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This is Rocket Science


This is Rocket Science

By David Pine

liamEvery year Rotary Clubs throughout NZ invite young students with more than a passing interest in the sciences to attend the “Rotary National Youth Science and Technology Forum”. One of the 180 attendees this year was 16 year old Liam Dalton, a prefect at Aotea College, who was sponsored by Plimmerton Rotary.

Liam spoke at the Club on 31 March and was buzzing with excitement over this very special event.

A principal speaker at the Forum was Dr Michelle Dickinson, Senior Lecturer in Engineering at Auckland University. Dr Dickinson is an acknowledged expert in nanotechnology, in particular how biology and nanotechnology can be combined to help people who suffer from various ailments and disabilities. Liam found Dr Dickinson to be immensely inspiring. “She spoke about the things that had inspired her, and she wanted to inspire us by sharing her passions with us. It is safe to say that 180 of us walked in to her session clueless, and an hour later 180 of us walked out with a burning passion to be Michelle Dickinson!”

“She gave us a list of 10 important things to remember as young people, almost a guide to being the best we can be in the future. One that stood out for me was: Remember to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Keep connected to who you are, what your morals are, and who your friends are.”

During the two week forum attendees took part in a variety of modules, lectures, work place visits, meetings, quizzes and social time. “My favourite modules were chemistry, robotics, biomedical science and my special favourite, biological engineering. This subject is all about fusing knowledge of maths, engineering and biology to better understand how the body works and develop solutions to healthcare problems based on that understanding.”

At one point the students were shown an artificial heart made of metal which cost $80,000 to build and a similar amount again for surgery needed to implant the device. On a site visit to REX Bionics students were shown a robot that was being developed to help enable people who were paralysed to walk again. “The robot consists of a pair of artificial legs that fit around the outside of a person. The movement of the legs is controlled by a small joystick, allowing the person to walk, sit, and stand freely without the need for crutches. The device gives people back their freedom and vastly improves their quality of life.”liam & others

Liam came away from the Forum secure in the knowledge that the future of Science was in good hands. “The future leaders of Science are good people who want to do the best they can for those around them. I feel so much more motivated than I ever thought was possible.”

In expressing his hope that Rotary would continue to provide the Forum into the future, Liam offered his profound thanks to the Club. “Thank you so much for providing me with this life changing experience. I am so grateful for everything I learned, the friends I made and the science I was exposed to. Thank you!”  As can be seen, Liam was well supported at the meeting by his mother, Shelley, Aotea College Science teacher, Shane, Jessica and Bronte Tricker (head girl).

Guest Speaker

frank torleyFrank Torley from the TV show Country Calendar kept us amused and informed by relating tales from the past and present of his journey around the NZ involving the farming community through the ages.  The show has been going for 50 years and Frank is a true Icon in his own right.  Frank currently only does the voice overs for the program but often still gets credited for the whole production.

50th Year for Legendary TV Programme

 By David Pine

When in March 1966 TVNZ decided to create a programme about the events and the people from NZ’s farming community, little did they know that the programme would still be going strong almost 50 years later.

Frank Torley has been there from the early years right up to today. In an entertaining presentation to Plimmerton Rotary on 31st March, Mr Torley described the changes that had occurred and the behind-the-scenes work needed to bring each episode to air.

“The programme started at a time when the post of Minister of Agriculture was ranked number 3 in the Cabinet. Now the same post is ranked at 17. But the programme keeps on keeping on. No other long running programme has maintained such a large audience share.” The early programmes would probably be classed as boring by today’s standards, with humourless interviews with such people as the head of the Wool Board or the head of the Meat Board. It couldn’t really be classed as entertainment.

Mr Torley himself had spent his early years on a farm in the Manawatu. He joined Radio NZ in the 1960’s and worked for the outside broadcast unit in many districts including Taranaki, Manawatu, Nelson and Blenheim. From there he graduated to Country Calendar.

There had been dramatic changes in agriculture over the years. “When I started with the programme a dairy farmer could make a reasonable living with 60 cows. Now they need 400 or more depending on their level of debt. The uptake of technology in all facets of farming has been unbelievable. For example, it is now possible in a modern milking shed for one person to run the whole milking operation.”

Mr Torley had at one time or another acted as reporter, producer and presenter on the show. He noted that there were some unique facets to Country Calendar’s team that had ensured its survival. “Unlike some other TV shows, we are very open to ideas from the public about forthcoming episodes. Also, none of our team are employees of TVNZ – all of us are contractors.”

Each year the team assembled a list of possible programme subjects, ensuring a representation between all types of farming, also a fair geographical spread, and including a good sprinkling of farming “characters”. The list was then considered by the team’s researchers who would cull it down to around 50 programme ideas, at which point the show’s producer would refine it further.

Once this was done members of the team would telephone each likely participant and personally visit every one to ensure the people were willing and able to be take part. From there it was a case of putting together the logistical support, such as trucks, helicopters, boats and anything else needed to get the team on site.

Once filming was complete it would take the editors 3 to 4 days to edit each programme. It was then scripted and made ready to go to air.

“Most of our programmes are reasonably serious but now and again we do a spoof show, for example we did a piece once on a mechanical dog, and then in another episode we had a turkey wearing gumboots.”

Mr Torley praised the generosity of the programme’s sponsors, including NZ On Air, without whom the programme could not continue.

Next Week

Graeme Blick  will be speaking about his recent trip to Antarctica. Our previously advertised speaker had to reschedule at short notice which has created a wonderful opportunity for a glimpse into a frozen world. Graeme’s presentation will be well worth seeing and although this is not a Partners are all very welcome to come and share this evening. The Programme page is up to date for the rest of the Rotary year thanks to Bob Austin.

Book Fair

This year’s Book Fair was a great success. By close of trade on Saturday we had already exceeded last years takings and by the end of the weekend we had netted $23k profit.  In addition to this the Inner Wheel group made over $1k on the coffee stall. A huge thank you to Gwyn Akeroyd and Alan Nichols and to everyone else who helped with this project.  Thank you all very much for your hard work.

Click here to see more Book Fair photos.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Jersey Boys

11th April is the Jersey Boys function at the Nichols.

This is Rocket Science

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