Over the summer holidays we had 3 students, Eloise Gooch, Kaila Robertson and Selena Gilmer attend Hands-on
and we also had Selena Sun attend the 2016 Rotary National Science and Technology Forum in Auckland.
These are fantastic courses that immerse the students in science and also let them experience university life. Hands-on at Otago is 1 week long and the Rotary forum is 2 weeks. Below is an account from the students about what they did....
- Selena Sun
What happens when you take 160 teenagers, turn University Hall into their home, and make them spend 16 hours of everyday together for 2 weeks?
The 2016 Rotary National Science and Technology Forum was a tremendous two weeks of invaluable experiences. By day, we flocked to the University of Auckland, Massey University, and AUT where we got a taster of uni courses ranging from Astronomy to Sports Science. We were entertained, inspired, and gained great advice from professors, lecturers, guest speakers, and uni students. My favourite experiences include visiting the UoA’s extensive human anatomy collection, seeing Sonny Bill Williams and Valerie Adams in training, using gel electrophoresis equipment (and other expensive machines), using Boolean algebra to build a RobotCar, cultivating my own microbes, and seeing the latest biomedical engineering projects and research for cancer treatment.
Despite sharing enthusiasm for science and technology, we were still teenagers afterall. The other less mentioned half of the Forum included impromptu dance parties, movie nights, beach days, volleyball, shopping, dinners, 6:30 am morning activities, 3 am music room jams, off-key singing, and more volleyball. Or in other words, good times.
With help from the Burnside Bishopdale Rotary Club and my teachers (shout out to Miss O'Loughlin), I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Forum. It was a truly unique and eye-opening experience that really helped me to decide what I want to study and be in the future. I strongly urge any year 12 who is even remotely interested in science or tech to apply for the next National Rotary Science and Technology Forum.
- Kaila Robertson
On the Geology project six of us took part in an investigation on whether Balclutha would be vulnerable to liquefaction in the event of an earthquake. Our first day involved a full day's field trip to Balclutha, where we literally spent an entire six hours drilling holes in the ground by hand at Riverside Reserve (our largest hole was almost 3 m deep), and taking soil samples - plus, there was the added excitement of the arrival of several newspaper reporters! Later in the week we were featured briefly in the Otago Daily Times and took up the entire front page of the Clutha Leader, which was a great way of publicising what we were doing and what the possibilities were if an earthquake were to occur in Balclutha, therefore warning people about being prepared for earthquakes. This was especially rewarding for me as I was the only one in our group from Christchurch who had experienced the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes first hand.
The rest of the week was devoted to analysing our soil samples - we learnt about grain size analysis of soil particles, thinsectioning, and using micrographs to identify the presence of certain minerals in the samples, as well as laughing ourselves hoarse over the number of unnecessary rocks in the Geology department. On our last day our project leader Virginia also took us on a field trip around the Otago Peninsula so that we could learn about the history of the Dunedin Volcano. The week I had at Hands-On at Otago was probably one of the best of my life, and the Geology group made the whole experience so much more incredible. All in all, I can absolutely without a doubt say that "geology rocks!"
- Eloise Gooch
Hands-on-Otago was an amazing experience. I learnt so much and it was a great way to experience what university life would be like and to be sure that I knew what was involved in the areas of study I am considering, as well as it being a chance to meet lots of new people. I took part in the Psychology course which was very interesting, although there was so much choice it was hard to decide what to take part in. We also all got to try snippets of other courses, some of which I didn't even realise existed and rather than finding all the information we learnt daunting it was very exciting.
We also got the chance to get to know lots of other people on the course through activities around Dunedin and the university. We met lecturers, support staff and students, which was a great way to find out what university has been like for them, what they really enjoyed and what they might do differently. We also got to meet some PhD students and learn a bit about what they are studying. I really found it wasn't a lost week of holiday instead it was a week to sample university and gain a lot of knowledge.
- Selena Gilmer
Hands-on at Otago was a summer school run by the University of Otago. The summer school was split up into three different divisions; Science, Business and Humanities. I chose to be in the science division working on the Immunology project. My team and I spent our week researching different immune cells and how they react to introduced pathogens (in our case we were using M. Bovis the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis in deer and cattle.) Throughout the week we used specialist techniques and equipment to come to a conclusion.
Along with learning heaps, I also got to experience what studying at Otago would be like by staying in Arana Collage for the week. One of the many highlights about my experiences down at Otago would have to be meeting lots of new friends and people from all over the country who shared the same interests as me. This experience was an amazing one; the whole week was jam-packed full of fun filled, educational and authentic activities around campus and really gave me an insight into University life down at Otago.
Even though the year has only just started, Hands-On Science has already become a highlight of my year.
I was quite nervous at the start about spending all day with more than 300 strangers, for 5 days. However, in the end, that didn’t matter at all. The people there were the friendliest and most amazing people who had come from all around New Zealand. Everyone was just as nervous as I was at the start. Each day I got to meet tons of different people and I made so many great friends. I got along with everyone so well because they shared the same interests as me and we were able to spend so much time together. I became very good friends with two of my floor mates. Even though they live in the North Island, we’ll be catching up later in the year.
I took the physiology course which involved a ride in a high speed rotating chair, causing uncontrollable twitching of your own arm, and eating ice cream (for scientific purposes, of course). The lecturers were so kind and they taught us so much. I loved my course and learnt so much about the mysterious yet intriguing functions of the human body.
It was great to experience what university lifestyle is like. We were able to take a tour of the different halls of residence and some halls reminded me of the Hogwarts castle in Harry Potter. I also have to mention how good the food was. I can understand how first year university students can gain more than 3 kg in the first few months.
Hands-On at Otago was a life-changing experience for me - I met new people, I learnt to be more independent and spent 5 days learning fascinating new things. I recommend year 11s and 12s to make the most of this opportunity and apply for Hands-On next year.