NorthTec takes engineering into schools

31 March 2017

NorthTec takes engineering into schools

Year 9 students in the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) stream at Whangarei’s Te Kāpehu Whetū school got a taste of engineering with a two-day visit from NorthTec.

Student teams got to construct a ‘bristlebot’, a sort of motorised toothbrush, and race it against other teams. The teams also completed some ‘bristlebot art’ with their devices. The exercise was to make the point that engineering is all about creative and intelligent problem-solving, sometimes in a competitive environment.

Mirko Wojnowski, project lead for the Engineering Education 2 Employment (EE2E) Secondary-Tertiary Project at NorthTec, said that taking the subject into local schools was a great way to introduce it to a large number of students.

He said: “It is amazing how creative some teams get. Every time, one or two groups come up with crazy designs I have never seen or thought of, and that work surprisingly well.”

Chipo Fumhanda, coordinator of the inaugural STEM stream at Te Kāpehu Whetū, is passionate about maths and science as key disciplines for developing the mental faculties of critical thinking and creativity in problem-solving. He said: “This is of vital importance to New Zealand as it endeavours to produce graduates who are relevant to the country. Many in-demand career pathways require these skills.”

The EE2E programme was created through government funding to address the shortage of about 500 engineering graduates per year overall, with about half of these aimed at the two-year New Zealand Diploma of Engineering. NorthTec was one of six tertiary institutes to receive this funding, and works with schools, industry partners, the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ), and a consortium of the other five polytechnics to promote this pathway to students.

 

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