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Published 20 November 2017

Forty talented school students will seek answers to big questions at this year’s Powering Potential event

2016 Powering Potential participants

Forty talented senior secondary school students will be tasked to find answers to challenging questions posed by scientists at Powering Potential, taking place in Wellington from 11 – 14 December 2017.

Organised by Royal Society Te Apārangi in partnership with Freemasons New Zealand, Powering Potential will bring many of New Zealand’s most promising science students together from all over New Zealand to work alongside a scientist, who will act as their a mentor over three days.  The students will work in teams of five on a question submitted by their mentor. The students will then research, investigate and collaborate to provide recommendations.

‘Past, present and future science’ is the theme of Powering Potential this year and is particularly relevant as the Society is celebrating its 150th anniversary.  The Society has selected eight different events or happenings from its 150-year timeline and then matched these up with a scientific topic.  For example, in 1933 the Society established a medal to honour one of the key advocates of daylight saving, which remains a contentious issue in parts of the world. One team of students will be mentored by a scientist from the Sleep/Wake Research Centre from Massey University to research the effects of daylight saving on our circadian rhythms.

The Society is delighted the following businesses and organisations have volunteered a science mentor to help the students over the three days: Plant & Food Research, Institute of Environmental Science and Research, Dunning Thornton, Ferrier Research Institute, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Ministry of Primary Industries, University of Otago and Massey University.

“The students will need to think outside the square and use their creative capabilities to find solutions. They will also need to work well in a team situation and will be required to hone their research skills. At the end of the three days, each team will present its findings at a special presentation,” said Dr Andrew Cleland, Chief Executive of Royal Society Te Apārangi. 

To be selected for Powering Potential, each student was required to submit an in-depth application and video, which focused on their own science strengths or how they have contributed to an area of science in their school or community. The students have been selected because they are serious about going on to study science at a tertiary level and have demonstrated a passion for science.  Dr Cleland said: “The calibre of the students who applied was excellent and some tough decisions had to be made by the selection panel to get the number down to 40”. 

Grandmaster of Freemasons New Zealand, Mark Winger said: “Freemasons New Zealand is absolutely delighted to be involved in Powering Potential in partnership with Royal Society Te Apārangi. Education is a cornerstone of freemasonry. Our organisation is all about self-improvement and having the courage to make changes for the benefit of all.”

All costs for the students, including flights, accommodation and social activities, are covered by Royal Society Te Apārangi, Freemasons New Zealand and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The students selected to attend Powering Potential are:



Sophie Piesse, 16, Kerikeri High School



Paice Vaughan, 18, Kaipara College



Lynette Idio, 18, St Dominic’s Catholic College

Mikayla Stokes, 16, Western Springs College



Jonathan Chan, 17, Auckland Grammar School

Rasela-Rose Ualesi, 17, Baradene College

Weihong Yi, 16, Epsom Girls’ Grammar School

Lily Tang, 16, Epsom Girls’ Grammar School

Phoebe Liu, 18, Lynfield College

Kitty Sun, 18, Lynfield College



Anthony Hua, 18, Ormiston Senior College

Kim Fowler, 17, ACG Strathallan School



Nikita Raman, 16, Sacred Heart Girls’ College, Hamilton

Aidan Rowlingson, 17, St John’s College, Hamilton



Hyunjae (Jason) Lee, 17, Western Height’s High School, Rotorua



Nicole Cameron, 16, Otumoetai College, Tauranga

Kerry Parkinson, 17, Mount Maunganui College

Shari Webber, 16, Tauranga Girls’ College

Jack Nelson, 17, Trident High School, Whakatane



Dylan Coleman, 17, Opunake High School

Sarah Haden, 16, Opunake High School



Isha Kaur, 17, Hastings Girls High School

Maximillan Sales, 17, Napier Boys’ High School



Zoe Glentworth, 17, Palmerston North Girls’ High School

Katie Liu, 17, Palmerston North Girls’ High School

John Robinson, 17, Palmerston North Boys’ High School



Zachary Dewhurst, 17, Rathkeale College, Masterton



Olivia Paxie, 18, St Mary’s College, Wellington

Anjali Gentejohann, 17, Samuel Marsden Collegiate, Wellington

Isabella O’Meeghan, 16, Samuel Marsden Collegiate, Wellington

Isla Day, 16, Kapiti College, Paraparaumu



Ben Watts, 18, Nelson College



Oliver Gwatkin, 18, Lincoln High School

Alexandra McCracken, 18, Kaiapoi High School

Kate Stedman, 18, Riccarton High School, Christchurch

Wen Qi (Vanessa) Ye, 16, Riccarton High School, Christchurch



Karl Brinsdon, 16, Logan Park High School, Dunedin

Lucy Matehaere, 17, Otago Girls’ High School, Dunedin

Nicolas Sinnott, 16, Otago Boys’ High School, Dunedin



Lily Clague, 18, Gore High School

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi