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Published 7 November 2019

Talented school students selected to seek answers to big questions at Powering Potential event

Powering Potential participants 2018

Forty talented senior secondary school students will be tasked to find answers to challenging questions posed by scientists/specialists at Powering Potential, taking place in Wellington from 16–18 December 2019.

Organised by Royal Society Te Apārangi in partnership with the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment and 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 or specialist who will act as their 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.

The Society is delighted the following businesses and organisations have volunteered a science mentor to help the students over the three days: NIWA, Lincoln University, University of Auckland, Environmental Science Research (ESR); Sleep Wake Centre; Informetrics and Curious Minds Ambassadors from Otago and Taranaki. 

“The Society was pleased with the large number of applications received this year and the wide regional representation in the students selected. Students will be required to work in teams and 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”.

Freemasons New Zealand Grand Master Graham Wrigley, is delighted that for a further year, the Freemasons continue to been engaged with Powering Potential in partnership with Royal Society Te Apārangi.  "The quest for knowledge, development and personal growth for our youth are at the cornerstone of Freemasonry and we know that this programme makes a huge difference to all those who take part."

Students selected for Powering Potential

The students selected to attend Powering Potential 2019 are:

Far North

  • Acima Mabidikama and Jonty Kirk, Kerikeri High School


  • Eila Rose Jones, Whangarei Girls’ High School
  • Rutu Hebbal, Huanui College

Auckland region

  • Manaal Mehamood, Westlake Boys’ High School, North Shore
  • Olivia Gordon, St Mary’s College, Ponsonby
  • Vaibhav Nayyar, Mount Albert Grammar School
  • Kimberly Pinto, Marist College, Mount Albert, Auckland
  • Rosie Wang, St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland 

Waikato region

  • Petra Fisher, Mercury Bay Area School
  • Jamie Mudford, Waihi College
  • Sebastian Manning, St John’s College, Hamilton

Bay of Plenty

  • Orla Walsh, John Paul College, Rotorua

Eastern Bay of Plenty

  • Bailey Rackham, Trident High School, Whakatane 

Hawke’s Bay

  • Phoebe Laugesen, Napier Girls’ High School
  • Romona Wainohu, Karamu High School


  • Jessica Frost, New Plymouth Girls’ High School
  • Joel Clement, Opunake High School


  • Candice Clark, Whanganui High School


  • Millie Day and Benjamin Carson, Kāpiti College
  • Rebecca Davis, Paraparaumu College


  • Olivia Mercer, Aotea College


  • Lydia Acton, Wellington High School
  • Florence Collis, St Mary’s College, Wellington

Nelson region

  • Theo Scott, Waimea College

West Coast

  • Rata Roa, Buller High School


  • Leah Albrow, Riccarton High School
  • Jessica Cowie, Cashmere High School

South Canterbury

  • Bailey Lissington, Timaru Boys’ High School
  • Victoria Hutana, Mt Hutt College


  • Tahlia Braithwaite, Bayfield High School
  • Samantha Couper and Lucy Davidson, Otago Girls’ High School
  • Aaron Hewson, King’s High School
  • Rosa Latton, Kavanagh College
  • Ben Hamlin, Taieri College

Central Otago

  • Archie Ritchie, Wakatipu High School


  • Robert Beck, James Hargest College
  • Olivia Gray, Southland Girls’ High School

Powering Potential presentation

Attend the 2019 Powering Potential event

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi