Led by Professor John Clayton, the team from Tokorau – Institute of Indigenous Innovation and Design have been awarded $30,000 as part of the New Zealand Government’s Unlocking Curious Minds contestable funding to run RoboPa.

The objective of the fund is to support projects that use innovative and/or best-practice approaches to provide New Zealanders with more opportunities to learn about and engage with science and technology by funding education and community outreach initiatives that focus on these areas.

These initiatives should broaden participants’ ability to engage with science and technology; promote the relevance of science and technology in their lives; and support them to engage in societal debate about science and technology issues facing the country.

Clayton and his team will take RoboPa - robotics initiative designed to engage Māori students – into primary schools and kura in Mataatua (Bay of Plenty) to support the growth of digital capability.

Digital technologies will be fully integrated into the NZ school curriculum by 2018, and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is excited about supporting the drive with the RoboPa initiative, Clayton says.

“RoboPa is a portable maker space where Māori youth will engage with modern technologies, software and equipment they do not currently have access to,” Clayton explains. 

“Practical tasks will be designed to challenge the learners to solve increasingly complex computational tasks in a supported team environment and participants will be shown how to break large abstract problems down into more manageable and comprehensible concepts.

“They will then be encouraged to construct, test, re-test and reflect on collaborative solutions.”

Tokorau team member Thomas Mitai says the design thinking and computational skills acquired will encourage students to want to participate further in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“Māori learners will be equipped with a set of thinking skills through the RoboPa initiative that will one day lead them to become great innovators and creators in digitally driven environments rather than passive consumers of digital services and solutions,” Mitai says.

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the team at Tokorau are excited about the RoboPa initiative and the digital possibilities that lie ahead for Māori youth and the educational communities of Mataatua.