Logan Park High School pupil Meran Campbell-Hood with Royal
Society of New Zealand acting chief executive Phillippa
Gardiner, after being presented the society's travel award
at the Genesis Energy Realise the Dream event. Photo
A Logan Park High School pupil has won a major travel
award in the Genesis Energy Realise the Dream competition after
developing a method to test for soil nutrients using digital
photographs of plants.
Meran Campbell-Hood's ingenious science project was one of 20
by New Zealand's most talented science pupils which were
selected by the Royal Society of New Zealand for the Genesis
Energy Realise the Dream competition.
The 15-year-old's research began in year 7 when her
grandfather posed the question: Can soil nutrients be
detected by photography?
Each year since then, she has developed and improved
non-destructive ways to determine if plants have been able to
take up some of the more difficult nutrients to analyse in
the soil, including copper and, most recently, selenium.
This year, she put her system through a long-term trial with
80 days of observations on patches of a lawn that had
received different amounts of sodium selenate.
She developed processing algorithms to filter non-grass
pixels from the image and had to cope with day-to-day
variations in lighting conditions, including shadows across
part of the image.
The judges found her system performed well, and she was
awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand Travel Award, which
will enable her to take an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2014
Youth ANZAAS Science Conference for secondary school pupils
''It's great, quite unexpected. I never go into these things
expecting to win,'' she said.
Other projects selected included topics of air and water
quality, nutrition, memory, sand dune restoration,
hypothermia monitors, spider web strength and an automatic
gearbox for bicycles.
Chief judge Associate Prof Cory Matthew, of Massey
University, said this year's competition drew some
outstanding entries which bodes well for New Zealand's
He said the projects showed high skill levels in electronics,
image analysis, robotics, ecology and physics, among others.
Meran's travel award was one of several awards presented at
the Genesis Energy Realise the Dream event held and hosted
recently by the Governor-General at Government House.
Given that Meran still has two years of study left at Logan
Park High School, she has not made any concrete plans about
her future, but hopes eventually to study some form of
science at university.