RoboPa to unlock curious minds

Professor John Clayton with the team from Tokorau – Institute of Indigenous Innovation and Design. Supplied Photo.

Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi is taking a robotics initiative into Mataatua primary schools and kura to unlock the most curious of minds.

A team from the wananga's Tokorau – Institute of Indigenous Innovation and Design have been awarded $30,000 by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to run RoboPa, a robotics initiative designed to engage Maori students and support the growth of digital capability.

Professor John Clayton explains RoboPa is a portable maker space where Maori youth will engage with modern technologies, software and equipment which they currently do not have access to.

“Practical tasks will be designed to challenge the learners to solve increasingly complex computational tasks in a supported team environment.

“Participants will be shown how to break large abstract problems down into more manageable and comprehensible concepts. They will then be encouraged to construct, test, re-test and reflect on collaborative solutions.”

With digital technologies set to be fully integrated into the New Zealand school curriculum by 2018, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is pleased to support the drive with the RoboPa initiative, adds John.

While Tokorau team member Thomas Mitai says the design thinking and computational skills that students will acquire will hopefully encourage them to participate further in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

“Maori learners will be equipped with a set of thinking skills through the RoboPa initiative that will one day lead them to become great innovators and creators in digitally driven environments rather than passive consumers of digital services and solutions.”

The team was awarded the grant under's the MBIE's Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund which supports innovative projects that will excite and engage New Zealanders, particularly young people, who have fewer opportunities to be involved with science and technology.

The fund offers two levels of grants - up to $30,000 for local projects, and up to $150,000 for regional or national projects.


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