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NorthTec’s “Digit” team, which has introduced computer coding to a Whangarei marae and high school, has won its second award this year.
The team was a winner at the Northland Health and Social Innovation Awards, held on Saturday evening 26 November) at Toll Stadium, taking home the award for Best Innovation Creating Social Wellbeing for Māori.
The award was accepted by Temakwan Fenton-Coyne and Luke Tomes, NorthTec’s two research educators who have implemented the Digit project this year.
Together with Nigel Studdart, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) Team Leader for NorthTec, they have worked in partnership with Glenbervie’s Pehiaweri Marae and Kamo High School to teach coding to Whangarei youngsters. The project has since been extended to adults at the marae, and also includes classes in computing for older people.
The Digit project has two aims: teaching advanced computing skills to young people, giving them a head-start in technology careers; and teaching adults and older Māori how to use computers safely, and to understand the digital world.
The judging panel at the Health and Social Innovation Awards described the project as having “limitless potential”, using a “very targeted approach” and being “very much needed New Zealand-wide”.
In June, the Digit team won the Best Educational Innovation category at a national IT conference in Wellington. At the CITRENZ (Computing and Information Technology Research and Education NZ) conference, they also received a Highly Commended in the Best Paper at Conference award.
The following evening, they were finalists at the Institute of IT Professionals’ (IITP) annual awards, being one of three shortlisted in the IT Excellence in Education category.
The Northland award has crowned an exciting year for the team, in which they have also demonstrated their prowess to the Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment and Minister for Women, Louise Upston, and Whangarei MP, Dr Shane Reti.
Nigel Studdart said he was delighted to see the team receive another award, and especially pleased that after being recognised at a national and IT industry level, this award focused on Northland and the social benefits of the project.
It acknowledged the huge benefits that the Digit project had for Māori by introducing digital literacy and expertise to both young and old in the community, helping steer young people towards technology-based careers and assisting adults and older people with computing skills.
He paid tribute to the strong partnerships developed with Pehiaweri Marae and Kamo High School, where the coding clubs are based.
Nigel said: “Following on from the Digit project, NorthTec’s Education Strategy department is looking at developing further training programmes in software development and creative design, aimed at young people who are not in education or employment.”
The Northland Health and Social Innovation Awards are organised by Northland District Health Board, NorthAble Disability Services, Manaia Health PHO and Te Tai Tokerau PHO, to celebrate quality, innovation and integration across the Te Tai Tokerau health and social sectors.
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