Grafton Campus a hive of activity as Brain Bee returns

On 1 July 2021, the Centre for Brain Research once again hosted the North Island site visit as part of the New Zealand Brain Bee competition. Around 150 year-11 students from the Far North to Wellington visited the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences for a day all about neuroscience.

The Brain Bee North Island regional final is a key event in the Centre for Brain Research’s outreach calendar. It is part of the International Brain Bee Challenge, which was founded in 1998 and has since inspired thousands of students to study and pursue careers in neuroscience.

After the 2020 competition was cancelled because of Covid, Brain Bee is now held online. However, since many students consider the site visit to the University as the highlight of the competition, the Centre for Brain Research invited the top-performing students to visit the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

After taking part in the Round One online quiz, 173 students were selected from more than 300 students from 34 North Island schools. Spending a full day at Grafton Campus, they learned about neuroscience research and university life through lab tours and Meet-the-Scientist sessions. Our guest speaker Dr Helen Murray talked about CTE and brain injury in sports, and 2015 NZ Brain Bee Champion Nicholas Kondal spoke about his experience at the international competition and his pathway studying science. The students also competed in a fun teams quiz, which included a physical, escape-room like challenge as the teams finale, and supported their teachers in the infamous teachers quiz.

What’s special about it is that we get the opportunity to showcase the exciting, cutting edge research that New Zealand neuroscientists do on a daily basis, but we also provide a snapshot of different career opportunities in biomedical science. Our volunteers and researchers get a real buzz interacting with these young students.

Associate Professor Debbie Young National Coordinator for the NZ Brain Bee Challenge

This year’s winning teams

A team from St Cuthbert’s College and a mixed team from St Peter’s College Palmerston North / Saint Kentigern College / Samuel Marsden Collegiate School took out first places in their respective group competitions. Second place was awarded to a mixed team from ACG Parnell / Baradene College and a team from the Diocesan School for Girls. Finally, teams from Epsom Girls' Grammar School and another team from Baradene College shared third place.

The winning team of the 2021 Brain Bee Teams Quiz from St Cuthbert's College
The other winning team of the 2021 Brain Bee Teams Quiz from St Peter’s College Palmerston North, Saint Kentigern College, and Samuel Marsden Collegiate School

Students are now preparing for Round 2 of the official competition held online in August, where the individual North Island and South Island champions will be crowned. They will then compete for the title of New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge Champion at the Australasian Neuroscience Society Conference later in the year. The winner then gets to show their skills and knowledge in the International Brain Bee World Championship.

The New Zealand Brain Bee competition is an annual event hosted by the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. It would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors, the Freemasons Foundation and the Catwalk Trust.