With the help of an Unlocking Curious Minds New Zealand Government grant for almost $30,000, engineering academics Dr Don Clucas and Dr Stefanie Gutschmidt will invite 60 Year 9 students and 10 teachers from 10 local lower decile schools to take part in the this workshop at the University of Canterbury (UC).

The teachers and school pupils will gain first-hand experience using state-of-the-art 3D printing and 3D scanning equipment.

While learning about exciting new technology, including virtual and augmented reality, 3D scanning and laser cutting at UC’s College of Engineering, they will get the chance to learn directly from local engineering industry experts.

Clucas, a senior lecturer in Design and Manufacturing, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UC, has previously 3D-printed a prosthetic foot for a penguin amputee at Christchurch’s Antarctic Centre, and 3D-scanned and reproduced items from UC’s priceless Logie Collection of antiquities, which are thousands of years old.

This year, Clucas and Gutschmidt have moved from 3D printing ancient Greek cups and penguin feet to helping dozens of school pupils get to grips with engineering and technology.

“We know from our statistics certain ethnic and social groups, especially from lower decile schools, and females, are significantly under-represented in our engineering intake.

“We know that ability-wise there is no fundamental reason why these people should not be able to succeed in achieving a tertiary degree,” Clucas says.

With this initiative, they aim to increase diversity among future tertiary students in engineering disciplines.

Gutschmidt says innovation through stirred curiosity and thinking is so important to future economy and society, and more encouragement and guidance needs to be given to the next generation of potential engineers.

“With this small workshop on our turf at UC we are reaching out to pupils that may not have either the facilities that higher decile schools have or the family, peer or community support needed to successfully take on the challenge of tertiary education,” Gutschmidt adds.

The mechanical engineering academics say the ultimate aim is to inspire and guide the young students and demonstrate there is no fundamental reason why they cannot succeed at university, providing they prepare themselves at secondary school by studying science and maths, and keep their natural curiosity alive.

The decision to also include 10 teachers is so knowledge and inspiration is spread to other Year 9 pupils and older students, Clucas says.

“We want to sustain the momentum and motivation gained from these few days - this way we capture a far greater pool of potential engineers.”

The 60 students will be split into three streams: general mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and mechatronics.

From April 26-28, the streams will rotate between activities, including 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, 3D scanning and laser cutting.

Each stream will also visit an engineering industry organisation featuring degree-qualified engineers working on the students’ bias topics.

The event will end with a prize-giving where family, whanau and caregivers can come and see what the students have achieved.