Young New Zealand scientists win international tournament

Issue: Volume 98, Number 19

Posted: 8 November 2019
Reference #: 1HA26i

A New Zealand secondary school team took home the gold medal at a prestigious international science competition earlier this year.

A team of students selected from a range of New Zealand secondary schools emerged as the overall winners in an international science tournament held in Belarus.

The journey to Belarus for the International Young Naturalists’ Tournament (IYNT) in August began many months earlier.

Teams competing at the IYNT are given 17 scientific problems to investigate one year in advance. At the tournament the teams debate the theoretical and experimental solutions they came up with. 

This year, the IYNT New Zealand programme expanded to include a national tournament, national selection auditions, training and, of course, the IYNT competition.

For the last two years, Wellington High School has used the tournament as a way of developing the investigative, collaborative and argumentative skills of their students. 

A local organising committee ran the New Zealand Young Scientists’ Tournament at Wellington High School in March. Nine teams from six schools competed over two days. 

One of the ‘science fights’ required the teams to investigate a set of problems in 45 minutes and immediately debate their solutions.

Juries made up of team leaders, science teachers and professional scientists award scores based on the scientific understanding teams demonstrated in the fight. 

Auckland Grammar School won the inaugural final ahead of Kristin School and Wellington High School. 

Following the tournament, the top 10 competitors were chosen by the organisers to prepare a solution to a further problem. 

Ten days later each person presented their solution to a selection panel and the New Zealand team was selected. 

IYNT New Zealand team members

Lydia Acton from Wellington High School was chosen as captain, along with Ryan Bright from Wellington High School, Matthew Griffiths and Ryaan Sidhu from Auckland Grammar School, Rhiannon Mackie from Hutt Valley High School and Heeseo Kim from Kristin School.

The team continued working on gathering data and strengthening their theoretical understanding over the ensuing months, with the help of their teachers. 

A training camp was held in Auckland in July to develop the skills that the team would need in the competition: reporting, opposing and reviewing. 

IYNT has been held in a different country each year since 2013; this year it was in Belarus.

The team travelled to Minsk, Belarus, for the tournament starting on 18 August. Twenty-one teams competed, including last year’s finalists Bulgaria, Georgia and Switzerland. 

The New Zealand team stayed unbeaten throughout each round, with every member of the team making a strong contribution. 

Tournament rules require that no member of the team may report, oppose or review more than once before the final. 

In the final, Ryan Bright reported his solution to problem 7: ‘Burning glass: Propose and test various methods to start a fire with a magnifying glass’.

Heeseo Kim proved to be an excellent opposer. In the final she opposed the Swiss solution to problem 10: ‘Elastic bones: Chicken bones kept in acidic conditions for a few days become elastic. Perform such an experiment in controlled conditions and investigate what components of bones are responsible for their mechanical properties’.

Matthew Griffiths reviewed the report of Croatia on problem 11: ‘Yeast: Investigate the rate of the multiplication of yeast at different temperatures’.

Murray Chisholm, Wellington High School’s Assistant Head of Science described the tournament and its preparation as a “massively rewarding and educational experience for all involved” – not just for the team members, but also for the teachers and other students who were part of the journey.

Shaking the stereotype: one student’s experience

Wellington High School student Ryan Bright reports back on his experience at the IYNT in Belarus.

When I was in Year 9, I was interested in science and I got to talking to my science teacher about extracurricular science activities. He said that I could help with a team of Wellington High kids who were going to China to compete in a science competition. So, I helped and learned a lot of science along the way. The team won first place. This inspired me and I aspired to go to this competition and also win gold. 

On the way to achieving this dream I tried and failed to get into the team, but this did not stop me. Early this year I competed in the NZYST and my team came third. I was one out of 10 picked to trial to represent New Zealand for the six available spots. Fast forward to now and I have made the team, gone to Minsk and won gold, like the team that I helped.

One thing that I really enjoyed was making friends with the team from Switzerland who are our nemeses when it comes to winning! I loved not being ‘the science kid’ as many of the teams were very good at science. We became good friends with the Swiss team, not because of science (although it helped) but because of the other aspects of everyone that are often overlooked when you are put in a strong ‘stereotype’. I found that many of the teams had very cool people in them. 

How to get involved

The 2nd New Zealand Young Scientists’ Tournament(external link) (NZYST) will be held on 17–19 April 2020 in Wellington. Following a rigorous selection process, the New Zealand team will be chosen to go to the eighth IYNT in St Petersburg in August. 

The science learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum promotes the idea of developing citizenship capabilities.

For more information, visit science online(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:45 am, 8 November 2019

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