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Sep 15, 2016

Wellington student takes out 2016 Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka Award with vision for algae in Whanganui

Winning a $10,000 science prize and visiting tech companies in Silicon Valley is all in a week's work for Wellington student Andrew Tang.

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Tang, 16 from Scots College, has taken out the 2016 Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka Award with his proposal to revitalise New Zealand with a sustainable algae industry.

In addition to his Eureka win the amateur scientist and entrepeneur left for Silicon Valley in San Francisco on Sunday to visit tech start ups Google and Facebook as part of Young Enterprise Trust.

Doing their best Steve Jobs impressions, students from across New Zealand addressed a crowd of scientists and educators at Massey University last Thursday.

The Eureka Sir Paul Callaghan Awards are designed to encourage and develop young leaders within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject areas.

"It feels absolutely amazing," Tang said of his win. "I am glad I could really articulate my idea."

Tang liked the idea of using algae as biofuel, but he hadn't seen how it could be done cost effectively.

He researched different japanese origami folds that would allow a maximum area of algae to be farmed off New Zealand coasts.

"Nature can be integrated to improve engineering principles," Tang said.

His vision to combine sustainable farming of algae for biofuel and revitalise coastal cities like Whanganui won over the five judge panel, which included broadcaster and former colleague of Sir Paul Callaghan, Kim Hill.

"I am really passionate about science, I love everything about it. Eureka really provides a platform to share ideas," Tang said.

Tang will receive $10,000 in prize money and hoped he could meet with scientists to make his vision a reality.

Before that though, he is off to San Francisco to see the technology capital up close. It was a good week, Tang said.

Eureka organiser Francis Wevers said the science behind Tang's winning idea was solid.

Tang's "out-of-the-box vision" was also a convincing business case for solving New Zealand's energy needs.

The Eureka competition was all about "looking for solutions to big picture issues", he said. Students needed to be "superb communicators", who would one day change the world.

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