Four Whangarei Girls' High School students have been named runners-up in a national problem-solving competition, which saw them figure out some complicated science in just nine hours.

The four bright minds, Grace Elliot, Aria Zhang, Rebeca McKean and Mihi Shepherd, are all Year 13 students and took second place in the NZ's Next Top Engineering Scientist event for senior secondary school students.

The contest took place in August, when the Northland team sat in their school's library for the day to answer the question "What is the fastest humanly possible time for the Olympic 100m freestyle event?"

They concluded that the fastest possible time for the swimming event was 40.7 seconds.
Judges said their "mathematical analysis was very thorough and their report was beautifully written".

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The contest is an annual event organised by the University of Auckland's Department of Engineering Science. Each year, participating students are given the question on the morning of the event.

When Grace Elliot spotted the contest being advertised at AUT's engineering day earlier this year, she decided to pull a team together.

"It looked like fun. The hardest part was fitting the research into that nine-hour time period.

"I'm stoked we won. We didn't expect it," said Grace, who will study engineering at Canterbury from next year.

The team scooped up a nice $2000 in prize money.

Rebeca McKean said the event taught her that it's worth having a go at something new.

"I've not studied science this year, but I said I'd give it a go. The prize money will also be great to put towards our savings for college," said Rebeca, who plans to study Arts and Commerce at AUT.

A total of 182 teams from 71 schools throughout the country took part in the contest.

The winning team was from Auckland's Saint Kentigern College. A copy of the Northland team's report is available to read on www.des.auckland.ac.nz/competition.