Why `Knowledge Forum’ & Some Tips on Use of the `Scaffolds’

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

It’s great to see some of you getting in and using Knowledge Forum!

While acknowledging that the front end of the KF software is not the most eye-catching compared to other software you may be used to using, the concept of a community mind map and that of applying scaffolds to the posts you make is important in encouraging you to go beyond simply stating opinions and start to build knowledge as a community.
Knowledge Forum is part of a long term study that Wing has been running since OUASSA began in 2011. To date Wing has published a number of research papers demonstrating the efficacy of developing the knowledge building approach to knowledge creation in High School students. So by participating you are not only developing your knowledge building skills but also contributing to a growing body of evidence on efficacy of this approach to learning.
Science is an evidence based process. Theories are based on evidence. New information/research provides evidence that lends weight to or casts doubt on a theory, from which may come a new theory.
As Wing explained at the January camp KF is a knowledge building tool. You are all part of a Knowledge Building community and as such you build knowledge by seeking out and presenting evidence. Evidence discovered through research.
The critical evaluation of information is an essential skill when conducting quality research. Assessing and evaluating information involves common sense, knowledge, scepticism, and verification.
At the end of this post is a link that will help you develop your research skills.
For now here are some tips for using the scaffolding tabs in KF

Tips for using the Scaffold Tabs in Knowledge Forum

My Theory:
A theory without evidence is an opinion. So don’t be afraid to cite the evidence that leads you to that theory
My theoryWhy was film originally created? Are we still using film in the way it was intended or has that change? If so for good or bad and why/how do we know this?
While there are some really interesting questions in there, this is more of an
“I need to understand” scaffold. Michaela is seeking information to answer a question (…or two…or three!)

My theory ” I think Film was originally used for entertainment, but over time I think, as people started to realise the large audience that film acquired as it became more popular, it started being used for other things such as education.”

This is an interesting theory that now needs backed up with a “New Information” scaffold that cites some reference/ research that the original use for moving pictures when first invented was for entertainment. By doing so you lift your statement from an opinion to a theory backed by evidence.

The “New information” scaffold should be one of the most used in the scaffolds tool box. Use it to cite references, link to articles, Youtube clips etc. that build on a theory or a “Need to understand” post.

As a particular stream of posts grows and the amount of new information and new theories grows, there comes a time when you might feel the need to pull the various threads together under a “Putting our knowledge together” scaffold. Look on this scaffold as a kind of “So this where I think we have got to…” with this theory, our collective knowledge so far etc.

If you have a better theory that one that is proposed click the “A Better theory” scaffold but don’t just state another theory of your own and leave it at that. Try and state why your theory is better backed up by evidence in form of information/references etc. under, “New Information”

Using Knowledge Forum, like everything else that’s new, takes a little time to master, but the techniques are not difficult and the rewards will come in your school work later this year and when you go on to Tertiary studies. So don’t be afraid to give it a go.

Another advantage of KF is that all your OUASSA colleagues have the opportunity to help by contributing to each growing discussion, the development of which is so much easier to see in the mind-map interconnected post layout than a linear discussion on other social media platforms. Many hands make light work so use each other’s expertise to help you build your knowledge, you don’t have to be in the same group to help out someone else.

So get into KF and try using the scaffolds to build on a theory, to build on and idea, to build knowledge!

Finally, as promised here is a link to a module on on-line research literacy that you might find useful:
Evaluating Information Sources

Reach for the Stars

Monday, December 4th, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Reach for the stars that burn brightest in your universe !Silhouette of child on beach at dusk/dawn with hand outstretched toward a rising/setting sun/star


Wishing  our 2017 Cohort every success in the future

Look forward  to seeing some of you here at Otago University next  year!

The importance of where we are to where we are going?

Friday, October 27th, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

I came across this short TED talk the other day and found it intriguing in its application of maths and geo-positioning physics. Not to mention the claims for its implications to future global society.

 A precise three-word address for everyplace on earth

But just what really are the pros and cons of this system?



Get your critical thinking cap on and let us know your thoughts.

You might also want to check out what YOUR 3-word address is here.




Putting pen to paper…

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

For this week’s blog, I thought I would look at an area that many OUASSA 2017 teams seem to be struggling with, breaking up the work for the team presentation. I have put myself into the roll of the team leader. I wrote up the presentation outline (which I did alone but really the team leader should be doing this with input from their group) and then I thought about how I would break up the work of the presentation to a hypothetical group of 6 team members. I picked 6 because that 7-9 is the group size for our OUASSA 2017 students.It didn’t actually take me very long to think about the outline and write it out. The most important thing to remember at this stage is that it is a work in progress. As we research and craft the presentation, some of the things I have written on my outline may change, and that is ok. It is a guide to myself and my team for where we are generally heading with our presentation. Having a good outline will ensure that my team is on task and not wasting time on research we won’t be using for our presentation. It also helps everyone in my group have a clear idea of what the big picture will look like, and where their piece fits in.

So on to the mechanics of it. I wrote what I was thinking each step so hopefully my handwriting is legible to all 🙂

The final step was filling in the rest of the form. I thought about what I needed people to understand to convey my message. I need people to understand what is fission, fusion and the difference between them. I have a really broad idea of how I want the introduction and conclusion to look but it’s not finished yet. For a first draft, this is totally fine, we’ll come back and tweak this while developing the presentation.

Finally, how will my group divide the labour so that we do the work that needs to be done but don’t waste time on anything else? This is what I came up with:

  • 1 person will write a brief introduction to the talk as a story with an ordinary kiwi family. This should only be a minute or so long so emphasis on BRIEF.
  • 1 person will research fusion and come up with a brief explanation to report to the team
  • 1 person will research fission and come up with a brief explanation to report to the team
  • Once that is done, 1 person will do a 1 minute compare and contrast summary
  • 1 person will use the research to do our visualisations of each concept
  • 1 person will write the conclusion

We will manage everyone’s ideas and contributions in a google doc that we can all contribute to. I know that some of my team are really busy with winter sports in June so they will do the research so that their part is finished early on. Those of us not as busy closer to camp will do the parts that depend on the research.

At camp we will rehearse our visualisations together and tweak our presentation before we show our presentation to the panel for feedback. This shouldn’t take long if everyone has done their part.

I have attached my full outline form: ScienceShowOutline.

Hopefully this will give you guys a bit more guidance on how to distribute the labour and what we expect you to be doing. Remember, we are only an email or phone call away if you need any help.



Tell me what I want to hear…

Friday, May 12th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

OUASSA 2017 students have been working towards a presentation to the public at the Otago Museum which will take place on July 14th. The research for their presentations are in full swing and things should be starting to come together for their presentations. Some recent experiences have reminded me of the importance not only of researching your topic, but of evaluating the information that you find.

Evaluating the information you find is especially important when researching topics that are emotional or controversial, where people are inclined to have opinions based on anecdotal evidence from the world around them. Many of the topics that are being researched for presentations in July fall into this category. People feel very strongly about topics like Climate Change, Genetic Modification and Medicine in the Third World. It is important in a presentation to the public that you are presenting the science behind the issue and relying on provable facts rather than popular (or unpopular) opinion.

The internet is a great place for research because you can very quickly find a lot of information. The downside though is that unlike a book or a research publication, anyone can put information on the internet without any verification that it is actually true, and present it as fact.

For that reason, it is very important when you are researching to make sure that you evaluate the sources that you are using. Although after researching, you may have formed a personal opinion on the issue, it is important that when researching, you are looking at unbiased information based on fact (or at least that you are conscious of the bias and are looking at the information with that in mind).

The library have produced a nice little reference for evaluating internet sources using the acronym BAD URL. You can find a copy here. How_to_Evaluate_Websites

If you want to really dig deeply into how to evaluate sources, this is an e-learning module produced by the University library designed to help you learn about different types of information sources and how to evaluate them.

In July, the students will be having a presentation on “What your brain does when you’re not looking.” Unconsciously, we all are influenced by our bias and frame the world through our own experiences. It is important to make sure we are aware of this and do as much as possible to limit bias in our work and promote impartiality.

“Welcome Everybody……” Some musings on “Introductions”

Friday, April 21st, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In this week’s Science Communication post I thought I would focus on Introductions.
Your introduction establishes not only the topic your show is about but also who you are and the theme or key message you plan to deliver about that topic.
It’s your opportunity to let the audience know the nature of the journey you are going to take them on and engage them right from the start.
There are variety of ways to engage your audience in your introduction
I’m going to focus on just three today
The first is from a Royal Society lecture on antimatter by Tara Shears. Note the strong eye contact with the audience, the structured outline of what is to follow and the emphasis on the fact she will be explaining the relevance of what she will cover.

The second is by climate scientist James Hansen. Here he uses a strong question as an attention grabbing tool and goes on to introduce the science via anecdotes from his own personal journey.
This speaker relies heavily on reading his script. Do you find this style more or less engaging than that of Tara Spears? Imagine how much more engaging he would be if he were to abandon reading every single word of his script as written, step out and face the audience with strong eye contact as he relates his own personal story. He knows his own story. Does he really need a script for that? Would it not be that much stronger adopting a more conversational tone along the lines of what you would use when relating a story from your past to a friend or colleague?

The 3rd is Dr. Jenny Germano a dear colleague from my days as Volunteer co-ordinator at Department of Conservation.  Jenny went on to study urinary frog hormones here at University of Otago. On the day she submitted her PhD thesis she entered the ` 3min Thesis’ speech competition with a talk entitled “Taking the Piss out of Endangered Frogs” …..and won the competition!
A number of things to note with Jen’s introduction. Her passion for her subject hits you from the word go, her use of hand gestures builds on that engaging passion and is even used to good effect in clarifying a couple of semi-technical terms- cardiac puncture and orbital sinus – simply by pointing to her heart and eye in mid-stream without having to pause. Note, no notes or script. She knows the stuff so she can talk from the heart and focus on the audience and not on trying to remember what comes next.
(Note that the graphic in the body of her talk is targeted at an audience of entirely academics as opposed to  the general public audience you will be presenting to in July. So bear that in mind when composing your own graphic support material. The less technical the better for our audience in July)

Have a look at some other science communicators in action and if you find one with an  introductory style you find engaging send me the link and I’ll post it for others to view.

Dancing about Science…

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Fun, interactive, and engaging Science?

I was looking at some research into Science shows and came across some key findings on how to engage children from Science Museum (UK) focus group research undertaken in 2010:
• Audience participation is regarded as crucial – if children aren’t involved, they may lose interest.
• Parents like young, casually-dressed presenters, rather than the stereotypical white-coated ‘nerd’; they feel an informal approach is important in removing barriers to children’s appreciation of shows.
• The three words they felt would most attract their attention in descriptions of the show were Fun, Exciting and Interactive

For this week’s blog post, I tried to look for some novel ideas on how to present Science to an audience. Keeping in mind those ideas from the focus group on keeping it fun, exciting, and interactive.

One really amazing thing I found was Biology for the blind and partially sighted. Using 3D printing to bring the microscopic world to people who otherwise wouldn’t have any experience of it. Definitely worth watching, especially the audience reactions to being able to interact with the microscopic world for the first time in their lives!

For another novel presentation method, check out this TED talk about dancing scientific concepts which includes, among other cool things, a great example of the difference between ordinary light and lasers using dancers. The 2016 winners of the contest that he mentions “Dance your PhD” are also worth a look. I particularly liked the people’s choice award winner.

I have already shared with you what I think of as some good examples of story telling in Science Communication in a recent blog post on storytelling.

I also emailed the students some examples of one person’s use of music as Science Communication.

Videos are a very popular way to get the message across and the students had a tiny taste of this in the January camp Science Communication sessions. Videos don’t have to be hugely costly high technical productions to be effective, some of the best videos are really simple, for example, Minute Physics.

So hopefully that has given you a bit of inspiration to think outside the box for your presentations. Whether you present your information in the form of a song, a story, a video, a show, a play or something else, using a novel presentation method is one way to keep it fun, exciting and interactive.

Public Perception of Risk with New Science & Technology

Thursday, April 6th, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In my last blog post (Knowing Your Material) I talked about researching your topic and the importance of narrowing down that research to address a key message (theme) i.e. the `take-home’ message you want the audience to understand about your topic. WhenGeneric shot of small seated audience we understand something we don’t just `know’ about it but we ‘feel’ for it – it means something to our overall well-being. So in communicating science we need to not only enhance the knowledge of the audience but also engage their emotions, hence the reason your workbooks are entitled `Touching Hearts and Minds’. With that in mind, in this post I thought we’d focus again on the audience and what you might consider about them as you distil your research into an effective and engaging talk to deliver a strong ‘take-home’ message.
Considering your audience is especially important for a talk that involves science on a controversial or potentially controversial topic.
We should consider our audience for every talk, of course.
Questions you should consider when asked to give any talk are.
Will I be talking to:
• An interest group with a specific viewpoint/attitude to my topic and/or science in general?
• Is there likely to be a specific age or gender or ethnic imbalance in the audience?
• Is our audience likely to already be knowledgeable on my topic?
• How is the audience likely to perceive the organisation I am representing?
As Emily pointed out in an earlier post (The Crowd Goes Wild) a public audience will contain a mixture of  what we could term:-
1. “Science Fans”,
2. “The Cautiously Keen”,
3. “The Risk Averse”,
4. “The Concerned”.
While your museum audience in July is likely to have a high proportion of “science Fans’” and “The Cautiously Keen”, you may also have parents/caregivers, members of public who fall firmly in “The Risk Averse” and “Concerned” categories. I think of these last two categories as  people who come through the door thinking “this topic (science in general) is dangerous and poses a real threat to the health and safety of myself, my family, and or my existing way of life and things I currently value”.
With that in mind I came across an interview with Dr. Craig Cormick who has published widely on drivers of public attitudes towards new technologies.
The five key lessons that come out of his research on public perception of risk are as follows:
1. When information in complex people make decisions based on their values and beliefs rather than on facts and logic
2. People seek affirmation of their attitudes or beliefs, no matter how fringe, and will reject any information or facts that are counter to their attitudes or beliefs
3. Attitudes that were not formed by facts and logic will not be influenced by facts and logic
4. Public concern about the risks of contentious science and technologies are almost never about the science itself and therefore scientific information alone does very little to influence those concerns
5. People most trust the people whose values mirror their own.
What does that mean for us when preparing a science talk on a potentially contentious issue?
Good science communication is “more than information. It’s a revelation based upon information’”

In moulding how we present our information we are always seeking techniques that best acknowledge concerns, value systems within the audience and seek to lead them to that  “Ah hah!” moment when they decide for themselves the positive values of the science you are talking about, rather than `being told’ by you the scientist/speaker. Once you have a base script for your talk we can look at which of the techniques we explored in our workshops and in our workbook might be most effective in making  our presentation engaging, relevant and convincing.  That’s one of creative, fun parts of pulling a good talk together.
Here is  Craig Cormick’s interview:-

 It’s quite long, though the interview itself is only 27 mins  there is 18 mins of Q&A  that follows. If you get bogged down after the first 5 minutes of the interview here are some time cues to the more relevant and useful parts of his discussion:
9 min – Affirmation of fringe/whacko ideas and the Google search engine
18 min:32sec – The Role of Trust in influencing public perception
22 min:45sec -The Role of academics/researchers
26 min– Weirdest idea on the internet?
Perhaps the essence of what I’m trying to get across about science communication and contentious issues can be best conveyed in the following quote
“People don’t care what you know,
                                 People want to know that you care”
Dr. Vincent Covello
 Centre for Risk Communication

Once Upon a Time…

Monday, March 27th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
The Stranger by Albert Camus

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
The Gunslinger by Stephen King

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.”
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

These are the first lines from some random, well known stories. You can find lists of best first lines or exciting first lines all over the internet. No matter what story they come from though, they all have one thing in common, the first line needs to set the scene but also leave you wanting more.

There’s no doubt that a good story has the power to hook us, reel us in, and capture our imagination until the tale is through. Everyone, young and old loves a great story. A good story can be a powerful vehicle to impart information.

Building on the idea from two weeks ago that to engage an audience, you need to:

  1. Validate the audience’s thinking
  2. Take them on a journey
  3. Be framed within their values
  4. Fall within social norms
  5. Involve pictures and graphs (and I would add audience participation!)

Think about the stories that you have enjoyed, did they do these things? Did they validate your thinking? Take you on a journey? Were they framed within your values?

The point is – storytelling is a powerful tool. It may be the most powerful tool that you have to engage with your audience. When you are developing your presentation, think about the story behind it. Take the audience on a journey with you through the story you tell.

Here are a couple of examples for you to look at:

Example 1: Fergus McAuliffe speaking at the TEDX in Dublin tells a story about frogs. I particularly like this example because he has no slides, and only a few simple props, but at the end the audience is absolutely silent and spellbound.

Example 2: Tyler DeWitt speaking to high school science teachers. This one I chose because in contrast to the previous example, he uses visual aids behind him to tell the story. The story was part of a talk to teachers about the differences he found when presenting the material in a traditional way and using the story format (in the video clip) again, an engaging story that makes the science relatable to the audience.

Example 3: This is a LONG story but it is a good one. Jay O’Callaghan was commissioned to make a story as part of NASA’s 50th Anniversary. He tells a love story between two young NASA interns in modern times but interwoven is a lot of science and history of NASA. He tells it with no props, no visual aids, just a story. Engaging the audience with nothing more (or less) than a story.

Forged in the Stars – Jay O’Callaghan


July Science Talks: Knowing your Material

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 | ouassa | No Comments

Developing a Research Plan

No-one expects you to be an expert on your topic and there is only so much you can cover in a 10 minute presentation. However, you should research your topic thoroughly.  A good research plan will help ensure accuracy, establish credibility and achieve your objective of enhancing understanding.  When you have decided on the key areas of your topic you want to focus on divide up the research duties amongst your team.

Your key research areas will come out of   Step 2 of your Topic to Theme Recipe.
Step 1.  Select a general topic
“Generally my presentation is about………………
Step 2.  State your topic in more specific terms
“Specifically, however, I want to tell my audience about………………”
Step 3.  Now, express your theme.
“After my presentation, I want my audience to understand that……………”
Remember to complete each line as one complete sentence. This will help focus your research on the key aspects of your topic that are relevant.

                                          (From Sam H. Ham, 1992)

Beware of Bias!
Good research materials should be objective, presenting a balanced view of the topic. If you deliver biased information, your credibility with the audience will suffer.
As you embark on your research take a minute to reflect on the following sources and their potential for bias.
You may find this link designed for first year Otago University students useful also
Evaluating Information Sources: http://oil.otago.ac.nz/oil/module7.html

Credit Where Credit is Due
If you use someone else’s ideas, words or pictures in your presentation, you should acknowledge the original source if known. You can do this by:

  • Attributing the source as you speak (As Marie Curie once said “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”)
  • Indicating the source after a direct quote , graphic, image on Powerpoint slide
  • Showing a list of source material after  the final slide of your show as part of your conclusion/thank-you

Failure to give credit where credit is due may damage your own credibility and violate copyright law.

What’s Hot and What’s Not.
As you do your research, remember:
People love to hear:

  • Good stories
  • Inspirational thoughts and quotes
  • Unusual facts (Catfish have over 100,000 taste buds over the surface of their body)
  • Facts involving huge numbers in terms they can understand..
    (Each nerve cell  or neuron is about 10 microns wide. If you were able to line up all 100 billion neurons in your brain in a straight line that line would be about 1000 km long. That’s like from Dunedin to Auckland!)

             (Adapted from `Neuroscience for kids’ by Eric H. Chudler)
  • Things that evoke emotional or physiological responses (scary things, beautiful things, amazing things, happy things) – the `intangibles’ around the `thing’ you are talking about.
  • Things that are important to them

They don’t really care much about….

  • Ordinary scientific data (Around 1.5 billion litres of domestic wastewater is discharged into the environment on a daily basis in New Zealand).
  • Being `told what they must do’.
  • How much you think you  know about your topic.

Good luck with your research and remember we are here to help so don’t hesitate to get in touch if need clarification and/or help with anything.


Engaging Hearts and Minds: Themes are messages

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

During our very short foray into some key techniques for engaging a public audience I emphasized the importance of moving beyond merely having a `topic’ for your talk and developing a ` theme’, or key message, that you want to convey about your topic in the 5-6 minutes that you will have for your science shows in July.
It’s great to see some of you moving in this direction in your closed Google Community groups. I strongly encourage you to use the three sentence approach to taking a topic to a theme developed by interpretation specialist Sam Ham. Namely:


Step 1.                Select a general topic

“Generally my presentation is about……

Step 2.                State your topic in more specific terms

“Specifically, however, I want to tell my audience about…”

Step 3.                Now, express your theme.

“After my presentation, I want my audience to understand that…..”

Complete each line as one complete sentence.

This will not only give you presentation a focus it will make researching for your show that much more manageable.

A worked example

Grace posted this as part of  the Medical Science group discussion

“What is antimicrobial resistance and how do we combat these new resistance mechanisms that are emerging and spreading on a global scale”   

Step 1.                Select a general topic

“Generally my presentation is about……      Antimicrobial Resistance

Step 2.                State your topic in more specific terms

“Specifically, however, I want to tell my audience about…   

..what antimicrobial resistance is, how it is emerging and spreading on a global scale, and how we might combat it

Step 3.                Now, express your theme.

“After my presentation, I want my audience to understand that……………..”

This, your overall theme for the show, will come out of the research you do to address the  3 sub-topics in Step 2 above

Sub-topic 1:  What is Antimicrobial resistance?

Sub-topic 2a: How it is emerging.

                2b: How it is spreading.

Sub-topic 3: How we might combat antimicrobial resistance?

A key message or sub-theme can then also be developed for each of the sub-topics above


The sub-theme or key message around sub-topic 1: What is Antimicrobial resistance? might be something like:

  • Antimicrobial resistance is a bigger threat than many realise


  • Antimicrobial resistance is a beautiful and extreme example of adaptation  in action.

You then do the same with sub-topics 2 and 3 and come up with the key message you want to convey at that part of your talk. Out of which will come an over-all theme for your whole presentation which you can use to develop Step 3

“After my presentation, I want my audience to understand that……………..”

After you’ve done this and only after you’ve done this you can then distil a snappy theme title for your show.

It really is that simple, but like science itself you have to apply some rigour and consistency to the steps.

Give it a go and email me your  first crack at ` 3 sentence theme development sentences’ by March 13th.

Don’t worry if Step 3 is not quite refined.  Your final theme statement will emerge from the research on the body of your presentation (Step 2).

Look forward to reading your topics and themes.

Keep it simple…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Venue for the ASC 2017 conference – the Science Exchange in Adelaide, Australia

Last night I returned home to Dunedin from Adelaide. I was attending the 9th annual Australian Science Communicators conference where I had a presentation to give and also a poster in the gallery. The conference was amazing and I learned a lot which will be shared over the coming weeks.

On the weekend after the conference I stayed in Adelaide and visited a number of the city’s attractions. It may have been the conference leaving Science Communication in the forefront of my mind but I found myself analysing each one in terms of good communication and engagement. There is still a LOT of static displays and writing to explain displayed artefacts in museums. In one of the conference presentations, a panel tried to address this – but by far the most effective presentations were the ones that were interactive.

Activity at the Migration Museum in Adelaide

One very simple example of this was the crosswalk activity that I encountered at the Migration Museum. The exhibit was meant to show how immigration policies in the first half of the 1900s favoured a certain type of migrant (white and British). Instead of screeds of writing and examples or even just a small statement, there was a large crosswalk on the wall. You read a description of someone who wanted to come to Australia at the time and then pushed the crosswalk button. The walk man lit up if they could immigrate, the don’t walk sign lit up if they couldn’t and a yellow traffic light was a maybe. A small lit up explanation of why that particular person could or couldn’t migrate was also displayed.

I think this was a brilliant example of how a simple metaphor (the crosswalk) was used to make information very relevant. Everyone crosses the street, imagine not being able to cross the street because of your race or circumstances. It certainly made me think about immigration and the effect of policy on people at that time. The setup was also engaging. I probably would have walked past a panel of the same information if it had just been written up on the wall.

So over the coming weeks I’ll share more of what I learned in Adelaide but my learning for today is the power of the simple metaphor. Finding something your audience relates to and use it to convey your message.

Face wash crisis solved by junior science…

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

My fresh made face wash – fancy picture courtesy of visiting Canadian mother 🙂

Recently, the company that I have been buying facewash from since I was 18 years old, ran out of the product I use. Rather than settle for something else, I did a wee bit of research online and found a recipe to try.

The whole experience reminded me of a unit that I ran with my Year 10 class a few years ago. We had finished a unit on Acids and Bases and so they were familiar with things like the pH scale and we had looked at cleaners, toothpaste and other common household items. I had run across the resource “Lips, Lipids and Locks” in the resource room and decided to make a mini unit around it.

From the 2005 Applications series of books

Firstly, the students read the book. They then had a think in groups about what kind of products they used on a regular basis and what chemicals were in them. We did a small group and whole class brainstorm about the types of cosmetics they could reasonably make.

They then did some research about recipes, decided on a recipe to use and came up with a “shopping list” of ingredients. Once we had gone through the ingredients, there were things that we couldn’t get either because of cost or because it wasn’t available in a timely manner. This meant the students had to go back and look at alternatives.

Finally, we spent some time making and testing out their products. Once each group had a product, it was presentation day. The students presented their products to the class along with their ingredients, why their ingredients worked and also if they had to use alternatives, what alternatives they used and why they worked. They had to talk about why they had chosen one recipe over the others available. They also had to analyse their final product and talk about what they would do differently next time, what they liked/disliked.

There was not enough time for them to go through multiple production runs and refine the products which I think would have been a good learning exercise as well. I think this would have helped them understand what kind of research and development goes into creating the products they use.

All in all, I feel like they were engaged as they were making things that they thought were relevant. They also were developing their research skills and problem solving abilities. Finally they were communicating what they learnt to the wider group.

Back to my own experiment with facewash, with a small tweak it turns out I’m on to a winner. It was quick and easy and works well. If you’re interested in the recipe, here it is:

Another fancy view of my final product

1/3 cup oat flour – oats have saponin giving them mild cleansing properties, they are also moisturising

2/3 cup almond meal – almond meal is used to exfoliate, it is high in B and E vitamins and it is also very moisturising

2 Tablespoons of honey – honey is an antimicrobial and also contains antioxidants

A few drops of melted cocoa butter – moisturising

Squish all ingredients together and store in an airtight container. To use, mix a pea size amount with water in hand and apply.

Applications are OPEN for OUASSA 2017…

Thursday, October 6th, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Planning for the 2017 student and teacher programmes are well underway as the school year rockets into the final term for the year!

Our teacher and student applications for 2017 are open until the 21st of October. You can see the schools who were mailed application packages as well as access the online application forms for teachers and students here:
OUASSA 2017 Application forms

The application form is the same for students, teachers and nominating teachers, you will be shown different questions based on whether you are an applicant or a nominating teacher and whether you are applying to the student or teacher programme.

Teacher applicants will need to fill in the application form only.

Student applicants will need to fill in the application form, have a teacher fill in a teacher nomination and also submit an essay either via email or hard copy (instructions and topic are in the application material)


Sensational sensing…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I was listening to thblind sighted athletes emotional expressions innatee radio this morning and heard the fact stated that blind people use the same facial expressions as sighted people because facial expressions are innate rather than learned. This means that blind people don’t have to have seen a facial expression for
sadness or joy or anything really to know what it looks like, because it is something we all do automatically. Facial expressions are passed down just like hair colour or hitchhiker’s thumb.I looked up the original study this information was based on – you can read the press release on the American Psychological Association website here (or get a hold of the journal article referenced within if you’re super keen 🙂 )

When I looked up this article about facial expressions, a sidebar also caught my eye. It was about blind people and dreaming. Everyone dreams, even though many times we can’t remember what we dreamed. Most of my dreams are in pictures, so what would dreaming be like for someone who has never seen? Interestingly, if a person has lost their sight post approximately age 7, they still dream in pictures. If they lose their sight earlier though, they dream in the way the experience the world, not in pictures but in smells, sounds, touch and spatial awareness of the situation.

This reminded me of the series on Discovery Channel a few years ago about senses. The Human Body – Pushing the Limits, was about the amazing power of our bodies, including the senses. (You can watch some excerpts here) At one point in the first episode, they explore surgery that restores sight to blind people. The person who lost their sight in a car accident at age 19 does very well and seems happy. The person who lost their sight at age 3 though really struggled. It seemed that by losing his sight so early, he hadn’t developed many of the skills involving judging distances and timings that sighted adults have. He found it easier, even after regaining his sight, to use his cane when out and about to judge surfaces, kerbing etc.

In the July OUASSA camp, we are going to be participating in a New Zealand International Science Festival event called “Dining in the Dark”. At this event, we will dine blindfolded in the dark to experience what it is like to be non-sighted. We will also have guest speakers, a blind member of the community to talk about the challenges of living with blindness, and a researcher from Otago who will talk to us about why she teaches in the dark. (see more here)

The idea of dining in the dark is not new, restaurants like Unsicht Bar in Germany have been running for years in the dark. Guests have noted that eating in the dark means they experience their meals in a completely different way, becoming more aware of texture, smells and temperature. “The slices of lamb felt delicious, they smelt even better and the salt grass seemed to spread out before me as I chewed. Each sip of Italian Sauvignon was preceded by what can only be described as a nasal feast of its own.” (from The Independent, you can read the full review here)

The idea of our other senses compensating for a lack of sight has been around for a long time. To actually experience it though is quite amazing. Losing sight, even temporarily, causes us to rely on the rest of our senses for all of our information about the world around us. This experience allows us to reflect on the world that blind people experience every day and discover how amazing our brains are at interpreting information and adapting to circumstances.



Solar Science vs The Economy

Friday, April 29th, 2016 | ouassa | No Comments

There is an expectation (hope) from many that science will provide  a technological solution to many if not all of the world’s big problems, whether it be  global warming, world food demands, disease, world energy demands.Man installing solar panels on roof

However, developing a technological  solution is only half the battle. The adoption of  that technology has  to be compatible with our current economic model(s).  This is no more evident right now than in the field of solar power where providers are being taxed  for adopting   the new cleaner , greener, more `sustainable’ form of power generation.  It’s been happening overseas for some time now in countries like Spain, Germany and some states in USA and  hits the headlines here in NZ in the last couple of weeks.

What is the reasoning for these new taxes? Are they justified? What are the implications if they are? What do we do if they are not?

Below are 5 links to articles to help you make your own mind up.

Link 1 From Reuters News will give you an overview of what is going on overseas.
Links 2 is from the NZ Green Party
Link 3  is from Greenpeace
Links 4 is from National Business Review
Link 5 from  NZ HERALD

Have a read and make up your own minds

Is there a problem with the technology at play, our  economic model, or both? How might we address the issues?

Would love  to hear your feedback


  1. Taxes, fees: the worldwide battle between utilities and solar
  2. Price rises no joke for solar and electricity customers
  3. Tax on solar and batteries shocks industry, green and consumer groups
  4. Regulator takes issue with penalty charge for solar power
  5. Charged reaction to Unison solar fee

Video killed the radio star??

Thursday, April 7th, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

flatscreenThe other day, looking for a quick video on the Science of Sport to show a Physics class as a little starter, I went to the Veritasium website to look for some inspiration. I found these two videos which I think have been posted before but are definitely worth a re visit for Science Teachers.

This is going to REVOLUTIONIZE education! 

Effectiveness of Science Videos 

Just as an aside, I ended up going with this video: Bungy Jumping What I did was show the video to the students as a starter. They watched, I paused it when you need to select an answer. No one was keen to volunteer their answer to the question so I just un paused the video and let it finish. What they didn’t know was that no answer is actually given in the video! So, when the video was over, they HAD to discuss and work it out and talk with each other because they really really wanted to know the answer. SO we ended up having a great discussion on forces in the fall, what is that rope actually doing, we talked about transfer of energy and all kinds of good stuff. I’m definitely going to check out some of the other little starter videos and try and sneak one in again 🙂



Finding information…

Monday, March 7th, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

ResearchI was just looking for some materials to help my class become better at researching and found the awesome self help guides from the library.


The library self help website that has TONS of tutorials and videos on how to research and also write reports. It is designed for uni students but I think it is still useful for the last year of high school as well! Particularly I am going to use http://www.otago.ac.nz/library/modules/power_searching/ which is about making effective online searches. And there are a bunch of resources on Google searching on the right hand side.

Also if you click on how do I improve my essay writing and report writing skills on the left hand side there are links to tutorials on essays, scientific reports etc

Happy researching!!


Speciation without tears

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Ernst  Mayer, considered  as one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th Century once wrotemayr-2

Anyone who writes about “Darwin’s theory of evolution in the singular, without segregating the theories of gradual evolution, common descent, speciation, and the mechanism of natural selection, will be quite unable to discuss the subject competently.

So if you are struggling with the concepts around the mechanisms  of  `speciation’  this entertaining short video clip might just be for you.







Speciation: Of Ligers & Men – Crash Course Biology #15

Fabric that really “breathes”…

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

FlapsThis morning, I saw an article that referenced a new type of fabric being developed at MIT. The fabric was impregnated with bacteria so that when the wearer was hot and sweating, the bacteria responded and fabric venting flaps opened. When the wearer was not hot and sweating, the flaps closed. This sounds like such a simple idea but such a great one. Who hasn’t been working out and felt like they were wearing too much or too little to keep themselves at a comfortable temperature. Fabric that responds to your personal needs at any given time sounds great to me! I found the link to the group doing the work at MIT and you can find it here: Biologic Fabric

While you are there though, take a look at Tangible Media Group

It looks like there is some incredibly cool work going on at MIT. I particularly like the responsive table and the kinematic blocks 🙂

Reach for the Stars

Monday, November 2nd, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Best of Luck  to all of you  for your final NCEA & Scholarship Exams from all of us here at OUASSA.

Aim High!,      Silhouette of child on beach at dusk/dawn with hand outstretched toward a rising/setting sun/star

Believe in Yourself!

Don’t Panic!


Reach for the stars that burn brightest in your universe !



Look forward  to seeing some of you here at Otago  University next  year!

1.21 gigawatts? 1.21 gigawatts? Great Scott!

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

What all the cool kids are wearing in 2015

What all the cool kids are wearing in 2015, yes, it does look like they drew on their faces with markers…

Happy Back to the Future Day! was the text I received this morning from a friend.

It was waaaay back in (movie time) 1985 when Marty McFly jumped back into the famous DeLorean of Doc’s and headed to October 21, 2015 to help out his future children. The fun of any time travelling movie is the chance to imagine what the future will be like. But now that we are actually here, how accurate was that future?

Love the hats we're all meant to be wearing in 2015.

Love the hats we’re all meant to be wearing in 2015.

Well, we’re not fuelling our cars with the Mr Fusion waste-run generator yet, and no one really uses pay phones or faxes any more…  (Remember the street side fax machines in Back to the Future – send a fax from the street) Perhaps though, the fax machine highlights a glaring absence in the Back to the Future predictions – where are the cell phones? We use our smart phones for so much in 2015 and they were basically absent in Back to the Future where newspapers were still prevalent and the TV was used for video calling.

Back to the Future isn’t the only time the future was a bit odd. Over the school holidays I watched an episode of The Jetsons on a pop up channel for old cartoons. Future predictions there were wild – flying cars, instant hair styles, food in a second and of course the nuclear powered robot dog which inexplicably attacks anyone in a mask because anyone who wears a mask must be a burglar (cue hilarity when the burglar puts his mask on George to escape completely fooling the robot dog). Anyway – the fact is we don’t know what the future holds, and predicting what may or may not come to pass is fun.

Google past predictions of the future and you’ll get quotes like these:

  • “Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires, and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.” – Editorial in the Boston Post, 1865
  • “I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone.” – Darwin (writing in Origin of Species), 1859
  • “Within the next few decades, autos will have folding wings that can be spread when on a straight stretch of road so that the machine can take to the air.” — Eddie Rickenbacker, ‘Popular Science,’ July 1924
  • “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone.  My answer is, ‘Probably never.’” — David Pogue, The New York Times, 2006

Every year we ask students to write an essay on the role of Science in the 21st Century. Often we have students writing about scientific approaches to what they see as challenges or problems in the world today. Students also often write about technological advances that they see happening now and in the future. I wonder how many of these ideas will actually come to pass? One thing is for certain, it’s definitely fun to wonder what life will be like for our grandchildren or their children.

Can Meat Actually be Eco-Friendly?

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In a country that relies heavily on agriculture- all be it heavily swayed towards dairy rather than meat production, for now at least- this a question worth investigating.
I came across this article as part one of a series of three articles on the question

Should we eat meat?

Meat in supermarket

Writer, Nathanael Johnson, author of All Natural: A Skeptic’s Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier. looks at this question from 3 perspectives:
• Environmental sustainability,
• Morality,
• Practicality.
In the first of these articles he asks the question
Can meat be sustainable?
You may find some of what he discovered on this topic quite illuminating.

Let there be light – part II!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


The photography competition mentioned in the last post (see poster below) has been extended to Wednesday the 8th of July – perhaps something to work on those first few days of the school holiday??

Additionally there are some cool public lectures coming up as part of Luminescence: The Spectrum of Science – a schedule can be found here: Luminescence Lectures

photo comp poster - X


Let there be light!!!

Monday, June 15th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | 1 Comment

Here are a couple of links to some events in honour of 2015, International Year of Light. There is a photo competition and a Year of Light expo suitable for all ages. These are being run by students from the Physics department including OUASSA alumni! Great to see alumni getting into science!!


“A frightening and potentially dangerous technology”

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

That was how Otago University Prof Peter Dearden  from Genetics OtagoChinese genome scientist(1) described  a recent paper by a groups of chinese scientists describing the first genetically modified human embryos and opening a route to germ-line modification of our own species.

Check it out  and add your own views to the Sciblogs  comments  page.

Soup in a can – a lesson in exothermic reactions.

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

A while ago, a friend gave me this can that she had been given as a novelty prize somewhere somehow.


Anyway, because it was “science-y” she thought I might enjoy it.

I must admit it’s been sitting on the shelf for a wee while. Mostly because every time I look at it and think I should try it out, something else comes along to distract me. Also due to being vegetarian for most of my life, the contents of the can have never really screamed my name. Recently though, I have heard advertisements on the radio for a similar or possibly the same product. I decided to pull out the can and give it a try. I don’t eat meat so I decided to use my carnivorous children as taste testers.




The can itself feels squishier than a regular can, like it is covered in foam under the label. I think the indicators on ours were not working because, as you can see, although the instructions said they would turn from black to green, both indicators were white initially.

Before we started, I went to the hotcan website to find out what was in there to produce the heat (water and calcium oxide) mostly because I wanted to cut the can apart after the experiment and didn’t want any chemical burn surprises

Pushing in the bottom of the can made a popping noise immediately.






Shake it like a polaroid picture. We shook the can the required amount of time and then set it on the bench as specified in the instructions. Almost immediately, the can began to dance on the kitchen bench and steam was billowing out the bottom. (I told the kids to get back because I actually thought it was going to blow, thankfully this stopped fairly quickly)

After waiting the required time and using the ultra scientific method of feeling the can with our hands (broken indicator, remember?) we decided it was done and had a look/taste.

Reviews of the soup were favourable. The temperature was hotter than expected (said the tasters) there were no chunks, just a smooth soup. Taste was what you would expect from tinned soup. The boys did mention that there was less soup in the can than they had expected. The reason for this became clear when we opened up the can.

IMG_2364Inside the can you can see there is a cylinder coming up through the centre of the can – presumably this is so the soup heats from the middle to the outer layer. The foamy consistency of the can is a layer of insulating foam between the label and the can which would help with the soup heating, staying hot, and not burning your mitts off when you hold the can.

When we took the bottom off we saw this:


Slightly hard to see from the image but it is like a bladder of what I assumed was water originally surrounded by a chunky white powder.




I asked the children (12 and 11) as I was writing today (2 days later) what if anything they had learned/remembered from this whole experience.

  • Water and calcium oxide produce heat which is transferred to heat the soup. You have to shake it to make it work better
  • When you burst the water packet, the water seeps into the calcium oxide, they must have measured the water and the calcium oxide so it produces only a certain amount of heat

An interesting and easy little experiment!

I found this Limestone Lesson Plan on the Royal Society of Chemistry website and thought it could be paired with the hot can for a great Chemistry lesson. Look at the Chemistry of Limestone lesson (which includes heating the limestone to make calcium oxide and then testing it with water to see the exothermic reaction) and then apply the knowledge to how the hot can product works.




It’s Eureka Time again !

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Eureka Science Communication Awards 2015

Eureka header_2013Hot off the Press  from Eureka HQ:

2015 EUREKA! Workshops and timetable

After a bit of a hiatus we can now advise the dates and venues for our free regional workshops which will help students prepare for the 2015 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards competitions.
This year the Awards have been increased so that the Premier Award winner will take home a prize of $10,000.  Other prizes have also been adjusted.
We will also offer scholarships on the basis of the relevance of presentations to the 11 Science Challenges identified by the Government.

Entries for the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards must be in by 5 p.m. on Friday 19 June – students should go to the EUREKA! website to register their entries.

It is advisable for students to visit the site and bone up on the entry criteria before submitting their entry to avoid the risk of disappointment if they fail to complete the entry requirements.
In addition they can attend one of the six regional workshops where they get all the information they need, including advice on presentation, research and analysis techniques, which will help them put forward the best entry they can.
Details of the dates and venues of the 6 regional workshops are available from the EUREKA! website
Please note that the Wellington and Hamilton workshops will be held on 18 April so its important that students are advised as soon as possible.
Ministry of Education distributed collateral will be in schools in short order.

If teachers wish to attend the workshops they are very welcome and will be provided with the course materials so they can help their students through the entry process.
A special teachers workshop has been organised by the Canterbury organising committee for 23 April – details on the Eureka website.

The regional competitions will be held in late July (dates and venues still to be finalised).
The National Finals Symposium will be held on 3 September in Wellington and will be followed by the Awards Dinner at Government House hosted by the Governor General, His Excellency the Right Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Plans are afoot to extend the Eureka! programme into intermediate and primary schools so we can build a pathway for children from Year 4 (8 year olds) to become champions for the value of science, technology engineering and mathematics education for the future of New Zealand’s economy, society and environment.

Any questions or comments?  Don’t hesitate to contact

Email: eureka@eureka.org.nz
Francis Wevers
National Convenor
Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards Programme

For more details go to: http://eureka.org.nz

For details of the Otago Regional Workshop contact: steve.broni@otago.ac.nz


Chemistry detour…

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments



My next post was going to be on the chemistry behind the hot-can and I am part way through what I think is a neat little experiment/lesson involving this cool (or hot rather) invention. Today though, I was derailed by another Chemistry resource!

I’ve been a fan of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) open courseware for a while and I used snippets of it with classes and the OUASSA tutorials last year. I especially recommend their Highlights for High School where you can pick a topic and subtopic and be directed to a specific resource that may help you. Meaning for example, you don’t have to watch the whole lecture series on Classical Mechanics to help you in your struggles with Projectile Motion, the folks at MIT have pulled the relevant bits out of their screeds of material and collated it all for you. I must admit though to being so focussed on the Physics resources available, I was missing this little gem.

Chemistry Boot Camp is a multi episode show that follows 14 students as they go through a three week intensive lab course at MIT. The show is compelling for two reasons, first, it offers a glimpse into what life is like as a student at MIT and second, there is some really cool Chemistry going on. What I liked most about the show was that instead of just glossing over what the students were doing, there was an effort made to explain the Chemistry behind what they were doing and why.

The episodes are short – only 5 minutes ish in length and not counting the bonus episodes there are 11 in total, I managed to binge watch the entire series in a lunch break. A nice light Science meal to set up your afternoon.



The future of airline travel??

Monday, March 16th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


Air travel and the continuous increase of numbers of passengers and planes in the sky has long been cited as one of the contributing factors to global warming. Airplanes fly high in the sky meaning that any greenhouse gases they are producing are immediately sent into the upper layers of the atmosphere, potentially increasing their harmful effects.

Emissions from aircrafts are not only harmful for our planet but also have some in your face side effects that impact us more directly. A report published in the science journal Nature Climate Change forecasts that increasing CO2 levels will result in a significant increase in in-flight turbulence experienced by trans-Atlantic airline flights the middle of the 21st century. A 50% increase in fact. Now that is a very real and scary prospect indeed.

Enter Solar Impulse II – at this very moment, the world’s first ever Earth circumnavigation by a solar plane is taking place. The Solar Impulse II, a fully solar powered aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9th. Solar Impulse II has the wingspan of a 747 to support the 17,000 solar cells that it uses for energy. Despite this, it weighs only the size of an average car. The plane can fly night or day as, during the day, the solar panels charge rechargeable lithium batteries. Not a single drop of fossil fuel is required.

It is making several stops on its journey around the world and is currently in Ahmedabad, India. You can keep up with the progress of Solar Impulse II here:


This website allows anyone around the world to read updates from the crew, watch live take off and landings and check out where the plane is in real time. In addition, the crew post updates and information about other solar projects happening in the countries that they visit. For example, when I looked today, there was a post about solar wells in India. Another amazing idea!

Of course, at the moment, the Solar Impulse II is one of a kind, and a fair way from being a production ready commercial airliner. The concept though, that we could potentially use solar power to travel in the future, is an exciting one.

The quest for the perfect pop leads to kitchen science…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


Popcorn in the pan – first pop!

Popcorn is a great snack – I’m not talking about movie popcorn, yummy as it is, I’m talking about the high fibre, low calorie nutrient fest that is naked popcorn. The easiness of popcorn just amps up the appeal, chuck some kernels in a lightly greased pan on the stove and a delicious hot snack appears in a matter of minutes.

But what is popcorn really? Despite my enthusiasm for popcorn eating, I never thought much about what makes popcorn, well, pop! Enter this news article: http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/66105879/scientists-unravel-the-secrets-of-popcorn-physics

A quick google search revealed similar interpretations of the same research on many news sites, including this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/science/why-popcorn-also-jumps.html which has the video footage from the research showing (mesmerising) slow motion kernels popping one at a time.

I couldn’t let this one go – I looked up the names of the authors of the papers. Super helpfully, one of them has a website and has not only included links to the originally published papers that all these news articles were based on, but added lots more video and content around the popping of popcorn. http://emmanuel-virot.weebly.com/popcorn.html

Another cool thing I learned from all this popcorn reading and watching was that you can pop other grains, not just popcorn. Time for some kitchen science!

I tried popping wild rice, white quinoa, red quinoa and black quinoa – without a doubt, the wild rice and the red quinoa made the best pop (although not as spectacular as popcorn)


Wild Rice before and after


White Quinoa before and after


Red Quinoa before and after








I also couldn’t believe the sound of the popping grains – just like popcorn!  Here is a video of wild rice popping and also at the end I mixed all the quinoa I had leftover and popped it all together. Wild Rice PoppingQuinoa Pop.  Apologies for the poor video quality – it was filmed on my phone 🙂  Finally – the big question – how did they taste???  Well, interestingly quite similar to popcorn really although the wild rice husk made it slightly more unpleasant to eat than the quinoa. I don’t think popped quinoa is going to take the world by storm yet though, it would take an awful lot of quinoa to make a satisfying snack quantity!

How do you spell success??

Monday, February 2nd, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Wsuccesshat do you think about when you think about someone is successful – what do they have that separates them from the unsuccessful? Are they talented? Lucky?

Psychologists have determined that success, whether it is sporting, academic or otherwise, is less a matter of luck or talent and more a matter of practise and perseverance. You may even have heard about the concept that 10,000 hours of practice can make you an expert in anything.

In fact, although the 10,000 hour concept continues to be debated, it does have a modicum of truth. The 10,000 hour concept came from a research paper written in the 90s by an American psychologist who was looking at the work of a group of psychologists in Germany. The German psychologists had been looking at violin students and trying to figure out if there was a difference between those students who go on to become successful – professional violinists at the highest levels of their art, and those who remain hobbyists. What they found was that although all the students that they were following had similar amounts of practice time between the ages of 5 and 8, by the time they had reached 20, the successful performers had averaged 10,000 hours of practice each, compared to the average of 4,000 hours of practice in the less able performers.

There’s been some interesting debate including people using themselves as the subject of experiments to determine whether or not 10,000 hours of practice will enable them to become experts in some skill for example playing a sport or learning an instrument.
Regardless of whether or not the 10,000 hour theory is correct, one thing is certain. Success is less a product of natural talent and more the effect of pure hard work.

This last year of high school is an interesting one. There are academic results to aim for, leadership roles in the school, sporting and cultural commitments outside the classroom. In what seems like a heartbeat, the year will be over along with the end of 13 years of formal education. What happens next is entirely in your own hands.

So, before it all starts to become a busy, activity filled blur, take time to think about what you want out of the year. Make yourself some goals and make sure that you are SMART about them. Another resource to look at is the student study resources at the HEDC. Although it is aimed at University students, specifically first year students, there are a lot of useful tools in there that could be helpful to you in this last year of High School. I particularly like the weekly time planner – a template that you can download, print and use to organise all your activities one week at a time. There are also useful tips on time management, learning, studying, researching and other topics that will help you out this year and with further education.

So, get going and get organising – make this last year your most successful yet 

Stepping Up and Out for Climate Change

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Anthropogenic Climate Change has once again hit the headlines http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/9887611/Climate-change-We-need-to-act-now ” It’s all so overwhelming! What can I do?  I got my finals coming up and  all my energies are focused on  them”  (And so they should be!) But what when they are over?  When you do come up for air  and/or need some inspiration as to what one individual can do check out this 18 year old from the US who impressed me not only with her commitment to the cause  but with  how articulate she is able to argue her case and the case of people her own age.kelsey Juliana-2crop “As world leaders converge for the UN’s global summit on climate and thousands gather in New York for the People’s Climate March, an 18-year-old Oregonian student, Kelsey Juliana, is walking across America to draw attention to global warming and taking her case to the US supreme court. Now just out of high school, she’s co-plaintiff in a major lawsuit being spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment. She’s walking across America as part of the Great March for Climate Action, due to arrive in Washington, DC, on November 1.” Video interview link: http://billmoyers.com/episode/climate-change-next-generation/


Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

invisibleNumberAt morning tea the other day, our IT wizard mentioned this website which is an amazing collection of mathematical goodness.

You can type in any equation and get it solved with steps here:

Or if you go to the examples, you can pick something you would like to learn about (to study for example hint hint) and have a play with changing up the numbers in the example questions.

There’s even a spot where you can get them to generate problems for you to practise online with feedback – this is not free but you can get a 7 day trial, just in time for exam study.

So sit back, relax and play with Maths this holiday!!!

Would you be willing to exchange your clothing for plumage?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Ever heard of  ‘Transhumanism‘?Lucy Glendining sculpture of feathered child

Over the past few years, a new paradigm for thinking about humankind’s future has begun to take shape among some leading computer scientists, neuroscientists, nanotechnologists and researchers at the forefront of technological development.

 “Transhumanism”  is the name for a new way of thinking that challenges the premiss that the human condition is and will remain essentially unalterable.

 `Transhumanists’ say this  assumption no longer holds true. Arguably it has never been true. They argue that such innovations as speech, written language, printing, engines, modern medicine and computers have had a profound impact not just on how people live their lives, but on who and what they are.

What might happen in the next  20, 50, 100 years ?

A new book entitled  the The Proactionary Imperative presents a  the cultural, intellectual and ethical `justification’ for the emerging  transhumanist movement and in so doing paints an ethically  challenging and scary scenario for  the future of the human race?

“Fancy living forever, or uploading your mind to the net? The Proactionary Imperative embraces transhumanist dreams, but reminds why we need medical ethics”.

The blog post… of SCIENCE!!!

Friday, August 1st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Bill-Nye-640x350I am outting myself here as a huge nerd from childhood. When I was growing up I used to LOVE watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV. I actually think at one stage I even wrote him a fan letter because I wanted to do exactly what he did when I grew up. He made Science look so fun and cool.

Flash forward to the other day when I was watching Epic Rap Battles: Sir Isaac Newton vs Bill Nye and my Year 13 girls actually asked me who is Bill Nye the Science Guy (insert startled look and gasp here). After I recovered from the shock I set about looking for some old episodes and found this:

Bill Nye Archive for Education on YouTube. Full episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy! These are suitable definitely for junior school but my seniors enjoy them as a treat for times like when we are about to start a new topic and I want them to just think about the bigger picture rather than the maths and details.

Laws of Physics Rule in Karate

Monday, June 9th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Emily’s creative approach to teaching physics  hits the  International Science Festival !

Emily Hall demonstrating Karate move as part of Physics class


Many pupils do not see physics as an interesting subject, but teaching them karate is a practical and interactive way of helping them to learn the concepts of physics without even thinking about it.




Check it out in Otago Daily Times here


and on TV here


For more on the International Science Festival go to:


Last Call for Eureka Awards Entries

Monday, June 9th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments


Eureka header_2013

Only 7 days to go for EUREKA! entries

It would be great to see an  OUASSA student in the competition.

Why not back yourself!

You gotta be in to win.
And even if you don’t win you will have learned at  lot  and had fun along the way!

Students who are intending to submit an entry for the 2014 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards should be putting the final touches on their synopsis and making sure their entry is made on-line by next Sunday at the latest.

This year’s competition has more prizes than ever before and there are also Scholarships valued at up to $2500 on offer for the first time.

These scholarships will be awarded to any of the students in the top 28 who are eligible for selection for the national finals. More details on these scholarships will be released soon.


Mailing address :
Rotary Club of Wellington
PO Box 10243
Wellington, Wellington 6043
New Zealand

Copyright © *2013* *|RCW EUREKA! Trust*, All rights reserved.”

2013 Alumni: Fight for your right Chapati and come to the Science of Curry dinner so we don’t have Tears on our Pilaus…

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | Comments Off on 2013 Alumni: Fight for your right Chapati and come to the Science of Curry dinner so we don’t have Tears on our Pilaus…

chilliIn July we usually invite last year’s students to come and share an activity with the current group of students. This year we are going to be having a Science of Curry night arranged for us by the NZ International Science Festival happening in Dunedin July 5-13.

Personally, I am a huge fan of curry but I actually never thought about it as Science. What kind of Science could be lurking in all that yumminess?

Well, when I started to think about it, a whole lot. From the very start of the process – like why do onions make you cry? And why are chillis so hot? – to the magical blend of herbs and spices that make up the taste.  And looking further at the ingredients themselves like ginger and garlic – they are supposed to be good for us – why? And I like hot curry but why does it make my mouth burn? What will stop that feeling? The local  curry place always tells me that Mango Lassi or raita will take the burn away – does it really work? Why?

Seems like the humble curry is hiding a whole lot of Science. I’m sure I’ll get my questions, and many more I haven’t thought about yet, answered at the Science of Curry night. Class of 2014 – you are already going. Class of 2013 – shortly you should recieve an email invitation so let me know if you will be coming along to what is sure to be a spicy evening for you brain and your mouth 🙂

Calling all Biologists…Chemists…and maybe even Physicists

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Daniel has posted a great question on  the
Knowledge Forum Biology Curriculum: Human Evolution   Discussion View:LifeSpiral2

Q: What are the best examples in the world today that support the
theory of evolution


I’m putting the challenge out there for you all.

This is a great opportunity to get back into Knowlege Forum with a topic at the heart of the biology curriculum.

Is the evidence all  from Biology? 

If you have forgotten how to log-in   to Knowledge Forum and build on a post we will be putting  up  a  link to refresher tutorial very soon but flick us an email in meantime and we’ll get you in there right away.

PS When you get into the  Knowledge Forum – Biology Curriculum: Human Evolution View you are looking the build-on the post  titled ‘Support’ on the far right of the Discussion View.

Update on Eureka! Awards & New Scholarships

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Eureka header_2013

Date change for Eureka! entries.

After the success of the regional workshops, and taking into account the fact that students entering the Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards do not have to submit a video this year, it has been decided that the deadline for the entries into the competition will be extended. Students will now be allowed to submit entries until 5pm on Sunday the 15th of June.

Students must still submit their entry on the Eureka! website,eureka.org.nz  and email the synopsis of their idea and how they plan to present it. They have already received a number of entries and the regional competitions are shaping up to be great events.

Another addition to the Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards in 2014 is the introduction of scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to any of the students in the top 28 who are eligible for selection for the national finals. More details on these scholarships will be released soon.

Eureka mailing address is:
Rotary Club of Wellington
PO Box 10243
Wellington, Wellington 6043
New Zealand

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More on `Bad Science’

Monday, April 28th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Ben Goldacre is a doctor, academic, campaigner and writer whose work focuses on uses and misuses of science and statistics by journalists, politicians, drug companies and alternative therapists.Ben Goldacre

His first book Bad Science reached #1 in the UK non-fiction charts and has sold over half a million copies worldwide. His second book Bad Pharma discusses problems in medicine, focusing on missing trials, badly designed research, and biased dissemination of evidence. He wrote the Bad Science column for a decade in the UK Guardian newspaper, and has written for the Times, the Telegraph, the Mail, the New York Times, the BMJ, and more, alongside presenting documentaries for the BBC.

 From:  http://www.badscience.net/about-dr-ben-goldacre/

Check out his  TED talk from 2011- Battling Bad Science.


His topic aside note how by simply  talking about what he knows, driven by the passion and enthusiasm he has for his topic,  he has  no need for speech notes and rote learning of his speech

Spotting Bad Science

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

I came across  this the other day  in a post  from a friend who works in the health sector  in Scotland and thought it might be useful in honing your analytical and critical thinking skills

List of 10 things to look out for when deciding  whether reported science in valid or not

The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. It is  therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.

Spotting-Bad-Science  Poster PDF

PS Teachers:  Check out the their infographics page for some interesting and informative posters you can download:


Spotted a fin in the water? Maybe it’s the Shark Competition coming your way!!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | Comments Off on Spotted a fin in the water? Maybe it’s the Shark Competition coming your way!!

sharkSharklab ’14: Why Sharks Matter

What’s happening?

Scientists study many things, from the smallest cell to the farthest galaxies. And somewhere in between is the study of one of our greatest predators – the shark. Many scientists, like marine explorer and Science Festival guest Ryan Johnson, study great white sharks in an effort to understand them better. He also spends a lot of time talking to people and making documentaries about sharks and to teach us how important they are.

We want the next generation of science story tellers: the challenge is to show people why it’s important to learn about sharks, and to tell that story in an exciting and creative new way.

You are in charge, so how you tell the story is up to you.

What’s up for grabs

We’ll get you geared up for more outdoor fun: The winners of each category will take home a brand new GoPro outdoor camera kit valued at $800!

How much time do I have?

The competition runs from April 7th until midnight on June 22nd, 2014.

Now get started!

Cool resource for Physics and Chemistry

Monday, March 31st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | Comments Off on Cool resource for Physics and Chemistry

websiteI ran across this website a couple of years ago but for some reason didn’t use it at all.


On the site is a complete course in Chemistry and a complete course in Physics for high school level in Georgia, USA. They consist of a series of videos, one on each topic listed with note taking guides and study guides. The videos are only about half an hour long and come with a problem set based on the video.

I am going to trial one of these in class today and also show the girls the link in the hopes that they might use the videos at home for their own revision. I was thinking too it might be a good activity for them if I am away so they can still move forward with their learning even when I am not there. We have a set of netbooks they can use and watch the material on their own if the reliever doesn’t have a laptop to show the whole class at once.

Eureka – Sir Paul Callaghan Science Communication Awards 2014

Friday, March 14th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Calling all budding Science Communicators!

Eureka header_2013

The purpose of the EUREKA Awards & Symposium  is to identify and foster young leaders who, through their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, their entrepreneurial vision, and their persuasive communication skills, will bring about the New Zealand foreseen by Sir Paul Callaghan: “the most beautiful,stimulating and exciting place in the world in which to live.”

A student will give a 12 minute presentation in which s/he will demonstrate:

  • Substantive knowledge about a specific science, technology, engineering, mathematics  innovation idea;
  • the application of it for the social, and/or economic, and/or environmental benefit of New Zealand;
  • and persuasive communication skills in “selling” the idea.

Each student will have submitted a written synopsis of their presentation prior to the regional competition.

The winner of the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Premier Award will win:

  • The Premier Award Trophy
  • A $5000 grant towards future studies

Three Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Highly Commended Awards valued at $2500 each will be presented to the three runners up.

Each of the remaining 8 finalists will receive a $1000 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Merit Award.

Special Prizes

Special Prizes will also be awarded for students who deliver best category presentations.

In 2014 it is anticipated there may be as many as 10 additional awards in this prize list which will be available to all students whose presentations are submitted by Regional Organising Committees for participation in the National Finals.

For more details go to: http://eureka.org.nz


I’ve eaten so much fish oil I may grow gills, but I still didn’t ace the Calculus internal…..

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

brain fullProducts to increase or enhance memory are seemingly endless, foods, vitamins, minerals, brain exercises… Seems like a lot of work to make my brain, well, work!!

Sooner than you think fair students, you will be writing the last exams of your high school careers, and as part of that process, you will need to call upon your brain’s extraordinary power and memorise/assimilate the subject related knowledge to get you through those externals!!

Whether you want to believe it or not, one of the tried and true exam techniques is NOT leaving it to the last minute or even last term to study, but starting with regular revision now. This could be especially important for external topics covered at the beginning of the year. If you keep touching them regularly, there won’t be a big amount to try and cram into your head all at the end.

Another technique – teaching! Teaching something to someone else makes you think hard about your own understanding of the topic. If you are struggling with a question, try to explain the problem to a friend who is not studying the subject – this can force your brain to work out a solution and someone with little to no knowledge of the subject can make you reconsider information you had taken for granted. Even just speaking the information out loud and trying to explain concepts in your own words helps.

So start studying now, teach your cat some Physics and get ready to see Excellence at the end of the school year. In the meantime – spend some time checking out the Student Learning Centre. This is an invaluable resource for your first year of University but their study tips and writing tips can help you out in High School as well!! They also have a nice printable study planner that is generic enough you can start using it today!

Student Learning Centre

What does it mean to be human?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

What does it mean to be human

This website from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is chock-full of information on our human origin. Check out the  `What’s hot in human origins’ section for  the latest news, There’s a great interactive time line and multimedia section or just browse the comprehensive content of the site.


Happy Birthday Alessandro Volta!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

VoltaHappy Birthday Alessandro Volta!! Who the heck was he you ask?  Well, the clue is in the name. The unit for electric potential, electric potential difference and emf are all Volts which comes from Volta. Volta made the Voltaic pile which in an improved form is known today as the battery!! Watch this cool movie from some lads at MIT to find out more about how he made this discovery.

Alessandro Volta Video

Once you’ve seen the video, look online for some pictures of the modern battery which, on the inside, all look much the same as the voltaic pile.

Finally, You can make your own voltaic pile at home using some copper/zinc coins alternated with some paper towel soaked in vinegar or lemon juice. You will need to use non NZ coins or old coins though as the current 10 cent piece is copper and steel! Also give the coins a sand to expose the zinc insides to the weak acid. Attaching your pile of 7 or so coins to an LED should bring forth light!! Of course you can always go the other route and get yourself a handy potato clock – same principle!


Fingers and toes can take a rest for another five years…

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

The Christmas story has Mary and Joseph in Bethleham because of a census. The first record of an official census was far earlier than that, in Babylonia in 3800BC.  Many years later, the first census in New Zealand occurred in 1851. For a few years, census was the responsibility of the provincial governments, so who was counted and when varied throughout the country. When the central government was formed in 1877, the census became a more organised affair and our first whole country census on the five year cycle we still follow today was held in 1881.

There have been exceptions to this cycle, as we all know, this 2013 census was meant to be held in 2011 but postponed due to the Christchurch Earthquakes. In fact, there have been two other times when the census was not held as scheduled. The 1931 the census was abandoned because the country was going through the Depression and there had been a reduction in the number of public servants. In 1941 when so many people were involved in World War II, the census was postponed until the end of the war and the 1946 census was thus held in 1945.

That is a lot of counting! Today the census 2013 results have been released. You can see a cool inforgraphic of the results here: New Zealand Census 2013

Census results are deemed so important that the Census Act of 1975 means you can be fined $500 plus $20 per day for every day that you have not filled in your census forms!

Besides being useful to allocate goverment funding and resources though, census also shows us a cool picture of the who we are as a group. If you want to dig further into the results you can do that here at the Statistics New Zealand webpage. Statistics New Zealand also has a facebook page. Be warned though, all the intersting infographics can be a major time drain! 🙂




When one door closes, another opens….

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Or something like that anyway. As you all know, we are rapidly approach the end of the school year, and the end of secondary schooling for the majority of our 2013 intake. Next year our 2013-ers will be off at University, Polytech, gap years, working and more! If you are off to University though, consider this tool for helping you choose a major to focus on. No Major Drama. Yes it is an odd time to be thinking about University but it only takes a few minutes and could be a fun yet useful little exam break (although my top degree path came out as Medicine followed by Dentistry at number 2 and Physics all the way down at number 11!)

Remeber to study hard, make sure to schedule in some breaks, and if you need help, we are only and email/phonecall away 🙂

– Emily


Science vs Anti-science: Is it that simple?

Friday, October 4th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

When discussing  science communication the crusade is often seen as scientists or science believers  striving to convince/convert  anti-scientists  of/to the `truth’ of  their science. 


An all too prevalent approach is embodied in  a maxim along the lines of  if you meet resistance to science, throw facts at those who resist. If that doesn’t work, throw more facts at them, and throw them harder.


From a  look around the world at current controversial scientific issues it is evident that this approach is not working. 

In this  article  To change anti-science activists’ minds, go beyond science, Rod Lamberts from Australian Center for Public Awareness of Science at ANU gives four suggestions for  scientists to ponder on.


Food for thought ?



Fight Like a Physicist

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I have spent much of my spare time of late preparing for a presentation at the New Zealand Institute of Physics biennial conference coming up later this week. The presentation that I am giving is called “Fight Like a Physicist” and will detail a project that I am working on about learning mechanics through karate.

All this karate mechanics made me think. I know that all sports have huge amounts of Physics in them – but have you really stopped to think about what the Physics applications are in your favourite sports. You can start with the Level 1 basics like conservation of Energy and Newton’s Laws of motion and move all the way up through the mechanics curriculum to the level 3 concepts of rotational motion. As well, depending on the sport, there are all kinds of other fun Physics concepts to be unearthed.

So go out and find out what is the Physics behind your favourite sport. I have listed some cool websites to help you search!

The Science Learning Hub: Sporting Edge

The Science Learning Hub: Cycling


And finally some good resources on the Physics of Karate!

KarateChop – Physics– the physics of breaking boards

KinematicsAnalysisofTechniquesHSScience: A program in Italy where a physics teacher and karate teacher work together to provide workshops for students of mechanics.

scientificamerican0479-150: I really like this article not just for its karate content but it is 34 years old and I found the techniques they used to analyse without the equipment we have available currently really cool!!

Farewell Voyager !

Friday, September 13th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

I was in my first year at Glasgow University when the Voyager Space craft was launched.  1977. Then its mission was to explore the outer planets. Very few people believed  it would even get that far. painting depicting voyager in stellar dust cloud

Today it’s almost 19 billion km from home! Radio signals will take the best part of a day to get back us from there! How many near misses with asteroids, meteors and comets large and small has it had on its travels? What wonders it  must have `spied’ – If only it had eyes.

Time then to remember  and pay tribute to  Kiwi  Bill Pickering – Sir William Hayward Pickering.    A young will pickering standing next to  model rocket

Like many OUASSA students he grew up in rural New Zealand- Havelock at top of South Island in Bill’s case.   Educated at Wellington College he ended up in America as part of the `Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)  at Pasedana California and  then onto  the  space programme in the 1950’s
From a choice of three NASA space programs, manned space flight, Earth satellites and exploration of the solar system, Pickering opted for the latter. He would take JPL where none had gone before, into deep space to carry out NASA’s massive program for the exploration of the solar system and its planets”
“Accept the Light (of knowledge) and pass it on” was the motto of his  beloved Wellington College. Sounds like great advice for any aspiring modern scientist.

Where are you now Voyager?  Seen anything even remotely as beautiful as earth?
Watch and enjoy


Monday, August 12th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Just a reminder that we are going to try and start tutorial sessions this week with Chemistry on Wednesday from 6-7 and Physics on Thursday from 6-7. The tutorials will be recorded and made available off line for those who want to access them that way. Biology will start next week, Friday the 23 of August from 6-7pm. Maths is TBD at this stage.


To get to the rooms go to:

Chemistry: https://connect.otago.ac.nz/r6czkmanvpc

Physics: https://connect.otago.ac.nz/r93679027

Biology: https://connect.otago.ac.nz/r63671294


Remember, I sent out the getting started with OtagoConnect info sheet last week, let me know (ouassa@otago.ac.nz) if you have any problems.

A classic Chem3.4 type question worth learning.

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 | walda41p | No Comments

Have you ever wondered how to go about explaining the relationship between enthalpy of vaporization, boiling point and intermolecular forces? A thorough understanding of these 3 concepts is essential when it comes to tackling many questions that are often asked in the Chemistry 3.4 external standard.

Notice how the presenter uses graphes and diagrams to aid in his explanation.Old addage of “a picture says a 1000 words”. Use them as they can save you both time and space during the final exam.

Also, it is a good approach to draw the moelcules one beside the other, so you can make quick comparisons between the structures themselves and the resulting bp’s and/or enthalpy of vaporistion.

This a very common type of question, regularly asked in the external exam for Chemistry 3.4- Demonstrate understanding of thermochemical principles and the properties of particles and substances


New OUASSA Chemistry Tutor

Friday, June 7th, 2013 | walda41p | No Comments

Hey Everyone

My name is David Wales and I’ve just joined the OUASSA team. I have worked as a Chemistry and Science Teacher in a number of high schools, and currently am a senior tutor with the foundation studies faculty at Lincoln University.

I am looking forward to reading your posts on Knowledge Forum and helping you find understanding and the answers to your chemistry curriculum questions. I’m here to help you get the most out of your involvement with OUASSA.

Hear from you soon. David



Biology resource from OUASSA teacher PD!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Thanks again to Susan Yardley for her engaging presentation about her Endeavour Scholarship work last night. If you missed the presentation, you can find it here: https://connect.otago.ac.nz/p8ffdabve7k/

Also if you would like to check out the resource she developed, you can find it here: http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/resources/identification/plants/styx-mill-biodiversity


Project Synthesis time once again…

Thursday, May 16th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments



Synthesis of Project A View Discussions



You are each to make to a New Note that pulls together the knowledge you have gained from the knowledge building discussion on your Project A View (Maths, Physics. Geography or Zoology).

We have added a new set of scaffolds entitled ‘My Synthesis’ to help you do this. Use these scaffolds to help you synthesise what you have learned from your Project A discussion and to highlight the most important ideas, posts and links that were raised.

Post your synthesis as a New Note titled `My Synthesis’ within your Project view.

 This task should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Date Due:  Friday 31 May, 2013

Every synthesis post goes in the draw for one of 5 iTunes or Warehouse vouchers.


Any one want to go to Mars? One way?

Friday, May 10th, 2013 | ouassa | No Comments

Well, about 78,000 people have already applied to become Red Planet colonists with the nonprofit organization Mars One since its application process opened on April 22, officials announced today (May 7).Artists depiction of proposed  human colony  living pods on martian surface

Mars One aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent colony, with more astronauts arriving every two years thereafter.

Is this for real ? In the words of  fellow Scot  Danny Bhoy “Oh My God! How Bizarre! Literally!”

Check it out here

So, anyone even just as little bit interested?  What we’d be keen to hear form you all is

  1. Why would YOU want to go?
  2. What would be your biggest fear ?(Can’t be dying cos, your going to die out there anyway, that’s part of the  deal !)
  3. What science would be the most important on this first coloniser mission?
  4. How would you break the news to Mum and Dad? ( Give us your opening lines)

We look forward to your  comments

What does a Scientist look like??

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Do a google image search for Scientist and you get a lot of images that look like this guy in the picture. Although I was somewhat heartnened to see that some were women, by far the vast majority were men and most were white. Somewhat foolishly, I then google image searched Physicist and it was white males as far as the eye could see. I’m not sure why I didn’t see that one coming.

The first day of class in my Year 12 Physics class every year, I always get the students to draw a Physicist. Because I am in a girls’ school and 3/4 of the Science department are female, you’d expect to see lots of women in the mix, but year after year I get pictures like the one on the left. We then go through the exercise of talking about Physicists who are not stereotypical in an attempt to get them to see that Physicists are real people and that anyone, including them, can be one.

I recently ran across this http://lookslikescience.tumblr.com/ and had to share it. Allie Wilkinson, an American journalist, solicits pictures and short bios from anyone doing Science who wants to submit. The result is a collection of people of all ages, ethnicities and genders doing Science but also dancing, skating, running, being human.

Definitely going to show this one to my classes and hopefully it will help them see Science not as some unreachable thing but something that is accessible to people just like them.

Fun Friday Films!!

Friday, April 19th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

The school holidays are upon us and while you students are busy with work, fun and hopefully some study, I’m sure there’ll be times when you think to yourself “boy, I could sure do with a serving of Science right now!”. Well you are in luck because someone recently suggested one of these 3 minute films to me and I found myself watching more and more of them. And for teachers, I showed a couple to my class yesterday at the end of the period and they really enjoyed it. They are interesting little snippets that can serve as a good starting point for discussion and only 3 minutes long so not a huge investment of time.
http://focusforwardfilms.com/ is the website
This one http://focusforwardfilms.com/films/78/you-don-t-know-jack appealed to the students as it is about a 14 year old boy who makes a breakthrough in cancer testing.
My 10 year old son was particularly fascinated with this one: http://focusforwardfilms.com/films/30/solar-roadways where they talk about a new way to “pave” the road with solar cells!

Anyway I’ve managed to watch maybe 1/2 dozen of the films on here and haven’t yet found one that I didn’t think was cool on some level.

Another film site that I’ve been sent at least 3 times in the last little while is one by astronaut Chris Hadfield on the ISS.
He has videos on all kinds of things from making a sandwich in space, to sleeping in space, toothbrushing in space to wringing out a washcloth in space!! Again cool Science of everyday objects and good starting point for discussion! I really hate flying but Chris Hadfield makes me want to be an astronaut it looks like the most amazing “job” ever!!

Have a happy safe holiday to all the students and teachers!!

Grab a steaming cup of 1,3,7-Trimethyl-3,7-dihydro-1H-purine-2,6-dione…

Friday, April 12th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

So this week I went looking for some cool chemistry resources. I stumbled into the Royal Society Chemistry page and found a couple of things I thought were really cool!

First – Feb 2016 marks 175 years of the Society and one of the things they are doing is a 175 faces of Chemistry. Little bios of Chemists and their lives. They reminded me a little of the Applications books where they use a real life example of someone doing something cool to explain some Science and I thought maybe they could be useful to get kids thinking about the relevance of Chemistry to them. The one I thought was super cool was a high school Chemistry teacher turned Fireworks guru – insert explosive learning puns here! Anyway – check them out: http://www.rsc.org/Membership/175-faces-of-chemistry/

Also on the website, they have resources for teachers, I took a quick stroll through those and I am going to use the one about the 100m race and acid/base chem in my Year 10 class next term. They are nice because they are ready to go ppt and notes with worksheet etc but also I was thinking with the 100m one it is loose enough we can add in some things as we go. All their resources are here: http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/resource/listing?searchtext=&fcategory=all&filter=all&Audience=AUD00000001&displayname=teachers

And finally, the part of the site that dragged me furthest away from any useful work and perhaps proved to myself yet again what a massive nerd I am was the ChemSpider. This is the neatest little tool – you type in the name of a chemical (it was almost morning tea time so I started with caffiene) and it gives you the name, formula, 2d and 3d pictures as well as links to papers written about your substance of choice and all kinds of other useful information. Very easy to spend a lot of time in here exploring chemicals around us!! Fall down that particular rabbit hole here: http://www.chemspider.com/

And that is all from me for now, I have to get back to chemspider!!!


Phun Physics Phriday resource…

Friday, April 5th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Quickie post to share this resource from IOP. Every day this term I have been writing on the whiteboard in my classroom a “Tody in Physics” that I found from the IOP website. (http://www.iop.org/resources/day/index.html) The students enjoy seeing what has happened “on this day” and the couple of times I haven’t gotten around to updating it they complain!! We’ve also had some good discussion come from them asking questions about what exactly the discovery means or who that person is or why would anyone want to know that? 🙂

If you have some time – make sure you take a look at the rest of the IOP website – there is a lot of good stuff there about teaching/promoting Physics.

Hope the short week was good to you!


Just in time for Easter….!

Thursday, March 28th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

It’s Official!  Chocolate is good  for  you!

So says the science.collection of chocolate animals

 Or does it?

Research from my old university in Glasgow  claims to show that eating just a single chocolate bar has a direct effect on the brain and may cut the risk of stroke.



Is it a case of roundabouts and swings?



Calling all Science Communicators

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments


Eureka Science Communication competition 2013  Banner




There is  up to $5000 to be won in this nationwide competition
Each finalist gets $1000.


Be inspired
Meet like minds
Find out what the judges are looking for
Develop winning ideas
Learn awesome presentation skills
Boost your confidence

Elizabeth Connor, the inaugural winner of the Prime Minister’s prize for science communication, is to run a series of workshops for students who intend to enter the Sir Paul Callaghan Awards for Young Science Orators. Workshops will be fun and interactive and will help you put your best foot forward to try to win the prestigious Sir Paul Callaghan Supreme Award.

It’d be great to see an OUASSA presence! You gotta be in to win!

Click here for more info:



The Dawn of De-extinction. Are you ready?

Friday, March 15th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

“Throughout humankind’s history, we’ve driven species after species extinct: the passenger pigeon, the Eastern cougar, the dodo … A colour collage of threatened species

But now, says Stewart Brand, we have the technology (and the biology) to bring back species that humanity wiped out. So — should we? Which ones? ”

Check out  Stewart Brand’s TED  Talk here at


 Is it the answer to every conservationist’s prayer?

As Barry Hillman  muses in  on one of  the responses,
“Sure, we have a responsibility to un-do the damage we’ve done,let’s try to change our thinking and become a more caring society that has no need to damage our world and then we can spend more of our valuable and limited time on earth creating instead of repairing.”

What do you think? 

There’s a follow-up here, a panel video discussion `hot off the  press’  from March 15th  :  http://tedxdeextinction.org/ 

(OUASSA students: You can now comment on our Blog-posts,  but after clicking ` Comment’ box, you will have to sign-in using your Otago University login given  to you at the January camp)

For 2013 Academy Students – where we’re going with KF

Friday, March 1st, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Well done for the contributions you have made to our start-up activity in Knowledge Forum on three global problems.  Many of you are doing a great job structuring well written posts which have created discussion and further questioning amongst your peers. Many of you are also trying hard to use the PQP approach and you will soon begin to see that this method of structuring answers is a useful tool to master, not just in Knowledge Forum. Remember that when proposing something that builds on the post you should provide evidence that supports your proposition. This can be a link supporting information, a news item, magazine article, video clip or another post.

To date you have been building knowledge on 3 global problems. Shortly we will move our focus closer to home – to your Project subjects. First, however we would like you to pull together what you have learned in each of these global views by posting a`Synthesis View’ as outlined below:

         `My     Synthesis’ of Global Problem View Discussions 2013

Task: You are each to make to a New Note (titled `My Synthesis’) that pulls together the knowledge you have gained from our knowledge building community discussion on at least one the three Global Problem Views:

  • Climate Change: Let the Science Speak!
  • 21st Century Energy & Food Demands
  • Global Wealth & 21st Century Science

We have added a new set of scaffolds entitled ‘My Synthesis’ to help you do this. Use some or all these scaffolds to help you.

In your synthesis we’d like you to outline:

  • What you have learned from these discussions
  • Highlight the most important idea(s) developed in this community
  • How the knowledge building discussion has impacted on your understanding of the topic of study.   

Post your synthesis as a New Note titled `My Synthesis’ within the relevant `View’

This task should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Date Due:  March 10th

Every `synthesis’ posted goes in draw for 1 of 5 I-Tunes/Warehouse vouchers!

1. Time frame 

  • Global Views Synthesis:        25th February –10th March
  • New Project A Views:            March 11th to April 19th
  • Project A Views Synthesis:   April 20th – May 5th 

The three Global views will remain open for the rest of the year so feel free to contribute any good ideas, resources, thoughts at any time. However, from March 11th we would like you to focus primarily on your Project A views (Maths, Physics, Geography or Zoology).  We will shortly post a starting view for each of these project groups with the help of your project leaders. These you will individually be building on, the same way as you have been doing with the Global problem views. You are free to contribute to any of the project views. You will then have two weeks to you synthesize and consolidate the ideas and knowledge you have taken from community’s contributions.

We will then move onto your Project B group (Biochemistry/Genetics, Chemistry, Computer Science or Marine Science) and repeat the exercise with four views on these projects. The synthesis and consolidation phase for these projects will take place in the lead up to the Winter Science camp in July.

2.  Commitment/expectations

As outlined in the January camp as part of OUASSA 2013 we expect you to be contributing to Knowledge Forum on a weekly to fortnightly basis. At least one post per week would be brilliant! Emily and I check Knowledge Forum very regularly and read your posts. Occaisionally we will post ourselves. However, our role is to guide the discussion and sometimes present useful links – not to provide `answers. You are the `knowledge builders’!

3.  Trouble shooting

The login page for knowledge forum is at http://knowledgeforum1.otago.ac.nz/login
Remember to use the ‘Enhanced’ version of the software where possible and to select ‘OUASSA-2013’ from the Database drop-down box

If you are having any problems logging into Knowledge Forum, remembering your user name or password, or have any general questions, please contact us right away:
Email: ouassa@otago.ac.nz  Ph: 03 3793496 steve.broni@otago.ac.nz Ph: 03 4799204
Also, please don’t forget to be checking the OUASSA Resource Page for useful resources: https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/ouassa/
We try to add to this page regularly with at least one useful link/resource.  Please feel free to send me any useful links that you would recommend or you can post them yourselves on comments box.

Anything else we can help you with?  Email us… we are here to support and help you reach your full science potential.

Kind regards – The OUASSA Team
Steve Broni (Director)
Emily Hall    (Science Teaching Co-ordinator)


Friday – Fall Further down the rabbit hole…

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I ran across these little Physics related videos the other day. Each one is only about a minute long so a nice little break. They are also aimed at presenting ideas rather than answering questions so could be a good way to stimulate a discussion or a starting point for more research. Cute and accessible for many year levels. Access the videos here.

Have an explore of the site while you are there – they have some other resources online mostly related to quantum physics. I also liked this one which explains some “big ideas” in an accessible way.

Have a great weekend!


I had to get up anyway…

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | 1 Comment

This morning my lovely 11 year old nieces woke me up from a dead slumber with a 5am facetime request. I can forgive them because they live in Canada and don’t really have a handle on time differences. Of course their first question was “why is it so dark?” since for them it was 10am and daylight…

Anyway – I have been thinking about sleep lately because the latest issue of New Scientist covers the issue of sleep in depth. Recommended reading if you can get your hands on it. While thinking about sleep I also spent some time here warning though there are so many interesting interactive things to play with you could end up spending more time than you planned!

Finally nothing to do with sleep but I recently received an email with a link to the Quantum World song from this website. I watched a couple of the other ones and thought they were pretty neat. The planets one is good, and not just because Neil de Grasse Tyson is wearing a super funky tie in it. I have put the link to the Climate Change one on Knowledge Forum under the Climate Change question. They’re all worth a look though if you have a spare few minutes – maybe some soothing science music if you’re having trouble sleeping?

Antikythera – science in action in ancient Greece

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Well, January camp is officially over and what a time we had! Much Science was done, friends were made and we all had a great time. Also have to give a huge shout out to our green shirt team who kept camp running smoothly and campers in line and on time! Students need to remember to check into Knowledge Forum at least once a week and post your thoughts on the questions. If you have any questions or have trouble with Knowledge Forum then let me know ouassa@otago.ac.nz.
On another note I was watching a documentary on the History Channel last night about the world’s oldest computer. This is amazing – a piece of technology that dates back to 1BC that was used to count through lunar and solar years and predict both lunar and solar eclipses. The amount of mechanism, thought and observation that must have gone into this is incredible – and it was done in 1BC!!! The ability of the ancient Greeks to calculate precisely how many teeth to cut into the gear wheels and how to fit them together still amazes me. It makes me wonder , if they could create that with the limited amount of technology they had available to them, what kinds of amazing things will we be able to do in the future?

If you want to read more about the actual device, you can go to this website. I also found a youtube movie of an engineer who worked up a model of the device in his spare time using tools and parts that would have been available to the ancient Greeks watch it here.

That is not the end of the story though – the device was found over 100 years ago but although some analysis could be done, scientists were left to guess about what it was actually for. It has only been very recently that we have had the technology to enable an in depth analysis to be carried out. A special X-ray analysis machine was actually built specifically for the purpose of trying to see the device’s internal structure. Techniques for photographing and analysing paintings were used to finally allow detailed observation of writing on the surface of the instrument.

This whole story gives us a wonderful example of the discovery, investigation and observation at the heart of any science. Also, it illustrates the evolution of science as we go from educated guesses 100 years ago of what was almost a black box, to detailed 3d images of the interior of device today. Many scientists worked on the project, making predictions, testing, retesting, and fine tuning their ideas based on evidence. One scientist in the documentary talked about a colossal mistake he had made early on in the project which meant he had to go back and re think and re test his original predictions in light of observation not fitting with his original ideas.

As you head back to school this week and next remember your time at OUASSA and what you have learned but the most important things to remember are to be curious, ask questions, observe and experiment with the world around you. Work hard and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Yes, you may not succeed in everything you try but often our best lessons are learned when we look back at our failures.

Look forward to seeing you all on KF soon!

Camp time is almost here, 2013 OUASSA Intake!!

Monday, January 7th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Happy New Year! January camp is almost upon us and the preparations are in full swing! In the meantime, some New Year’s frivolity to ponder…
Did your New Year’s celebrations involve dancing around a tree to ensure luck in love? stocking up on supplies so as to ensure a year without poverty? wearing brand new clothes for wealth? did you open your doors at midnight to let the old year out? Or did a tall dark haired man come first footing with coal to ensure you had a good year?
Superstitions are rife around holiday times and often seem simple, harmless fun as we follow along in the ritual without really thinking about where they came from. But reading about the above and other New Year’s traditions to ensure luck and prosperity for the New Year got me thinking – where did these superstitions come from in the first place?
There was a time in human history where belief in magic and the occult was considered just good common sense. With the ideas of scientists such as Newton and Galileo offering alternative explanations to commonly observed phenomenon, our idea of what is common sense and rational began to change.
Many of us do hold strong to superstition though and I think this may be partly because we are unaware of or forget the saying drummed into many an aspiring Scientist “correlation does not imply causation”. For example, just because the last three times I killed a spider it rained doesn’t mean that every time I kill a spider it’s going to rain. The two things are correlated in my tiny experiment but there are way more factors to consider than just my spider killing and the rain falling. (For the record, I tend to have more of a catch and release policy towards spiders in real life 🙂 )
As the countdown begins and our new OUASSA 2013 students and teachers get ready to come see us (in just two weeks !) stay safe and healthy but also remain curious and observant of the world around you.

Avian Influenza: H5N1 Researchers Ready as Moratorium Nears End

Friday, January 4th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

 Just because we can does it mean we should?

Researchers who study the H5N1 avian influenza virus will soon be able to do some science that’s been off-limits for nearly a year.

This has sparked  renewed debate on the dangers of developing a strain that  can move between mammals.
Fearing that such “gain-of-function” experiments could enable terrorists or a lab accident to start a deadly human pandemic, critics demanded stricter controls on science that could be used for good and evil.

Read on for the full story on how scientists globally are trying to address this issue.  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6115/16.full

Reach for the stars!

Friday, November 9th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Wishing  all of you the best of luck with your Scholarship and  NCEA end of year exams!
From ALL of us here at OUASSA.

Don’t panic!cartoon of two penguins  standing. one with fish over top of head as if being eaten by it


Reach for the Stars!

Silhouette of child on beach at dusk/dawn with hand outstretched toward a rising/setting sun/star



Food for thought – exam time youtube breaks

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Exam time is upon us! The stress, the pressure, the extreme studying. Sometimes you just need a break, man. So here are some cool youtube links for you. These will give you a short guilt free break from study as you can be entertained but also absorb or review some Science in the process. Enjoy!

A while ago, a link was posted on the blog to the cool minute physics youtube channel. I am mentioning it again in case anyone has forgotten. The content is updated regularly and is worth a look. Especially in these time pressurised pre exam times, a little minute physics snack is a nice break from study. You can get to the minute physics youtube channel by clicking here.

Another longer, but no less cool youtube channel if you want to learn about Science is this one here, called the SciShow. Not just Physics but we’ll forgive them for that. I first ran across this when one of my students came in raving about water bears, since then I’ve popped on here and watched other tidbits. If minute physics is a snack, then these weighing in at 3 – 5 minutes each we will call a light lunch.

Finally, if you’re looking for something longer, say a 3 course meal of a science video, you could do worse than have a gander here. I used a clip from one of this BBC Horizon series in the tutorial that we did on waves and interference looking at Young’s double slit experiment and how observation changes experimental results. The wave particle duality and uncertainty. I haven’t had the time to watch all these but I have watched bits and it is a good solid Science series.

Hope you are all studying hard, eating well and scheduling time to rest and relax!


Secret Messages and a Side Track down Equation Lane

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I was reading an issue of New Scientist at the airport the other day and there was quite a cool article in it about quantum entanglement and a possible link to cryptography. You can read the whole article here, if you would like. I was going to write a blog post on that and include another article I found today that is relevant to the topic (click here to see it)
I got side tracked on the New Scientist website watching this short video – its a pretty cool little three minute study break if you’re looking for something short to watch.
New Scientist Equation Video
So good luck with exam study, make sure you rest, eat well and exercise as well as study and we can think about quantum entanglement another time!
PS – Just had to put in a plug for Otago University Physics Department. My Year 13 Physics class went on a tour on Monday of the University labs. We had a really interesting talk about temperature and what it all means followed by a tour of the laser lab where they were cooling things down into the single digit Kelvin scale. We then got to experience the relative heat of the cold labs where the temperature is down to the negative Celsius scale. We looked at super cool liquids and some properties of ice as well as hearing about all kinds of research going on at Otago. All in all a really cool trip so if you get the opportunity to go have a look I would highly recommend it.

The Fish With A See-Through Head

Friday, October 19th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments


Macropinna Microstoma: The Fish with a  See-Through HeadPhoto of deep sea fish  (Macropinna  Microstoma) with a transparent head

Every once in a while  (well, actually more often  than you might think) nature comes up with something so bizarre  it leaves you shaking your head and  pondering  “How? How? How?” and  puzzling  “Why? Why? Why?”

Found 600m or more down off the coast of California, the species lives in nearly total darkness. A transparent fluid-filled sack replaces the top of the head and two spots above the mouth, called nares, act somewhat like human nostrils, chemically sampling the water.

Experts think the fish hangs motionless in the current with its eyes swivelled upwards to spot the faint silhouettes of its prey. If it spots something it likes the look of, it rolls its eyes back to the forwards position and swims up to intercept it with its small, toothless mouth.

Check it out on this short video clip

Macropinna microstoma A deep-sea fish with a transparent head and tubular eyes

So, what’s the evolutionary advantage of a see-through head?
Would you want one for yourself?
( Might make wearing a beanie compulsory for some of us!)

Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 2012: stem cell research

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine goes to two researchers for their work on induced pluripotent stem cells or IPSCs.  The Prize recognises the achievements of the two researchers in this promising field of science – one of whom first published on the subject 50 years ago.

IPSCs are formed from mature body cells that have been effectively ‘reprogramed’ to a pluripotent state so that they resemble the cells in an early embryo.  Early embryonic stem cells are pluripotent and so have the highest potency of any stem cells.  This means that (under the right conditions) they are able to develop or differentiate into any type of cell.

Many medical researchers think that stem cells have a lot of potential for therapeutic uses such as tissue repair, regeneration and replacement, as well as providing a source of human cells for experimentation, investigating cellular processes and modelling the action of drugs.  Early research into pluripotent stem cells involved the use of early human embryoes.  IPSCs are of significant interest in medical science as they could provide pluripotent stem cells from a non-embyronic source.

Read about this exciting story of stem cell research at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121008082955.htm

There and Back Again: New Zealand’s Great White Shark movements

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

New Zealand’s great white sharks have been in the news this week as shark scientists from NIWA, DOC and Auckland University uncover more about the movement of the world’s largest predatory fish.

Read more about the research into the long and short term movements of sharks tagged in the Foveaux Strait as they head to the tropics for a winter break at



and http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/6720058/The-science-of-tagging-a-great-white

So here’s a question: do you think that these movements could be called a migration?  Post a comment and let me know what you think and why.


So how is the polar sea ice fairing in the other hemisphere?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

Single polar bear on solitary ice floe

From : From bakka-deliviano.blogspot.com


Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest surface area since record keeping began, taking the world into “uncharted territory” as climate change intensifies, U.S. scientists warned



For the full story see http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/6000/arctic-sea-ice-shrinks-lowest-level-record

Clambake Extinctions, Volcanic Deccan Pies & Demise of Dinosaurs

Friday, September 14th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

“Most researchers think the dinosaurs, many plants on land, and much of the life in thePainting showing dinosaur in landscape and comet hurtling through sky above sea succumbed to a huge cosmic impact 65.5 million years ago. But new evidence from the sea floor just off Antarctica points to a major extinction there a geologic moment before the impact. The culprit in this earlier cataclysm may well have been humongous volcanic eruptions in India—the same eruptions that some researchers have credited with wiping out the dinosaurs.”

Read the full story here

Gene mutation events linked to ‘milestones’ in human evolution

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

In the third online OUASSA biology tutorial I introduced the idea that a type of chromosomal mutation known as gene duplication may be important in “providing evolution some spare genes to play with”.

Many scientists think that gene duplications have contributed to some evolutionary changes, from the evolution of antifreeze proteins in polar fish (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112122511.htm), the divesification of a group of calcium binding polypeptides in vertebrates that are important in tooth and bone formation and production of milk and salivary proteins in mammals (http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/2/1/15), to the evolution of true trichromatic colour vision in African apes. (http://anthro.palomar.edu/primate/color.htm; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10413401).

A lovely example of the role of gene duplication in evolution for Level 3/Scholarship Biology – that is truly relevant to us all in the widest possible sense – can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21777-the-humanity-switch-how-one-gene-made-us-brainier.html.  This article tells the story of how the repeated duplication of a gene involved in neural development may have been involved in two major advances in brain cell organisation and thinking power that correlate with some big leaps forward in our own biological evolution.  Enjoy!  Darren.

Ever wondered how we know so much about genetics? “DNA from the Beginning” tells the stories of the experiments behind the biology.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

“DNA from the Beginning” is a fantastic resource that tells the stories of the science and scientists  that have helped to build our knowledge of DNA and genetics:

Explore http://www.dnaftb.org/

It is packed with great animations, stories, activities, quizzes and summaries of key concepts, and is ideal for anyone studying 90715 “Describe the role of DNA in relation to gene expression”.  10/10! – Darren

Follow your `Curiosity’

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Here’s one for all you fans of  extra-terrestrial science

NASA’s most ambitious mission to Mars is landing August 5, 2012.

“The rover, nicknamed Curiosity, has a greater range than any rover before and it carries an impressive array of science instruments. It will explore terrain on Mars where water once flowed, searching for evidence of life.”

Check  out this cool 5 min video from The Futures Channel website

Tune into the landing on August 5th

Climate Sceptic Changes His Mind

Monday, July 30th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

THE Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the past 250 years and ”humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate sceptic concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Richard Muller, a climate sceptic physicist who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, said he was ”surprised” by the findings. ”We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.”

He said he considered himself a ”converted sceptic” and his views had received a ”total turnaround” in a short space of time.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-results-convert-sceptic-let-the-evidence-change-our-minds-20120730-23769.html#ixzz224MFD1ID

Great resource for Processes and Patterns of Evolution

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

This is a one of my favourite websites for simple, clear and valid content for learning about evolutionary processes and patterns from Berkeley:


Heaps of wonderful images, explanations and examples for revision or note-taking.

Our Far South Roadshow

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Earlier this year Gareth Morgan led the Our Far South expedition down through the subantarctic islands and Southern Ocean to Antarctica. Among the crew were 10 of New Zealand’s top experts in the region and 40 everyday New Zealanders. The purpose of the trip was to raise awareness about ‘Our Far South’, its importance and the issues facing the area including climate change, the race for resources and conservation. One of the projects that has come out of the trip is the so-called Million Dollar Mouse campaign to eradicate mice from the Antipodes Islands. See www.milliondollarmouse.org.nz
What they discovered on the voyage was fascinating and Gareth is now embarking on a national speaking tours to share his experience and further our aim of raising awareness about the region. All proceeds from the roadshow will go to the Million Dollar Mouse campaign.
The National Tour starts in Tauranga on 30th July, visits 9 cities throughout New Zealand, ending in Invercargill on 16th August. 
More details and tickets are available on the website. www.ourfarsouth.org/events/national-tour.aspx

It’s Study Time…. again

Monday, July 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

As a teacher I can’t reccommend enough the need to revise, be well prepared and confident in the lead up to your school ‘practise’ exams and your external NCEA exams.  The Studyit website has a lot of useful information and resources such as study timetables, tips, advice etc to help you get started and to help you feel more in control during the next few months. The sooner you start, the more prepared you will be!

Don’t forget that we are offering on-line tutorials to all 2012 OUASSA students for Biology, Chemistry and Physics as well as Scholarship – sit in and listen, bring your questions and make the most of the tutorial support available to YOU!

You have been emailed a Google Form to complete regarding tutorial support – so get it filled out asap and we can make a start scheduling your on-line support!

In the mean time…. check out Studyit. http://www.studyit.org.nz/studyandexam/study.html

Study advice

Be prepared

  • Go to all revision sessions for your subjects.
  • Have up-to-date course notes. If you don’t, ask your teachers for the latest versions.
  • Practise assessments and examination papers.
  • Know what is required for each achievement standard.


  • Set regular routines of study.
  • Choose a quiet, airy, well-lit place to study.
  • Set study goals
    • Daily goals
    • Weekly goals
    • Long-term goals
  • Know your deadlines.
  • Make a study timetable
  • Do a small amount of study on each subject every night.


  • Have lots of breaks eg break every 50 minutes for 10 minutes.
  • Eat healthily, sleep regularly and exercise.
  • Reward yourself regularly.
  • If stressed, ask for help. Your teachers want you to succeed; ask them!

Physics at the University of Otago & Physics World

Friday, July 13th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

For those of you interested, here is the link to the physics outreach page at the University of Otago.  There are useful links aimed at teachers but these links will also be useful to many of our OUASSA students also.  http://www.physics.otago.ac.nz/node/89 –

Physics World has published its Physics and Sport issue in the run-up to the Olympics. It can be downloaded for free for a limited (but unspecified) time from http://physicsworld.com/cws/download/jul2012.


“Chemistry Matters” – Once more into the world of hydronium and logarithm; but never mind the mole

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Once more into the world of hydronium and logarithm; but never mind the mole

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times on Wednesday 4 July 2012.

<!–Tel: +64  3  479 7931

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Last month I attempted to explain the meaning of pH in around 500 words. To my chagrin, I found that this was an impossible task. The column was littered with arcane terms like ‘hydronium ion’ and ‘logarithm’, and numbers like 0.0000001 and 1 × 10-7, things that do not make for easy reading. So let’s take up where I left off and see if I can’t do a better job in explaining what pH actually means.

What was hopefully obvious from last month’s column was that pH is far from a simple concept. For starters, it is a logarithmic function. In simple terms, this means that a change of 1 pH unit corresponds to a 10-fold change in the hydronium ion concentration – at the risk of upsetting the chemistry purists, one could say that a solution of pH 3 is 10 times as acidic as one of pH 4. To put this in a more understandable context, suppose we had 1 litre of a solution of pH 3 – if we added 9 litres of water to this (i.e. a 10-fold dilution) the final solution would have a pH of 4.

The useful pH scale ranges from 0 (a very acidic solution) to 14 (a very basic solution). Because of its logarithmic nature, this means that it spans a hydronium ion concentration range of 1 × 1014, or 100,000,000,000,000, between these pH values. To give some idea of the pH values of common substances, lemon juice, for example, has a pH around 2.3, orange juice, around 3.5, milk, around 6.7, seawater, around 8, household ammonia, around 11.5, and oven cleaner can be as high as 13, depending on its composition. Although it is supposedly common knowledge that pure water at 25 °C has a pH of 7.00, measurement of the pH of a sample of any water under all but the most stringently controlled conditions will yield a value somewhere between 5 and 6; this is because the water sample will contain dissolved carbon dioxide from the air, which renders the water very slightly acidic through formation of small amounts of ‘carbonic acid’.

So this is where we get to the importance of pH. Nature has evolved so that many of its important chemical reactions, particularly those that occur in living systems, are optimised to occur at particular pH values. If the pH of the system becomes too high or too low, then critical chemical reactions are impeded, and this can be fatal for the organism. For example, normal human blood has a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 – if our blood pH lowered to 7 or increased to 8, we would probably die. Nature has therefore developed a series of chemical species we call buffers, which ensure that the pH of blood does not change significantly.

Sadly, despite all I have written here, a true appreciation of exactly what pH means is contingent on understanding the mole, a chemical concept which is usually first introduced in 6th form (Year 12) Chemistry and is not necessarily understood by all even when University rolls around. My explanation of pH has only scratched the surface and is extremely simplistic – but hopefully it had given you some idea of what pH is all about.

Of course, the fact that pH is conceptually difficult doesn’t stop advertisers telling us that their clients’ products are ‘pH balanced’ ‘pH neutralising’, and other such meaningless terms. Treat all such claims with caution.

Request for July Camp

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Dear Students/Schools,
The Otago University Advanced School Sciences Academy has commissioned Rakesh Pandey (Director of Big Picture Learning) to work with students and Teachers attending the July session.
He will be demonstrating how to maximise study productivity in a consistent, clear manner so that all students can get the highest grades in their NCEA exams they are capable of.
In preparation for the Sciences Academy, Rakesh would ideally like all of your students attending to do the following:
·      Bring any revision books and notes that students have done for all of their externals.
·      Download and ideally print the last 5 years of exam papers and schedules for each of their subjects’ achievement standards from the NZQA website.
·      Download and print one 2011 exam report for each subject from the NZQA website.
·      Go to studyit.org.nz and print the subject content summaries for each of their achievement standards.
Please acknowledge to theteam@motiv8.co.nz that students who are attending have received this important information.
If your school is interested in finding out about Big Picture Learning and what services they offer, please email them at theteam@motiv8.co.nz and they will send you information on a new cloud-based NCEA revision tool that is about to be released.
Big Picture Learning
5 View St.
New Zealand
Ph./Fax: 64 3 477 2888
Description: email

Revenge of the Weeds

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Plant pests are evolving to outsmart common herbicides, costing farmers crops and money

“It’s a story suited for a Hollywood horror film, yet it’s also a tenet of evolutionary biology. Introduce a toxin to a system, and you inevitably select for resistant survivors. These few individuals gain a reproductive advantage and multiply; sometimes they can’t be stopped with even the most potent chemicals.”

Read on for some sobering thoughts:


Planning a Science Degree

Friday, June 15th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments


The Bachelor of Science (BSc) is a three-year undergraduate degree which enables each student to develop his or her own interests in a science subject (science major) and related subjects. Students have the flexibility to combine their major subject with other science subjects, as well as subjects from other disciplines across the University.

Students may be invited to participate in the four-year Honours degree programme based on their academic performance at the end of their first, second or third year of study in the BSc degree.

Follow the link below to help start planning a degree around what interests you.  If you have any questions, bring them to camp with you and we can get all of the answers you need!


Science Competition: Comvita Science Video Challenge

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

If  you haven’t already seen this competition, the Comvita Science Video Challenge is a fun way to learn and communicate science for the Year  9-10 science students. All they need to do is create and submit a 3 minute video explaining how some healthy food ingredients impact on people’s health. 
Details of the completion are herehttp://www.comvitasciencechallenge.co.nz/

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