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Students head to Silicon Valley for innovation inspiration

20 Oct 15

A group of students from Bethlehem’s Te Wharekura o Mauao are headed to California in a bid to help inspire the next generation of Māori innovators.

Twelve students from the Māori immersion school will visit Silicon Valley and Stanford University near San Francisco, and meet with entrepreneurs, investors, PhD students and Stanford professors while working on bioengineering, virtual reality and income inequality projects.

The week-long trip is being funded in partnership with Kumikumi Trust (Tauranga), Callaghan Innovation and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and is supported by Anne Gibbon of Matri Design LLC (a former fellow of Stanford University).

Students will be accompanied by their principal, Koa Douglas, and the school’s Head of Technology, Grant Ranui. NZQA’s deputy chief executive Māori Daryn Bean will also attend to evaluate how the students find the programme, along with representatives from Kumikumi Trust and Callaghan Innovation.

Hemi Rolleston, Callaghan Innovation GM Māori Economy, says the trip is an opportunity to encourage Māori children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

“This is the first trip of its kind and is a chance for both Callaghan Innovation and NZQA to combine our resources and help these children engage with experts in the technology and innovation fields,” Rolleston says.

“Our job at Callaghan Innovation is to support hi-tech New Zealand businesses and this is a great way to encourage tomorrow’s young innovators and get them excited about the world of possibilities that lie ahead.”

Rolleston and his colleagues have helped provide key connections for the students’ visit. “Silicon Valley is one of the places on earth most alive with ideas, and Stanford is one of the most interdisciplinary and well-connected universities in the world,” he says.

“This trip is a priceless opportunity for them to hone their entrepreneurial skills, build creative confidence and embrace innovative thinking,” says Rolleston. “Everyone involved in this delegation wants to help inspire these children to consider future careers in science and technology.”

The students range from Year 8 to Year 10 and were chosen from a group of 25 that originally applied.

Each applicant had to design and present a playground concept for their school, explaining how it catered for the individual needs of different year levels. Students also wrote an essay to their principal outlining their skills, goals and why they should be chosen, and underwent a formal interview.

“Te Wharekura o Mauao originally planned to take 10 students but the high calibre of applicants meant 12 were eventually selected,” Rolleston says.

NZQA deputy chief executive Māori Daryn Bean adds, “This is an amazing opportunity for our rangatahi to not just learn about innovation, design thinking and digital technology, but to experience it first-hand at world renowned companies.

“NZQA is excited to support such an initiative and we hope the learnings from this can be replicated in New Zealand,” says Bean.

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