Funding success will bring high-tech science to BOP students

11 December 2017

Next year Bay of Plenty school kids will be getting their hands on creepy crawlies and high-tech science tools thanks to a Scion-led project that has been awarded $150,000 in the 2018 Unlocking Curious Minds funding round.

Scion has partnered with the House of Science, with cofunding from NZ’s Biological Heritage Science Challenge, to inspire students about science and technology through practical hands-on learning in managing insect pests in the primary industries.

As one of New Zealand’s ‘food bowls’, the Bay of Plenty needs good pest management and biosecurity science for its horticulture, farming and forestry industries to thrive.  These industries are also the main employers in the region.

The project combines scientific skills from Scion with science education skills from the House of Science to create an exciting learning programme for today’s students, who will become tomorrow’s employees.

Students from 20 low-decile primary schools across the Bay of Plenty will take part in a unique programme that comprises practical in-school learning, pest surveillance workshops and a field trip to a commercial horticultural firm. Designed to be real, relevant and inspiring the students will use cutting-edge science and high-tech technologies.

Project Leader Dr Stephen Pawson says the activities are very cool. “They include field-based trapping and smart phone reporting apps, observations of insect brain activity as it relates to smell and attraction to insect traps, and trialling novel UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) spraying packs and futuristic cyborg surveillance technologies.

“Success in this project will be a win-win for everyone. We aim to encourage students and their communities to consider future careers in science and technology areas, and we want to increase understanding of how important science, and biosecurity science in particular, is to our local businesses, communities and the environment.”

Additional funding and in-kind support has come from other organisations involved in the project.

This project is one of 33 projects awarded a combined $2 million in the funding round. Unlocking Curious Minds supports innovative science projects that engage New Zealanders, particularly young people, with science and technology in their everyday lives.

Read the Research, Science and Innovation Minister's statement announcing the funding awards