Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch
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Science Fair 2012

Branch 2012 Science and Technology Fair Awards

The 2012 Canterbury-Westland Schools' Science and Technology Fair was held on Sunday 26 August at the Addington Raceway buildings. The Branch, as usual, gave four awards of $150 to exhibitors whose projects showed excellence in experimental design, approach and interpretation. The judges, Anna Pilbrow and Tony Mander, took into account the ages of the exhibitors and their constraints of time and resources. While there were fewer entries this year (306), the standard was very good and we could have awarded more prizes. All exhibits had the requisite ethics approvals.

The exhibitors and exhibit receiving the Branch awards were:

"Feline Foods" by Wilson Murray, Jonathan Currie and Harrison Voice, Yr 7, Medbury Preparatory School.
They compared the weight gain and behaviour of cats on diets of cheap and expensive cat foods over two weeks. The RSPCA was consulted on the foods. The cats used were first checked by a vet, dewormed, and weighed. The weights of the daily intake of the two cat foods were adjusted so each cat had same amount of protein. The owners of the cats didn't know which foods their cats were receiving. Cats not eating were excluded: of the original 32 cats, 28 were used as the experimental subjects. Cats were checked by a vet at the end of the study and reweighed. Cats that were overweight at the beginning of the study lost weight on the expensive food, whereas the weight of the cats on the cheap food did not change. The cats on the expensive food were less agitated compared with the cats on the cheap cat food.

"Fright Night" by Elaine Boden, Yr 8, Cobham Intermediate School.
Elaine investigated whether people who were more anxious or highly stressed had more nightmares, and whether those who were more creative had more nightmares. For this she used established creativity, anxiety and stress questionnaires. An online approach (SurveyMonkey) meant that people outside Christchurch were included; 32 subjects participated. Results were tested for significance. Those in the high anxiety trait group were more affected by stress than those in the low anxiety trait group. The more creative group had no more nightmares but theirs had a wider variety of themes.

"Kitty cat -- What paw is that?" by Phoebe Milne and Sasha Pugh, Yr 8, Ohoka School.
They researched existing studies and found none on NZ cats, although studies had been conducted elsewhere, showing cats older than one year had a paw preference. Although using standard tests, they first carried out a pilot study with three cats to see which of the five possible tests would be most reliable for a larger group of cats, selecting the food tube, string and sit tests with 41 cats. Other variables were carefully controlled, especially the scent of other cats. In this sample there was a clear gender difference in paw preference, with consistency between front and rear paws.

"Show and Tell" by Molly Buglass-Clapham, Yr 8, Chisnallwood Intermediate School.
Molly was interested in this: "The challenge for educators is to know which students learn in which ways." so investigated which would be more effective in having people achieve a task: written or verbal instructions or being shown? She selected three origami designs having the same number of steps and of similar difficulty. Different designs were selected to avoid a practice effect with each attempt. The written instructions included diagrams of each step. The subjects were her classmates and they had up to an hour to complete the tasks. She graded each origami design for precision and completeness and found that the verbal instructions were the most effective.

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