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A group of NorthTec staff who established a community-based computer coding project were finalists at two national IT awards held this week.
On Monday (11 June), the NorthTec “Digit” Team, consisting of Nigel Studdart, Temakwan Fenton-Coyne and Luke Tomes, were winners of the Best Educational Innovation category at the CITRENZ (Computing and Information Technology Research and Education NZ) conference in Wellington.
At the event Temakwan, Luke, Nigel and IT tutor Johan Scholtz also received a Highly Commended award in the Best Paper at Conference.
Tema and Luke both work as Research Educators for NorthTec, based at Pehiaweri Marae in Glenbervie where they work with all ages building digital skills and cultural digital capacity. They also run a code club at Kamo High School.
Nigel Studdart, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) Team Leader for NorthTec, said the CITRENZ award was a complete surprise to the team, who were asked at short notice to attend the CITRENZ awards conference.
He said: “It was a real honour to get. It’s really special as innovation is absolutely crucial in this sector, and for NorthTec and Pehiaweri to lead that charge is awesome.” He added that the team’s success represented the strong partnership between NorthTec, Pehiaweri Marae and Kamo High.
The following evening (12 June), the group were among the finalists at the Institute of IT Professionals’ (IITP) annual awards. They were one of three shortlisted in the IT Excellence in Education category, which was awarded to Christchurch-based Michael Trengrove from Code Club Aotearoa.
Both award ceremonies were part of the ITx conference, organised by the IITP, which brings together 12 separate IT-related conferences under one roof over three days, and is attended by many of the country’s top tech professionals.
The Digit Team was formed following a successful bid to the Government’s Vision Mātaruanga fund, aimed at harnessing the full creative potential of Māori communities in the innovation space. This research grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has enabled NorthTec to employ creative IT professionals Temakwan and Luke to work in and with the community.
Their aim is to develop advanced digital skills which will lead to employment opportunities for Northlanders, and transfer this knowledge to regional development for remote and rural New Zealand.
NorthTec is working on two other initiatives linked to this project. The first is a development of contextualised achievement standards in digital technologies in secondary-tertiary partnerships with other polytechnics, while the second is the construction of a “TasterSpace” in Whangarei Central Library. The TasterSpace will be focused on virtual reality and 3D scanning and printing.
Funding and partnership organisations are in discussions with NorthTec around these initiatives. Nigel Studdart said: “The IITP conference provided a great space to highlight these key projects to Minister Steven Joyce, from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, as well as industry partners.”
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