Science whiz gets chance to visit Europe

03:50, May 15 2013
Charlie Norton
EXCITING FUTURE: Nelson College student Charlie Norton with a bust of Lord Ernest Rutherford. Charlie, 17, is one of five students selected to attend the London International Youth Science Forum.

Charlie Norton is going on a field trip to some of the world's greatest cities for science.

The super-busy science whiz has until July to get his extra-curricular timetable in order, to make time for a four-week adventure through Europe.

"I am going to London, Geneva, and Paris, which is pretty cool I guess," said the understated 17-year-old.

Charlie is one of five Kiwi students selected by the Royal Society of New Zealand to attend the prestigious London International Youth Science Forum, and after that he travels to Switzerland to witness one of the world's most advanced and expensive scientific machines, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

More than 200 students applied for the scholar trip, but Charlie's academic results in 2012 and his obvious passion for science and learning set him apart, Nelson College science teacher Tristan Riley said.

Mr Riley runs the Rutherford Group at Nelson College for students who are keen on science. He said Charlie has been a key group member, dedicating almost all of his time to that and other extra-curricular activities.


In London, the New Zealand students will join 300 like-minded students from 60 other countries.

The forum theme is Challenging Science Boundaries, and will include lecture demonstrations, specialist seminars and debates led by a team of international scientists and experts.

At CERN, Charlie will discover the leading edge of fundamental particle physics - the modern equivalent of Rutherford's famous atom splitting experiments.

The Royal Society of New Zealand, through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, will sponsor Charlie, but he must raise $1200 himself. He flies off during the July holidays.

When Charlie gets back it is time for the year 13 student to make some decisions.

He thinks he wants to study engineering at university, "but not just building bridges".

"I am quite indecisive when it comes to the future," he said.

Charlie's list of extra-curricular activities runs on and on, and has earned him a nomination by his teachers for a community spirit volunteer award.

Assistant principal Ron Kelly called Charlie "an exceptionally giving young man".

"He is always offering his assistance whenever extra help is required," he said. "Charles is humble, good natured and engaging."

At school, he is a student councillor, he dances, and he debates.

He acts in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet, plays in the concert band, sings in the choir and he thinks outside the box with the future problem-solving squad.

He's spent time volunteering in Southeast Asia, building the foundations for a school block with his classmates.

In 2012, he earned 120 excellence credits.

And, when he's feeling more entertaining than academic, he transforms into "Magic Charlie" and gives voluntary performances at Brook Kindergarten's fundraising events.

The Nelson Mail