Pūhoro challenges students with Trans-Tasman STEM programme

Hato Paora College year 10 students taking part in the catapult challenge.

The Pūhoro team, in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, ran the Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC) event for Year 10’s in Manawatū and South Auckland recently. 

SEC events saw more than 200 students at each event location, competing in their school teams against each other in challenges designed to build their passion for STEM. More than twenty schools were represented in the challenge that saw students from Wesley College through to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rito in Otaki attend.

The Science and Engineering Challenge was set up 17 years ago by the University of Newcastle in Australia where it’s become a nationwide programme. This is the first time it’s been extended across the Tasman to Aotearoa and the Pūhoro team are proud that Māori students are getting to experience the event and be inspired to extend their line of sight towards potential science and engineering prospects as they move towards NCEA and beyond into STEM careers.

Year 10 students creating their hovercraft for the Science and Engineering Challenge.

Challenging students through science

The students were set a series of eight different science and engineering challenges - from building remote control hovercraft out of meat-trays and plastic bags, to creating miniature electricity-generating turbines. Pūhoro ensured that the event was bilingual - a first for the SEC challenge. Challenge explanation cards were translated into Te Reo and designated Te Reo Māori speakers were stationed at each challenge.

Awatapu College year 10 students in the bridge engineering challenge finals.

Using Te Reo

Pūhoro Kaihautū team leader Leland Ruwhiu says, “This event was an opportunity for our Māori tauira [students] to learn outside the classroom and text books. The event provided a safe space to geek out and build students confidence in the STEM space. There were some challenges with the translations of some technical science kupu [words], nobody knew for example how to translate 'aileron', the control flap on wings. So after a bit of discussion we decided to call them 'pirepa' - the word for a fish's dorsal fin. Hearing Te Reo spoken and being used throughout the event really consolidated and elevated it to a place that we couldn’t have achieved without it."

Based on the success of the event, the Pūhoro team is exploring innovative ways to deliver the event again in 2019.

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