“I had been previously in engineering and had run my own businesses, but decided to sell up and start a new career,” Hargreaves explains.
Hargreaves has had a long-lasting interest in engineering and technology for many years.
“It came about when I started an engineering apprenticeship in 1971 – I’ve always had motorcycles, and I am still wasting money restoring and riding them,” he quips.
His teaching career has enabled him to inspire students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and graphics areas at various East Auckland schools since 1997, including Howick College, Macleans College, and of last year, at Mission Heights Junior College (MHJC).
After one year at MHJC, he was successfully nominated for Education HQ’s 2016 Unsung Heroes Technology category, as a result of the many hours he spent mentoring and helping to prepare students for the IPENZ (Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand) and Bright Sparks Competitions.
Under his guidance, this talented group of students have recently been awarded the top awards in the prestigious IPENZ Neighbourhood Engineer programme; they were finalists in their respective Bright Sparks category; and they were the winners of the Auckland Zone Science Fair.
A lot of the preparation Hargreaves takes his students through is focused around problem solving, he says.
“I encourage the students to come up with possibilities to solve the problems they encounter, such as showing them how a servo motor can be programmed to move an object they have designed into their project - what we don't know we find out together.”
Established in 2009, MHJC uses sustained innovative approaches within authentic, engaging and relevant learning contexts in its digitally intensive environment, and technology plays a pivotal role in supporting authentic practice in its classrooms.
This year’s focus at MHJC is to collaborate with a greater range of subjects, STEM, and the introduction of robotics and so on, Hargreaves says.
“Our school is fairly unique in that we have four sessions per day and then the fifth session each day is a DEEP session (discovery/enrichment programmes), where students choose to experience a wide range of topics that may normally not be available to them in a 'normal' school.
“This year there will be technology related DEEP's in robotics, K'Nex challenge, designing/building electrically powered vehicles, digital technology, CAD design and 3D printing amongst others,” he adds.
MHJC also has a dedicated “project” class, where students work in groups to solve problems of their own choosing.
These students then go on to participate in various competitions such as IPENZ and Bright Sparks, Hargreaves explains.
“We are fortunate to have a principal (Ian Morrison) who is open to new ideas and is supportive of using technology in education.”
Switching careers has paid huge dividends for this Education HQ Unsung Hero, who says watching students develop their interest and enthusiasm for technology makes all the time he spends teaching, mentoring and preparing them for the future, worthwhile.
“We have a basic theme of 'learning by doing' for want of a better, more educational description,” he says.
“There’s no use trying to explain to a teenager the theory of how a transistor works, but if you show them how to use it then they will understand”.
“I try to teach the kids in a way that I liked to learn.”