Two students do New Zealand proud in Taipei

Jack Tredigda and Aimee Leaming at the Taiwan International Science and Technology Fair

Aimee Leaming and Jack Tregidga have just returned from Taipei after winning prizes at the Taiwan International Science & Technology Fair.

Aimee Leaming won first place in the Earth & Environmental section for her project she carried out last year in her final year at Kerikeri High School. She researched Neolema ogloblini – a beetle which provides some biological control of the Tradescantia weed

Initially Aimee started this project in response to the biology 3.1 investigation. However, the scale of the project rapidly escalated. The local Northland Regional Council entomologist had informed Aimee that there was very little known about the beetles but that they seemed to have a considerable effect on the growth rate of the Tradescantia weed – one of the worst smothering weeds in New Zealand. In response to this, Aimee decided to conduct a lengthy series of investigations over a six-month period into a range of factors that influence the survival and feeding rates of the beetle, including light and temperature. 

Aimee’s research has shown that the beetle has an effect on the growth rate of tradescantia, but the impact is reduced in cold conditions. Her results suggest tradescantia beetles will not be an effective method of biological control in areas South of Hamilton/Waikato which have frost, as beetle populations will need to be reintroduced once the chance of frost has passed.

Undertaking this research forced Aimee to confront many issues and try new approaches to gain her results. Through carrying out this project Aimee realised that it is the practical side of science that is particularly important to her and because of that she is now about to study towards a BSc at the University of Auckland.

Jack Tredigda, who carried out his research last year at Wellington High School, gained third place in the physics section at the Taiwan Science & Engineering Fair. Jack researched the physics behind why we spill drinks when we walk, and to investigate how we can minimise the likelihood of this occurring. Jack divided his investigation into two distinct parts: explaining the system of the cup, and explaining the effect of walking. He found that as cup size increased, the size of liquid oscillations increased as did the distortion of the fluid surface, making spilling more likely. To systematically analyse the effect of walking, Jack had research subjects walk on a treadmill, allowing for a controlled walking surface for each subject. However, he also needed an accurate way of measuring the carried cup. He used a smartphone to record the acceleration of a carried cup, as acceleration is what causes the movement of liquid in a cup. This allowed surprisingly accurate measurements to be made, and allowed both the size and frequency of the acceleration to be recorded. In summary, to minimise the likelihood of spilling your drink walk slowly, use a narrow cup, focus on walking smoothly, and fill the cup only to well below the rim. Despite this, some people happen to be much smoother cup carriers than others, likely due to their individual walking biomechanics.

Jack would like to study science at a university in the United States and has applied to a number of them including MIT and Stanford.  He will hear in a few months whether he has been successful.

Both Aimee’s and Jack’s travel and accommodation was supported by the Talented School Students Travel Fund, which is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.