Three budding Hawke's Bay aquatic designers and researchers are set to enjoy an outing with some small friends after winning the National Aquarium's Jock McKenzie Awards.
As aquarium educator Jacque Wilton explained, the youngsters will be treated to a close encounter with the little penguins as a reward for their "excellent" efforts in creating a project as part of the recent Meeting of the Minds programme.
About 140 Year 4 to Year 8 students from about a dozen Bay schools, all nominated by teachers to attend the two-hour sessions, took part in the annual Meeting of the Minds, which has been running for about five years.
As part of the aquarium initiative, children are put into groups where they have to devise and complete tasks within the aquatic environment.
"They get to work as a team and you can spot the future leaders coming out amongst them," Ms Wilton said.
As well, the children are offered the optional opportunity to take part in the Jock McKenzie Award - and about 45 did.
They create a project involving anything from researching a famous New Zealand scientist to designing their own penguin enclosure or investigating marine components like water salinity and how fish adapt to warm or cold water.
The awards are split over three age group categories and Ms Wilton said that as in previous years, the standard was very high.
"They do put in a lot of great work and imagination and it's great to see them so enthusiastic."
At the end of the judging it was 11-year-old Alexandria Scurr from St Mary's School, 10-year-old Reuben Moffit from Frimley School and 9-year-old Madeleine Eastwood from Eskdale School who won the awards.
When asked what she particularly liked about the Meeting of the Minds day Alexandria simply said "I liked everything".
For Reuben it was testing the tank water where the eels live because every time he dabbled his water tester, the eels would emerge.
Ms Wilton said there was every chance several of the children involved in the programme would go on to become anything from marine biologists to marine educators.
"You never know."