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When the going gets tough …

Students from Rathkeale and St Matthew’s Collegiate after eight hours cooped up together. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

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Cooped up in a lab for eight hours, students from Rathkeale College and St Matthew’s Collegiate dug deep to find the answer to a daunting question.

Three teams of Year 12 and 13 students, keen on mathematics and science, grappled with a single question for eight hours in the annual New Zealand Engineering Science competition organised by Auckland University.

This year’s question: “How many tonnes of CO2 emissions could be avoided in your lifetime if New Zealand transitions to a completely electric vehicle fleet?”

The question is open to interpretation, with each answer judged on the science behind it.

More than 200 teams took part nationwide.

The pressure of solving the world’s carbon emissions issue in a day did not faze Year 13 student Judah Dabora, who managed to stave off cabin fever by focusing on the task at hand.

“I didn’t feel like taking an axe to my teammates, put it that way.”

Members of the teams said they managed to resist any opportunity for espionage.

Year 12 student Gallagher Houlbrooke said fatigue was a challenge they had to overcome together.

“It was quite exhausting and draining mentally.”

A quick lunch provided a much-needed break, but every minute was precious.

Teams made the most of each moment, with some submitting their answer just 30 seconds before the deadline.

Year 13 student Lily Jones said her team based their answers around statistical research, before layering chemistry-based ideas to answer the question.

When finding an answer, teams were encouraged to use problem-solving skills and mathematical modelling techniques, like they would in mathematics or physics classes.

Rathkeale’s director of information communications technology and e-learning, Shane Mann, said students worked well and were completely focused the whole time.

“From a teaching and learning perspective, it was probably the best example of collaboration and problem solving that I have seen.”

He was not allowed to help students in any way and remained silent for the whole time.

Mann thanked the university’ department of engineering science for providing students with such a “fantastic opportunity” to apply skills developed across multiple disciplines to a real-world problem.

“The experience will hopefully encourage and inspire students to work towards a career in the engineering and science disciplines – areas that NZ desperately needs.”

A $6000 first prize and two runner-up prizes of $2000 were up for grabs, and the Wairarapa teams are eagerly awaiting the results in the coming weeks.

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