Projects funded to unlock student curiosity

Shark Vertebrae, a locally-discovered fossil which students will be using to reconstruct the life and living environment of a fossil shark

Massey University researchers have been given the green-light to co-create knowledge with Kiwi youth, with the announcement Unlocking Curious Minds funding.

The projects include using aerial vehicles to explore jobs in mapping the landscape, discovering fossils and understanding the air around us.

Unlocking Curious Minds is a contestable fund, which supports innovative, quality projects that aim to enhance and broaden the connection and engagement of ‘harder-to-reach’ New Zealanders, particularly young people aged 18 years and under, with science and technology. Local community projects can receive up to $30,000 and $150,000 for regional projects.

Local community projects

Dr Cadey Korson of the School of People, Environment & Planning, received $29,620 for her project, Exploring Careers in Geographic Information Systems and Unpersoned Aerial Vehicles. This project aims to introduce students to skills and showcase career opportunities in Geographic Information Systems and Unpersoned Aerial Vehicles through field trips and experiential learning during a multi-day camp.

Dr Korson says Massey University scholars are partnering with local agencies and businesses to provide Auckland high school students, particularly female and Māori/Pasifika, an opportunity to engage with science and technology through an introduction to Geographic Information System and Unpersoned Aerial Vehicles (drones), and to the breadth of career opportunities that use these technologies. “We will introduce students to career opportunities in GIS and that use UAVs or other remotely piloted aircraft systems with a view to fostering their interest in a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] career pathway.”

Dr Daniel Thomas, of the Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, received $25,985.00 for his project, Local taonga as the nexus for STEM introduction. The project will involve Raglan Area School students using a locally-discovered fossil as the nexus for a major science discovery program. 

Students will use enquiry-based learning to reconstruct the life and living environment of a fossil shark discovered in the local Whaingaroa Harbour, and will discover how the same enquiry tools are relevant to a broad range of career paths including medicine, engineering, mathematics and academic research. The project will align with NCEA achievement standards across chemistry, biology and technology and will include support from local Kaumatua and the Raglan and District Museum.

Regional projects

Another project Massey are involved in is called, The Air Science Circus, which be led by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the project is in collaboration with and Massey and Auckland University of Technology. It received $150,000 to run a touring “circus’ of air-themed experiments and experiences” which will aim to prompt schoolchildren to create collaborative data, art, and stories which will be virtually curated and shared to support peer-to-peer learning. 

The Massey staff involved are Chris Chitty, Dr Aruna Shekar and Dr Mikael Boulic of the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology. 


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