Young students tackle earthquake problems in CRISiSLab Challenge

Thursday 15 September 2022

Wellington High School students claimed the top prize in the annual CRISiSLab Challenge, with their own unique earthquake alert system which could launch their careers in disaster management.

Lev Petersen from Wellington High School explains his team's dashboard to the CRISiSLab judges.

Last updated: Thursday 1 December 2022

The competition is organised by CRiSiSLab at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research of Massey University and funded by Toka Tū Ake EQC to encourage young people into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and demonstrates how technology can support disaster management.

The CRISiSLab (Crisis Response and Integrated Simulation Science Laboratory) is a research and learning laboratory based at the Pukeahu campus in Wellington.

CRISiSLab’s mission is to contribute to advancing technology-driven solutions in crisis management. It also supports students and researchers from multiple universities and agencies to study the design, implementation, and evaluation of technological tools for crisis management.

The winners faced stiff competition from fellow finalists, St Patrick’s College, Te Kura Māori o Porirua and Taita College, who all impressed the judging panel of scientists and science communicators with their innovative solutions to real-life earthquake challenges.

“It was incredible to watch these young high school students understanding extremely complex science from start to finish and also being able to problem-solve during their presentations,” said Dr Natalie Balfour, Manager Research at Toka Tū Ake EQC, who was part of the judging panel.

Wellington High School students Lev Petersen, Brendan Shaw and Anthony Smith impressed the judges with their disaster response model which used seismometer data to trigger drones to warn residents and capture their whereabouts after an earthquake to help rescue efforts.

The winners earned a month-long internship with CRISiSLab and hope to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winners, Ben Hong and Zade Viggers from Wellington College, who were subsequently recruited as research assistants.

“It is amazing to see what gets achieved during the challenge and to think what could be brought forward in the future of technology and earth sciences,” says Dr Marion Tan, leader of the CRISiSLab Challenge and lecturer from Massey’s School of Psychology.

“We need more young people in science and disaster management. They’re the next generation of scientists and the link between innovation and our future preparedness.”

Dr Balfour hopes that giving young people exposure, experience, and the opportunity to learn about the technology behind the science, will open the door to a world they may not have thought about yet.

“Toka Tū Ake EQC is excited to support such an important initiative that gives our young students access to some of New Zealand’s most renowned experts. I’m looking forward to seeing what the winners come up during their internships,” says Dr Balfour.

St Patrick’s College picked up the Endeavour Award,  Taita College won Best Dashboard Award and Te Kura Māori o Porirua the awarded for Best Alerting Device and impressed the judges by integrating matauranga Māori in their presentation and alerting device to celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

CRISiSLab competition participants

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