Lighting the spark for science

Issue: Volume 96, Number 21

Posted: 27 November 2017
Reference #: 1H9gW9

Now in its sixth year, the Eureka! science competition is more exciting and diverse than ever. Education Gazette meets Neakiry Kivi, winner of this year’s Eureka! Premier Award.

Now in its sixth year, the Eureka! science competition is more exciting and diverse than ever. Education Gazette meets Neakiry Kivi, winner of this year’s Eureka! Premier Award.

Nurturing the passion and drive of young scientists is what the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards are all about.

Named after the eminent New Zealand scientist who died in 2012, the same year they were established, the awards share his ethos and mission: inspiring young leaders in science and technology, for the betterment of society.

Now made up of a number of components, including video-based and junior competitions, the awards draw in entries from hundreds of students from around the country.

The competition finals feature 12 selected students vying for the Sir Paul Callaghan Premier Award.

The 2017 Eureka! Premier Award winner is Neakiry Kivi, a year 13 student at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington.

Neakiry’s presentation Reinventing solar: The future is clear looks at the great potential of harnessing solar energy as a renewable resource in New Zealand.

“I’ve always been interested in physics and technology and climate change. I’m a huge advocate for renewable energy,” says Neakiry.

“My presentation was about being able to make transparent solar panels using resources we already have, such as the vertical space from tall buildings in a city.”

Neakiry says that while she had wanted to research renewable energy, her particular interest in solar power wasn’t sparked until listening to another student’s presentation in her physics class.

“One of the girls in my class was talking about solar energy, and it was just a side point that she made about the potential of tall buildings and glass that inspired me to start my project.”

The deputy head girl has a range of talents and interests – she also plays the piano and violin, and has active leadership roles in choral music and singing at Marsden School – and she plans to head to Otago University next year to begin her degree in health science.

“I love music and English as well, which are often seen as opposite subjects to science, but I don’t have a favourite – everything interests me.

“When I was younger, I had older cousins studying medicine, so studying science was always a pathway that felt open to me,” she says.

Both Neakiry and a fellow winner Hana Te Puni took part in the 2016 Eureka! competition, and Neakiry says this prior experience set her in good stead.

“Last year I did a presentation on probiotics, and I wasn’t a finalist but I did win a scholarship. That set me up and helped me see how it all worked, and I think it helped this year because I felt more comfortable and confident to enter.”

Aside from winning the Premier Award, taking part in the Eureka! programme has brought many other benefits, says Neakiry.

“I would definitely recommend Eureka! to others. It’s really good that you can incorporate it with NCEA; last year I used my probiotics presentation for a biology school internal assessment. Also you become part of the Eureka! community – it’s like a family.”

Read more about the Eureka! programme at link)


Organised by the Rotary Club of Wellington, the first Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Symposium was run in 2012 as a small national competition focused on getting students excited about STEM.

Convenor Francis Wevers says the growth of the event in recent years has been in large part due to the commitment and dedication of some fantastic teachers.

“To recognise this dedication we have decided to award two special Eureka! Teachers Awards each year to the two teachers who have shown ongoing commitment to the mission of the RCW Eureka Trust and are teaching at a school, university or polytechnic in New Zealand,” he says.

This year, the inaugural Teachers Awards were won by Gillian MacDonald and Dr Heather Meikle.

Gillian MacDonald

“Gill has been supportive of the Eureka! programme since its inception and is the prime reason that the college has been represented in the finals each year it has been held. Additionally a past student has won the main prize and last year a year 12 student won the national award.

Gill has inspired many students in the study of science over her career and given freely of her own time to assist students achieve. I could think of no more worthy recipient.”

Graeme Yule, Headmaster, Scots College.

Dr Heather Meikle

“Dr Meikle is an incredible teacher. She provided so much encouragement and support when I was working on my Eureka! application and presentation in 2013, and continued to be a great support to students from my school in following years. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to nominate Dr Meikle for the Eureka! Teacher Award as she is definitely a worthy recipient.

Hayley van Waas, Eureka! Finalist 2013. link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 27 November 2017

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