Top Chemistry Olympiad invited to Science & Technology Forum


Over the summer holidays, Year 12 student Isla Swanney will spend two weeks attending university lectures and visiting a wide range of science and technology based organisations across Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland).

The Rotary Science & Technology forum is open to students in Year 12 who have a passion for Science, Mathematics & Technology subjects, and are recommended by their school’s Head of Science. The application process requires outstanding academic results and includes an interview by the Rotary District selection committee. A maximum of 168 places are offered nationwide so it’s a fantastic achievement for Isla to have been awarded the opportunity to attend the forum. 

From 7-21 January, Isla will travel up to Auckland where she will attend two, three hour lectures a day which are hosted by the University of Auckland, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Massey University. As well as getting an insight into the range of science, mathematics and technology courses available for study, she will also get to visit a number of science or technology organisations. Examples from previous years include Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Living Cell Technologies, TVNZ, Foodbowl, AUT Millennium High Performance Centre, Air New Zealand, Beca Limited, Landcare Research, Watercare, the Auckland Zoo and ESR.

After the event, Isla will give a presentation to the Rotary Club to share all that she has learned and to thank them for giving her the opportunity. 

As well as being accepted into the Rotary Science & Technology forum, Isla was also selected for the New Zealand Chemistry Olympiad team, for the second time, as one of the top 30 chemistry students from around our nation.

To gain entry into the team, Isla was competing against students that were a year ahead of her. The students were given a whole lot of material to work through in term one. “It’s kind of like a crash course  level 3 or university level,” she said. “There’s a test at the end of term one and 30 people are selected to go and attend the camp. They then select the top four to join the international team.”

Reflecting on the extra work Isla commented, “It was really hard because a lot of the material is written in really ‘academic writing’ style. [I was] kind of self-teaching myself it all as well, so it is quite hard. It’s good that it’s in term one when I’m not as busy with other things. But it’s really cool and it’s made level 3 chemistry this year so much easier because I’ve kind of got an introduction to all the material which has been nice.”

Isla finds most of her subjects really interesting and enjoys learning. However, she prefers subjects such as Physics and Chemistry that include calculations more than writing, and she loves learning how things work. 

“I really like being able to see things and kind of say, ‘Oh, I know how that works,'” she said. “There are so many household products and that, which obviously have chemicals in them, and it’s kind of like, I know how that works now which is pretty cool.”

Congratulations Isla and we wish you all the best for your exams and the upcoming forum!

By Sarah Luton