Scenes of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spitting out lava as featured on the news earlier this year spurred a Year 10 Iona College student to come up with a concept that took out the top prize at the Hawke's Bay Science and Technology Fair.

Olivia Webster's 'Ash and the Beanstalk' investigated growing plants in ash to determine whether or not the ash affected growth.

"I wondered what would happen once all the nearby trees and plants had burnt down and whether they would grow back from seeds in the ash," she explained.

"I found out that once the percentage of dirt to soil ratio was over 50 per cent, the ash held too much moisture and made the bean seeds go rotten, They didn't start to germinate. But they did in the 25 per cent ash to dirt ratio, as there was a better balance between the two."


Olivia spent time during their after-school science class to research more deeply and planted, watered and measured the plants every day.

She received an Outstanding Project Award, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council Award and the NZ Soil Science Award, as well as the top prize, the University of Otago Award for Best Application of Scientific Method.

As part of her prize she also received an all expenses paid trip to Hands-on Science at Otago University. However the catch is, it is only redeemable in January 2020.

"I'm not too sure what I am planning on doing in the future, but I am really excited to go down there and see what they offer and it might be a possibility that I will go there after school."

But in the meantime, Olivia plans on entering again and refining her project.

The competition involves four different events - EIT Titration Competition, SciPAD Technology Challenge, New Zealand Apples & Pears Science Quiz and Science Fair (Projects). The actual fair (projects) and EIT Titration Competition are both held at EIT.

More than 500 students across most Hawke's Bay secondary schools competed in the annual fair, a collaboration between primary sponsor EIT and New Zealand Apples & Pears.

The 43 judges included several teachers and staff from EIT, local industry personnel and professionals with a connection to the sciences.


For prize winners visit