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SouthSci projects for 2018

Ten new SouthSci projects are underway in 2018 in south Auckland with topics ranging from edible insects, to raising queen bees, to ‘smart’ recycling bins that signal when they’re full. 

COMET co-hosts SouthSci, the government’s participatory science programme in south Auckland funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.

SouthSci manager Dr Sarah Morgan says these new projects are excellent examples of local communities and schools engaging with science and technology as equal partners. They bring the total number of projects funded to 34 since SouthSci began in 2015. 

“We have some new and exciting things this year – Waiuku College is our first school so far in Franklin, and our first rural school with Hunua. At Hunua School, they’re really conscious of the lack of wildlife around the school, and want to bring back native birds like the kōkako. It’s in their school logo so they’re particularly emotionally connected with that.”

Dr Morgan says projects focused on environmental sustainability continue to be popular, especially for primary schools. 

“But we have some new directions that are unexpectedly creative. Edible insects (pictured below) and bioplastics at Conifer Grove, those are very cool, new and exciting.


“The Point England School project is also quite cool – putting sensors in recycling bins that send a ping when they’re full, plus a system for compacting waste in the bins. At the moment the kids jump up and down in the bins to compact the waste, so they want something better.”

Students at Waiuku College are combining an entrepreneurial spirit with their science by investigating the best way to raise queen bees at school. 

“They have a hive and want to supply hives and colonies for free to local primary schools, and the high school kids will train the primary school kids in apiculture for free,” Dr Morgan says. “There’s also our first community-driven project with Accelerating Aotearoa’s school holiday camps for Kaitiakitanga o Tara.”  

The 2018 Projects

The ten projects awarded up to $20,000 each are:

Hunua School students want to raise native birdlife numbers by controlling predators in and around the school grounds. They are working with Auckland Council rangers and animal pest control advisers to develop monitoring and trapping of possums, rats and stoats. 

Conifer Grove School has two projects. In the first, Year 7 students are investigating the feasibility of producing and using black field crickets as an alternative food source in the school community. They are working with the School of Biological Science at Auckland University, the School of Food Science and Nutrition, and with engineers from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. 

In Conifer Grove’s second project, all Year 5 and 6 students are collaborating with experts from Manukau Institute of Technology and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare to make a biodegradable form of bioplastic, and then to make new useable products from it such as plastic bags, straws and packaging. This is an extension of the school’s 2017 project looking at recycling HDPE plastic. 

Willowbank School is investigating off-grid living through water recycling. Three Year 5 and 6 classes are looking at how to produce drinkable water from grey water. With help from Watercare and mentors from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, the students will design and build a model water-filtration system for a family home.

Pt England School is working with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare engineers and OMGTech! to develop sensors and a compacting system for their recycling bins. The aim is for students to design and build prototype ‘smart’ bins with sensors that report to the school’s Bincurity recycling website when they are full, and to investigate a robotic or mechanical method of emptying the bins more efficiently.

Manurewa High School is looking at ways to cultivate algae to produce biofuel, and using the biofuel to race a go-cart. Experts from Auckland University, AUT, Auckland Transport, NIWA and Z Energy will be helping with the science. 


ABOVE: Manurewa High School students work on culture bottles for the algae, the water bath to keep the cultures at an ideal temperature, and the arduinos that will control the water heater, lights and air pumps. 


Ngāti Pāoa are extending their 2017 SouthSci flounder hatchery project to look at eel fattening. Students at Kauri Flats School in Takanini, and the Manaiakalani schools in Tāmaki will raise about 15 native longfin eels to release into local awa. Science partners are David Cooper of Aquaculture Services, native fish conservationist Paul Woodward, Waicare and Mahurangi Technical Institute.

Accelerating Aotearoa with Waicare, Ōtara Waterways and Lakes Trust and Auckland Council will be running a series of school holiday ‘Geek Camps’ for children to restore the waterways at Ōtara Creek Reserve. The children will investigate how to improve the water quality and aquatic environment for native marine life by reducing the koi carp population.  

Waiuku College students are trialling two different ways of raising queen bees at the school. The students are part of the college beekeeping group and their aim is to grow enough queen bees to supply them with their colonies, hives, and apiculture training to 10 local primary schools. They are working with local beekeepers, Plant and Food Research, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. The students first started this project for the Manukau Beautification Trust’s 2017 Tiaki Expo.

Papakura Intermediate students are working with the Auckland Stardome and the Playground Centre to design, prototype and build a playground using Māori astronomy and aligned with local landmarks. The school's board has agreed to fund construction of the first stage of the new playground.

Papakura High School in collaboration with Massey University, Hothouse NZ, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Ngāti Tamaoho, are building a biochar kiln to investigate what form of biochar works best for plant growth and yield in hydroponics. This is an extension of their 2017 SouthSci project using food waste to create biochar for hydroponics and to sequester carbon. 

COMET co-hosts SouthSci, the government’s participatory science programme in south Auckland funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.