North Island Brain Bee champion crowned

30 June 2011

Auckland college students dominated the North Island Brain Bee Championship held at The University of Auckland this week with Byung Cheol Cho from Auckland Grammar School crowned individual North Island Champion. Byung and 3 fellow schoolmates made it a clean sweep for the 2500-pupil Auckland Grammar School when they took  out the Brain Bee Championship Teams title. Launched in 2007, the Brain Bee Championship attracts some of New Zealand’s brightest Year 11 students,  challenging them in subjects about the human brain and neuroscience. The first round of this year’s North Island competition involved almost 1200 students from Whangarei to Wellington, with 150 students from 44 schools participating in person at the North Island finals. Teams and individuals were tested on topics such as intelligence, memory, emotions, sensations, movement, stress, ageing, sleep, addiction, Alzheimer’s and stroke.


Byung Cheol Cho quickly established and held  a strong lead in the individual competition, being pressed  by runner up Fuma Naito from Westlake Boys’ High School with Kaustubha Ghate, also from Auckland Grammar School, in third spot.

Auckland Grammar further showed their dominance and knowledge of the subjects in the Brain Bee Championship Teams final, pulling together to keep out Westlake Girls’ High School in second place, with Auckland’s St Cuthbert’s College in third and neighbouring Diocesan School for Girls in fourth place.

Meg Speirs, Project & Communications Manager for the major Brain Bee Challenge sponsor The Catwalk Trust, says: “The Catwalk Trust is committed to finding a cure for spinal cord injury, and the sponsorship of this competition is our way of fostering exceptional young minds. The aptitude of these students promises a great deal for the future of neuroscience in New Zealand.”

North Island Brain Bee winner Byung Cheol Cho will now prepare to take on his counterpart from  the South Island along with the individual winners from Australia’s eight states at the Australia - New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge, early next year. The Australia-New Zealand finals event will be held as a feature component of a large international neuroscience conference on Australia’s Gold Coast early next year. 


New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge coordinator, Professor Louise Nicholson from The University of Auckland says: “The 2011 Brain Bee Challenge was a huge success. It was a very exciting day, with the pressure of the competition off set by opportunities for teachers and students to talk to scientists at the University and take part in laboratory visits. We had some 75 staff participating to some degree in the Brain Bee Challenge, and it is wonderful to see this interaction between current researchers and the scientists and researchers of tomorrow.  

“Science is so important in our everyday lives and neuroscience is such an exciting and fascinating field of study. The Brain Bee Challenge gives both students and teachers’ first-hand experience of the exciting opportunities The University of Auckland can offer those with a real interest in science and in particular, neuroscience.”

The University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
The Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences was established in 1968 as The University of Auckland School of Medicine. Traditionally known for its training of doctors, the Faculty now offers a full range of health and biomedical science programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

During its 42-year history, the Faculty has developed a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. It is the only health care training institute in New Zealand to offer interprofessional learning across its undergraduate degrees, or to consider students' suitability for health care roles by including interviews as part of the selection process for a number of its degrees.

  • The Centre for Brain Research 
    The Centre for Brain Research at The University of Auckland is a unique partnership between scientists, clinicians and the community. Established in 2009, the centre excels in world-class neuroscience research carried out by cross-faculty research teams, alongside clinical collaborations with leading neurologists, neurosurgeons and physicians in the Auckland region.
  • The Catwalk Trust  
    The CatWalk Trust is dedicated to raising funds to support the body of scientific opinion which says a cure for Spinal Cord Injury will be found. The Trust was founded in 2005 by Catriona Williams. Formerly one of New Zealand’s leading international equestrian riders, she is now confined to a wheelchair following a riding accident in 2002.

The New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge, was held on Tuesday 28 June at Auckland University’s Faculty for Medical and Health Sciences.

The Challenge event, launched in 2007, encourages Year 11 secondary school students to take an interest in the human brain and neuroscience.

The competition is held in two stages. Initially, schools run an online multiple choice quiz to determine their Brain Bee challengers. The Round Two (regional finals) are held at The University of Auckland and the University of Otago, with individuals competing for a place at the Australia-New Zealand Brain Bee Final held in conjunction with the Australian Neuroscience Society meeting. The National Brain Bee Challenge winner then has the opportunity to compete in the International Brain Bee Challenge, that for the 2010 winners, will be held in Florence, Italy, in July this year.

Megan Fowlie, Communications Adviser
Ph: 09 373 7599 ext 83257 or 021 802 143