Stu­dents fo­cus on their river

Whangarei Report - - FRONT PAGE - By Mikaela Collin

The stu­dents at Te Ka¯ pehu Whetu¯ are of­ten tempted to cool off in the Ha¯ tea River when it’s hot out­side.

But there’s a prob­lem — it’s dirty.

So when a group of girls from Te Ka¯ pehu Whetu¯ were asked to choose a topic to fo­cus on for a STEM (Sci­ence Tech­nol­ogy En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics) project, they chose water qual­ity.

“In sum­mer we re­ally like swim­ming and our school is right by the river so it’s tempt­ing. But it’s paru [dirty],” stu­dent Makayla Panapa said.

As part of the project the girls built, de­vel­oped and coded three de­vices which can mea­sure the river’s tem­per­a­ture, tur­bid­ity (clar­ity) and the water’s abil­ity to con­duct elec­tric­ity which is a test for how clean it is — for ex­am­ple pure water is not a good con­duc­tor of elec­tric­ity.

Martin Knoche, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the North­land In­no­va­tion Cen­tre, said Te

Ka¯ pehu Whetu¯ STEM teacher Chipo Fumhanda ap­proached him about do­ing a project in May but said the girls had driven it.

“The whole ob­jec­tive was ex­pos­ing them to tech­nol­ogy,” Knoche said.

“There are over 2000 IT jobs not be­ing filled, so there’s a tal­ent gap and of­ten girls think tech­nol­ogy is too com­pli­cated.

“I think what we’ve done is de­mys­ti­fied tech­nol­ogy and now they’re hope­fully con­fi­dent they can do tech­nol­ogy stuff.”

The girls de­signed the new elec­tronic sen­sors, sol­dered the com­po­nents onto a board, and wrote the soft­ware to con­trol the de­vice.

They had help with cod­ing from Tech­no­hack­ers and help de­sign­ing and build­ing the de­vice from Cruzpro.

Be­fore the most re­cent school hol­i­days the girls placed the water qual­ity sen­sors in three dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions — Pipi­wai Rd, which is a source of the river, Mair Park and in the Whanga¯ rei Ma­rina.

The data was saved to a mi­cro SD stor­age card in each de­vice and af­ter two weeks they pulled the sen­sors up and an­a­lysed the data us­ing code they had writ­ten.

It was no sur­prise to the girls to find the water in the ma­rina was the dirt­i­est.

“It looks ugly. It’s by our school so we’re try­ing to make our area look a bit pretty. It’s like this nice walk next to a dis­gust­ing river,” said Amelia Fenton Phillips.

On Fri­day the girls talked to Mayor Sh­eryl Mai about their project and pre­sented the re­sults. She in­vited them to share their data at a coun­cil meet­ing.

The girls said they were pretty im­pressed with what they had achieved and now want to ex­pand the project and fo­cus on im­prov­ing the water qual­ity.

‘It’s by our school so we’re try­ing to make our area look a bit pretty.’

AMELIA FENTON PHILLIPS

PHOTO/JOHN STONE

From left: Te Ka¯ pehu Whetu¯ stu­dents Zyr­iah Whata­rau, Kudzai Chion­dere, Jaelin Stu­art, teacher Chipo Fumhanda, Amelia Fenton Phillips, Kezza-hayes Re­wha and Makayla Panapa.

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