Central Leader : January 13th 2012
www.centralleader.co.nz 5 CENTRAL LEADER, JANUARY 13, 2012 NEWS OG_AC0712_CL2 Auckland Council is now inviting applications to the following funds that will support community-driven initiatives in the Whau, Henderson- Massey and Waitakere Ranges local board areas: Community Accommodation Assistance Fund Fee Waivers Fund Your project must not start before 1 May 2012. Applications must be received by Council before 4 pm on Friday, 20 January 2012. For more information: Please phone 09 301 0101 and ask to speak with the Community Grants and Support Officer - Henderson; or visit www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/funding and click on the 'community group funding' tile and scroll down to the funds available in the west area. Nina reaps big science award Top scientist: Nina Huang is heading off to university this year with the 2011 Prime Minister's Future Scientist Award under her belt. She is pictured at the awards ceremony with Prime Minister John Key. Photo: JOHN SELKIRK When Nina Huang heads off to university this year she will have a $50,000 boost behind her. The high achieving 17-year-old won the 2011 Prime Minister s Future Scientist Award for her research into a possible link between the early onset of short-sight- edness and mental con- centration. The former Diocesan School for Girls student received a $50,000 schol- arship to support her ter- tiary studies after win- ning the coveted national science prize for secon- dary school students. The Epsom resident plans to study bio- medical science at Auck- land University and wants to specialise in genetics and molecular biology. News of the prime minister s award came a week after she learned she had been named the Genesis Energy Realise the Dream supreme award winner. That award came with a $7000 cash scholarship and an all expenses paid trip to Slovakia in 2012 to attend the European Union Young Scientist Competition. The Royal Society runs the Genesis Energy Realise the Dream awards to acknowledge the finest examples of science research or tech- nological development undertaken by New Zea- land secondary school students. Nina s Eye Think proj- ect was the basis of a 4000-word essay she wrote for the two-year International Baccalaur- eate Diploma she com- pleted at Diocesan last year. Her research com- pared how the pupil sizes of 46 year 7 students changed when they performed cognitive tasks, such as solving maths equations, with when they performed non-cognitive ones, such as reading a simple sen- tence. Nina photograph- ed the students pupils while they performed the tasks then measured them to investigate a possible link between optical power required to focus on a task and short sightedness. Nina says although her results were too scat- tered to be conclusive, they helped her to deter- mine how she could re- fine future experiments, which could include using MRI scans to monitor brain activity and filming pupil reactions to measure them more accurately. If we can isolate external reasons, such as prolonged periods of con- centration, for the onset of short-sightedness in young people, it may help researchers identify other causes such as gen- etics, environmental con- ditions and signalling pathways to the brain then treat the condition. Her research was supervised by Professor John Phillips from Auck- land University s vision science department. Diocesan s head of sci- ence Sarah Boasman encouraged Nina to enter her research project into the NIWA Auckland Regional Science Fair in September where she placed second and was nominated for the Realise the Dream Awards. Nina said she had no idea her research would take her so far. I was so bowled over when I found out about the awards that I couldn t speak. Science is not the only area Nina excels. She speaks Mandarin, is learning Japanese, is one level short of becoming a taekwondo black belt and has played the piano since she was four. Nina says she has always been fascinated with how the human body works and now loves everything to do with science. I think it would be more fun to be a research scientist than a doctor. I m also interested in stem cell research. It has the ability to turn the medical world around because of its ability to replace anything in the human body. LIVING THE DREAM Science dream: Conor King is heading to the 2012 Taiwanese International Science Fair following his success in the Realise the Dream competition. Mt Roskill Grammar School student Conor King is also looking forward to this year after his success at the Realise the Dream competition. The 16-year-old, who featured in the Central Leader on November 25, 2011, won the IPENZ Travel Award for his project and will be going to the 2012 Taiwanese International Science Fair in February. Conor's work involved developing simple user friendly ways to interact with an electronic device without limiting the functions available. His proof of concept design was a digital alarm clock called Hourglass. Hourglass had many functions typical of standard devices, such as a countdown and stopwatch as well as some not-so-common features like the ability to set up to 99 alarms. The key aspect about his clock was the fact that it operates with only three buttons where as standard bedside alarms can have up to 11. By reducing the number of buttons Conor believes that devices can become simpler to use, especially if they are designed intuitively. Devices which are simple to use have the potential to positively impact communities with known low technology adoption rates such as the elderly, he says. Realise the Dream is a national competition open to anyone who conducts pioneering or noteworthy research from years 7 to year 13. Participants spend a week travelling from Auckland to Wellington, partaking in scientific and teambuilding activities and visiting specialised facilities such as Genesis Energy's Hydro Electric Dam in the Tongariro valley on the way.
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