Department of Engineering Science

New Zealand Engineering Science Competition: Useful information


More about Engineering Science

In Engineering Science, we use computers to solve real-life problems. This requires being able to communicate well with a lot of different people, such as managers, engineers and mathematicians.

We set ourselves up to solve big questions, such as:

  • How can a forest be managed and continue to make profit, while also remaining environmentally-friendly?
  • How should an airline organise crew, airplanes and all of the their complex resources while also keeping operating costs low, and avoiding travel delays?
  • How do we design sails that will continue to work in low wind conditions?

Sound interesting? We look for the following qualities in Engineering Science students:

  • Logical and analytical thinking skills, with a strong mathematics/physics background: These skills enable you to develop mathematical models of real-life applications.
  • An affinity for computers: Most of our modelling is done with the help of computers.
  • Strong communication skills: We don't just sit in front of a computer all day. We frequently work with people who are not familiar with mathematical modelling or who come from different areas of expertise such as scientists, engineers, business owners and analysts. We therefore need to be able to communicate our ideas to people with differing levels of knowledge about the modelling we are doing. Also, we need to understand other people's needs and then translate this into a model that works for them.

Competition details

Here's what the competition will consist of:
  • On the day of the competition, teams will receive an open-ended science related question. No specialist knowledge will be required to understand the question. However, a good range of problem solving skills will be required to formulate an appropriate answer.
  • When answering the question, teams are encouraged to use mathematical modelling techniques. The required skills are often taught in mathematics or physics classes. After developing your mathematical model, it should be evaluated (i.e. used to deduce results and draw conclusions).
  • Depending on your model, you may find a computer with a spreadsheet application a helpful tool. Other teams may decide to develop their own computer code.


What skills will my NZES team need?

We require teams to submit a written report so it is important to have someone in your team that can formulate and write a good report. Thus, you might need team members with the following skills:

  • Mathematics/Physics
  • Logical thinking
  • Computer skills (maybe even programming skills - though this not a requirement)
  • Writing skills
  • Ability to work in a team

Of course, not every team member needs to have all of these skills – that is why you are working as a team!


Rules and eligibility

The team

  • Each team must consist of three or four team members from the same school.
  • Each team member must be enrolled at and attending a New Zealand secondary school immediately prior to the date of the competition.
  • Students should be in either year 12 or year 13. If students are in another year they may still compete as long as they are taking a maths or science subject at year 12 or year 13. Please contact us by email on if you have any questions about this.
  • Team members may not be grandchildren, children, or siblings of any staff member of the Department of Engineering Science.
  • Each team member must obtain permission to enter this competition from their parent or guardian.

Each competing team will be asked to answer a single question aimed at year 12 and 13 students. We do not supply easier questions to teams made up of younger students – a single question will be supplied and all teams will be required to answer the same question.


Outside assistance

No help with answering the competition question may be given by your teacher or any other person outside your team. This includes asking anyone for information.

  • You are not permitted to phone, text, message, email or contact anyone in order to gather information.
  • You are not permitted to seek information by posting questions to public forums.

Seeking and/or receiving outside assistance on competition day will result in disqualification from the competition.


The teacher

  • Every team needs a teacher from their school to supervise them.
  • On competition day, the teacher's primary role is similar to that of an exam superviser.
  • The teacher is responsible for ensuring that the team members understand and abide by the conditions of entry.
  • The teacher is also encouraged to help to organise the group and support them with computer access and a place to work.
  • The teacher may also want to help the team prepare for the competition.

On the day of the competition, the teacher must not provide any help in answering the question.



It is the teams' responsibility to ensure that they have a place to work on the day of the competition. Their teacher should help with this. Teams will need at least one computer with a word processing program and access to the internet. Having access to more than one computer may be beneficial. Some spreadsheet software or the necessary tools to develop programme code may be useful.


Publication of information

It is a condition of entry that all participating teams agree that their report may be published on the Department of Engineering Science website if they are winners or runner-ups of the competition.

Photographs taken on competition day or submitted by team members may also be used on our websites and other marketing material unless stated otherwise. 

Teams also agree that the Department of Engineering Science may release information about the winning schools and members of the winning teams for publicity purposes.



Teams may be disqualified at any point if they do not follow the competition rules.


Judging and prizes

The New Zealand Engineering Science competition is judged by academic staff members of the Department of Engineering Science.


Judging process

Judging is anonymous. Therefore, please ensure that your report only contains your team ID but not the names of team members or your school. It is the teams' responsibility to ensure you include only your team ID on their report.

The judges will look closely at the content and analyse the chain of reasoning in each report. It is important to clearly and logically present your arguments. Teams need to present sound arguments for their approach to answering the question, but also to convey this through a well-written report.

Refer to the 'report writing' heading under the 'Competition day' section below for a proposed outline of a report.



There will be one prize for the overall winner and two runner-up prizes. The winning team will receive $5,500 to be shared equally among all team members and their teacher/coach will receive $500 for their effort. The two teams awarded a runner-up prize will receive $1800 to be shared equally among all team members, and $200 for their teacher/coach.


Announcement of winner(s)

The winners will be announced on our websites in early November. All registered teams will also be notified by email once the winners have been selected.


Competition day

The question will also be emailed out to you and posted on our Facebook page,

Click here for registration details.



  • Each team is required to work autonomously on competition day.
  • No individual other than the student team members specified at registration may be involved in answering the question and in preparing the report.
  • Your teacher MUST NOT assist you with answering the question. On competition day the teacher is there primarily to ensure that you abide by the competition rules.
  • Any outside assistance on competition day will result in disqualification.
  • Your teacher can be expected to make sure that you have access to the things you need (a working computer with internet, library books, etc) and may also submit your report on your behalf at the end of the day. Note that prior to competition day it is perfectly acceptable for your teacher to assist team members with their preparation.


Time management

  • The competition only lasts nine hours. During that time you will need to understand the problem, research any relevant material required to solve it, come up with a solution and write a report.
  • It is highly recommended that as you prepare for the competition your team members spend some time working on the skills required to produce a report. It would be a shame to lose valuable time during the competition because you are not familiar with basic report formatting skills such as typing up mathematical equations, creating graphs and citing sources.
  • Make sure that you manage your time wisely so that you have something to submit before the competition ends!
  • Some well prepared teams have even created templates for their reports ahead of time, so that they can save some time on formatting their reports during the competition.


Solving the problem

  • The problem, much like most  addressed in Engineering Science, is open-ended. Solutions which fully justify the conclusion they make in terms of relevant physics, mathematics and economics are likely to be awarded more marks than solutions which simply quote the results of analysis published by other organisations.
  • The question will be open to interpretation, and there is no singular answer. We expect to receive very diverse answers – we want to see every team working with the topic creatively.
  • The problem statement provided does not give any of the numerical data teams may need or want. This is deliberate! Engineering Science studies "real-world" problems which are frequently posed with incomplete data. Teams are encouraged to collect background information on the topic on the day of the competition. It is very likely that teams need to do some research on the topic using the internet or in a library. 
  • Teams should make appropriate assumptions to proceed with their analysis, as we ask a general question. Teams need to clearly state the assumptions they make as well as discuss limits of their formulations caused by the assumptions.
  • Teams may want to use spreadsheet software or even develop their own program code in order to answer the question.


Reference material

  • Students are welcome to consult reference material if they wish to, including books and websites. The final report each team submits should include a list of references being cited. Only freely available material may be used, such as websites or books that are available in public libraries.
  • Material from the internet that requires a subscription (such as scientific online-journals, for example) may not be used unless it is a resource that all schools in New Zealand have access to. As a rule of thumb, your judges need to be able to access the material you use. You may assume your judges are able to access all the books in your local library as well as information freely available via the internet.


Report writing

Every report should have the following components:

  • Title page
    • Youe title page MUST only include your Team ID. Do not mention your names or school.
  • Summary
    • Summarise the findings and approach taken without the use of technical terms. A layperson should be able to understand this. Mention all important aspects considered in your study and conclude by summarising your findings. The Summary must be one page or less. You may combine the title page and summary into a single page if desired.
  • Introduction
    • Introduce the user to the topic you are working on. Try to generate interest into what follows.
  • Main body
    • You may want to introduce your mathematical model(s) and explain why the chosen model is appropriate or how you formulate it. 
    • In this main body of your report, you are encouraged to use appropriate technical language. Also make sure you state what assumptions you make. 
    • Discuss your findings deduced from the model and answer the original question. 
    • Discussing what influence your assumptions have on your findings may greatly enhance the quality of your report.
    • Remember to include citations (see below for comments on citations).
  • Conclusion
    • This is the end of your report. In this section, should repeat your main findings. You may want to discuss further work that could be done to enhance your answer. 
    • You could also comment on how you would like to improve about your models.

Reports may also have the following components:

  • Appendix
    • You may want to include computer code, if this is developed some as part of your answer. Note that computer code in the Appendix does not replace a good explanation of your model.
    • An Appendix is additional to your report. The judges may not read it very carefully as they may not want to decipher your computer code. 
    • If you do provide an Appendix, keep it short and do not include any important information in it. 
    • Make sure that the length of the whole report, including Appendix, does not exceed the page limit.

In general...

It can be said that a well-written report will be likely to impress the judges. On the other hand, a badly written report may worsen the impression an otherwise technically sound report makes on the judges. You need to make sure that the judges understand your approach.

... and most importantly

  • The ID number of the team must appear on the title page of the report. 
  • No other reference to the team may be included on the report – do not include the name of team members or the name of your school on the report. This is to ensure the judging process is absolutely unbiased. 
  • You may be disqualified if you do not follow this requirement.



Do not re-invent the wheel! You may, of course, use what others have found out. When you do, it is important that you tell the reader when you do so.

  • Throughout your report you need to identify (cite) material prepared by others that you use. This includes images from the internet. You need to include either footnotes or endnotes to do so.
  • A brief guide on how to cite your references is provided within the final competition instructions, which are sent out on the Monday prior to the competition.
  • Proper citation of all work by others, included in your report, is necessary. This means that whenever you use a statement or fact you found somewhere on the internet or in a book, you need to cite the source. This includes written material (quotations, but also mathematical models that you find somewhere and decided to use in your report), pictures, graphs, and tables. 
  • You may not receive a positive evaluation of your work if you do not cite any sources at all. Including references at the end of your report with no link to the relevant sections of the report is not proper citation and will affect your score negatively.


Report format and submission

You can generate your report using a text processing software of your choice (for example Microsoft Word, Open Office Writer or Latex), but it needs to be submitted as a PDF.

  • Format
    • Page size: All pages must be A4
    • Margins: All margins should be at least 2.5cm wide
    • Font type: Times New Roman (or similar)
    • Font size: 12 point
  • Spacing: Spacing should be at least single line
  • Length: Reports must be no more than 10 pages in length (including the title page, summary and all supporting material such as references and any appendices).
  • File format
    • Convert your report into a PDF for submission.
    • Ensure (before the day of the competition) that you are able to generate a pdf file on your computer. There is free software available to convert files of different file formats. 
  • Submission
    • You may only submit a single pdf document
    • Submissions must be emailed to prior to 6pm on competition day, with your team ID number as the subject line.
  • Partial solutions
    • You may submit partial solutions, so even if you feel you were unable to completely answer all questions or aspects of the question fully, please do submit your report. Bear in mind that all other teams have the same time constraint and may be struggling as well. 
    • Even though you submit a partial report, you should try to have a complete report consisting of the following components: Summary, Introduction, (incomplete) Main Part, and Conclusion(s).
  • Problems with online submission: If you have any problems with your submission on the day of the competition, please contact us by phoning 09 923 3014.

Frequently asked questions

  • Who can compete in a team?
    • Can year 10 and 11 students enter?
      The competition is for year 12 and 13 students. We will accept team members from other years ONLY if they are taking a year 12 or 13 maths or science subject.
    • Is it possible to make a team of students from different schools? Eg, two students from one school and two from another?
      Sorry but all members must come from the same school.
    • Is more than one team per school allowed to compete?
      Yes. There are no limits to the numbers of teams who may compete per school.
    • How many people can be in a team?
      Not less than three, and not more than four.
  • Where does the competition take place?
    • The competition is designed to allow participants to compete from anywhere in NZ. This requires each team have a teacher from their school to supervise them and ensure that they follow the competition rules (one teacher can supervise multiple teams and it is not uncommon for teachers to share they supervision role - so one might look after the team(s) for the first half and another for the second half).
    • What location you use is up to the supervising teacher. 
    • Each team will need access to the internet and enough space to spread out a little and work independently of the other teams. Computers can be school machines or personal laptops. Some schools use their library or classrooms, some use science labs, some use computer labs. We’ve even had teams working from home. As long as there is a teacher there to supervise and you have access to computers with word processing software/internet access, there is no constraint on the location. We've yet to have a team compete from Starbucks but are sure it may happen one day.
  • Can I be the teacher for more than one team?
    • Being in charge of more than one team is perfectly fine. You would need to help the teams organise where they are going to work on the day. 
    • You can’t help them with the actual project on Competition Day and the teams shouldn’t be communicating with each other. Otherwise, there is no problem with you entering multiple teams.
  • What is the Team ID Number and what is it for?
    • Each team will be emailed an ID number once entries close.
    • You will put this on the cover of your report. 
    • Your report should not mention your school name or any team member's names.
    • The competition administrator will be the only person who keeps a database of team details and ID numbers. 
    • The judges will only see ID numbers on the reports they are judging.
  • Who do we contact if we have problems downloading the question document or uploading the final report?
    • The competition's administration team will be contactable on competition day. Call us at 09 923 3014.
  • Are there copies of questions from previous years?
  • Is there a suggested question that may get the students thinking to the correct sort of level?
    • The question will be quite open-ended, and require some basic mathematical modeling skills, coupled with problem solving and report presentation abilities. The topic chosen will be one of a broad nature – the students will have heard something about it and will readily be able to research on the web. 
  • Instructions state that only freely available resources can be used. Does this include resources from school subjects such as textbooks and other classroom resources?
    • School resources would be fine as long as they also exist in other publicly accessible places. The rationale for this is that the judges need to have the ability to check on any resources which you include in your references.
  • Are there any mathematical modelling resources we can use to find the right type of model for real life?
    • Mathematical Modelling is just a process where you use mathematical equations to approximate some real-world occurrence. This might simply be an exponential growth equation or it might be a system containing a large number of complex equations.
    • We don’t expect you to study any particular models in advance. You will already know enough maths to be able to investigate the particular scenario to be given you on competition day.
  • Is there a typical format used in the engineering sciences when making reports?
    • Yes, we do have particular standards for report writing within the Faculty of Engineering, but for this competition you should just follow the instructions on the competition website. Beyond that, decide on your own report style. It should be well written and clearly laid out.
    • We also recommend that you submit your entries in PDF format.
    • The final document should also only contain the Team's ID Number and no other characters (e.g. '1105.pdf').
  • Can our teams use the EPIC database?
    • Although EPIC requires you to login, using it is fine as it is freely available to any NZ school who wants access to it. If you do not already have access to the EPIC database, your school can register for access by going to
  • What happens if one (or more) of our team members pulls out?
    • If one of your team members pulls out due to illness or unavailability, you may replace them if you can find a suitable replacement in time.
    • The details of the replacement person (and who they are replacing) will need to be forwarded to the competition administrator, along with a statement signed by the replacement to indicate that they have read the rules and agree to abide by them.
    • In the event that someone pulls out on the day and you cannot source a replacement, your team may still compete with those students who are present but no special allowance will be made if your team has fewer than three members.
    • If your school has multiple teams it MAY be possible to reshuffle your teams to deal with a missing person (for example, if there are two teams who both end up with only two people showing on the day, you may be able to combine the remaining four people into one team). If you wish to reshuffle people into different teams you will need to contact the competition organiser BEFORE any reshuffle to check that this is allowed.