year 12 and 13 students from across New Zealand to solve a mathematical modelling problem.

The Department of Engineering Science is one of five departments in the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Auckland. It offers specialisations in Engineering Science and Biomedical Engineering for students enrolled in the Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) degree.

“The question we posed was extremely challenging, especially given the time constraints on providing an answer, so being named the most intelligent young engineering scientists in New Zealand is quite an achievement,” says Professor Andrew Pullan, Head of the Department of Engineering Science.

“Engineering Scientists are problem solvers. They use their intellect, mathematical and analytical abilities to find better solutions for our everyday lives, and their skills have become increasingly essential to modern society. This competition has demonstrated the skills our high school students have in these areas and I hope that some of these bright students might be inspired to take further study in this important profession.”

Teams of three or four students were given just nine hours to write a report tackling the question: “Could New Zealanders save enough electricity via energy efficiency improvements in homes to avoid New Zealand requiring an additional power station being constructed?”

The winning team was Daniel Ko, Oliver Hinder, Alex Borsboom and Roxanne Bartlett from Kristin School in Albany. The team was awarded a $6000 cash prize. The runner-up teams were from James Hargest College in Invercargill, and Nelson College in Nelson. Each runner-up team received a $2500 cash prize.

“Almost all of the teams came up with some very good solutions to reducing New Zealand’s energy footprint, but the best entries also included detailed analyses and clear figures, thorough referencing and indentified the assumptions made in their report,” Professor Pullan says.

The competition was run online on 19 September. It drew a remarkable response, attracting entries from 363 pupils, in 98 teams, from 58 different high schools across New Zealand. The entries were judged by two senior Engineering Science academics with the winners announced on October 27.

All teams were given individual feedback on their entries. Plans are underway to hold a second cycle of New Zealand’s Next Top Engineering Scientist in 2010. The event was sponsored by Orion Health and Fonterra, where a number of engineering science graduates are employed.

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