Fostering young STEM leaders with the 2015 EUREKA! Awards

Issue: Volume 94, Number 17

Posted: 21 September 2015
Reference #: 1H9cuj

The prestigious Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Premier Award has for the first time been won by a young woman still at college.

The winners were announced at a dinner hosted by the Governor-General, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and his wife Lady Janine Mateparae at Government House.

Twelve secondary school and university undergraduate students were finalists, with the top prize going to Jennifer Palmer from Orewa College for her presentation on ‘Synthetic Biology – Engineering the Future’. She also received a prize of $10,000. Jennifer is the first woman to receive the Premier Award, as well as the first college student.

The award, which recognises excellence in communication about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, was created in honour of the late Sir Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s foremost scientists and science communicators.

Sir Paul Callaghan saw New Zealand as one of “the most beautiful, stimulating and exciting places in the world in which to live.”

“These young people, through their knowledge of science, technology, engineering or mathematics, their entrepreneurial vision and persuasive communication skills, will bring about the vision of New Zealand as seen by Sir Paul,” says the Chairman of Rotary EUREKA! Trust, Dr Russ Ballard. “Our programme seeks to identify and foster these young leaders.”

The 12 students delivered presentations on a wide range of subject matters but the central focus was what value their proposal will deliver to New Zealand economically, socially and environmentally.

This year the Rotary EUREKA! Trust formed a partnership with the Ministry of Education to increase the reach of the programme. This also supports the Government’s plan to encourage and enable better engagement with science and technology across New Zealand society through the Nation of Curious Minds initiative.

The number of scholarships offered by the EUREKA! Programme sponsors increased this year to 13, including two from the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education Gold Scholarship for the best presentation by a Māori secondary school student went to Reiana Cooper for her talk ‘Little cells, big possibilities: The importance of continuing stem cell research’.

The Ministry of Education Gold Scholarship for the best presentation by a Pasifika secondary school student went to Sinai Tominiko for his talk ‘Increase the numbers of Māori and Pasifika general practice doctors’.

The EUREKA! Awards are run every year. Find more information on the website(external link)

All about the alumni

Participating in the Eureka Symposium is merely the start. All finalists from this and previous years join the EUREKA! Alumni.

The Ministry of Education’s relationship with the alumni includes providing mentoring and coaching support and including members in Ministry reference and working groups to represent students.

“Since the Eureka! Awards I have completed a BSc Honours and begun a PhD at Victoria University. My PhD topic is about the international and domestic regulation of invasive species – continuing work I presented at the Eureka Symposium. I have also continued with science communication in various different fora,” says Evan Brenton-Rule, winner of the 2013 Eureka! Symposium.

“Being part of the Eureka! alumni has definitely had a positive effect on my life. First I am part of the Science in Society reference group. This is an interesting opportunity to be involved in the development of science policy. Also, I have done a lot more science speaking – at schools, university, community groups and conferences. Finally, winning the premier prize was brilliant. It gave me the opportunity to speak with Kim Hill on Saturday mornings and greater recognition for my work.

Whenever someone Googles me, that’s the first thing that comes up – which is great!”

Fellow alumni Ratu Mataira and Sebastian Hallum Clarke have attended workshops to review the positioning and content of digital technologies within the framework of The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

“Like all of the alumni group I share a passion for technology and science, so the chance to influence the future of New Zealand digital education is an honour,” wrote Ratu in his review of the event.

Evan is enthusiastic about the role the EUREKA! awards have played in his life. “To anyone thinking of applying: do it. There are so many benefits. The exposure to influential people in science, the chance to present your ideas to a new audience – not to mention generous prize money and scholarship opportunities,” he says.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:08 pm, 21 September 2015

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