15 September 2022

Students from Te Atatū Intermediate experience a virtual walk through of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Auckland.

Over three days in September, students at Te Atatū Intermediate experienced science and engineering at an expo featuring virtual reality (VR), robot spheres, and popcorn and candy floss machines.

This expo was designed to foster mobility, curiosity and creativity. These are the three themes that Tony Nemaia’s masters research with Te Pūnaha Matatini has identified as being important for Māori and Pasifika success in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The expo was a collaboration between Tony and Ameera Danford from the South Pacific Indigenous Engineering Students (SPIES) network from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Auckland. It was run at Te Atatū Community Centre and Te Atatū Intermediate by students from SPIES and Te Atatū Intermediate.

The expo started as a koha back to Te Atatū Intermediate for their partnership in the ‘Tales of Diversity’ project that Tony’s masters research is part of. It quickly turned into a real-world example of creating narratives about science and engineering.

One of the central activities was a VR walkthrough to demystify the University of Auckland and its STEM environment. This was a unique and incredibly engaging experience for people at the expo.

A teacher aide commented that it was great to see Māori and Pacific students from Te Atatū Intermediate featured in the VR footage. The VR experience piqued the interest of Māori and Pacific students to visit the University of Auckland.


Students from Te Atatū Intermediate have a tutu with robot spheres.

Mobility, curiosity and flexibility were on full display throughout the expo. Tony observed two Māori students mesmerised by the wonders of a 3D printer. Two days later he discussed the possibilities of having a tutu with a 3D printer:

Tony: Would you like to have a go with a 3D printer?
Student (smiling): Yes (emphatically)
Tony: Would you like to design something and print it?
Student (still smiling): Yes (still emphatically)

Tony Nemaia (taking photo) and Mike O’Sullivan (at back) from the Tales of Diversity project team take the SPIES team out to dinner to say ngā mihi for the expo.

It was an exhausting, but extremely satisfying event. Ngā mihi nui to Ameera and our SPIES contributors: Dominic Swann, Audrey Faleata, Fatai Lotulelei, Erene Punefu, Sophiara Evile and Ryan Saena.

The team would like to acknowledge the important contributions of Te Ahi Hangarau Technology Hub and SkillsVR. Te Ahi Hangarau Technology Hub enabled the concept of VR to flourish with Tony and the Te Atatū Intermediate students and SkillsVR took the VR experience to the next level for the expo.


What students had to say about the expo in Te Atatu Intermediate’s newsletter

Throughout the past three days, the students of Te Atatū Intermediate have experienced VR, robot spheres, and popcorn and candy floss machines. While participating in each activity, students got to learn about science and engineering.

In the VR, students got to experience the University of Auckland and see a group of kids from Te Atatū Intermediate participating. It was very weird but cool seeing ourselves in the VR and hearing everyone saying “oh I see Matua Tony”. That was very funny hearing all of them saying that.

Ameera from SPIES taught every group about how the fancy popcorn and cotton candy machine works.

We also got to learn about robot spheres and how to use them and what they do. For the robots you could challenge yourself with the coding and programming part, or you could just have fun and play around with them. Some groups of students from TAI had ideas of having races with the robots, and that was very interesting because we haven’t had anyone do that before and that was very exciting that they thought of that.

We all really loved the expo along with the activities, and learning about them was really exciting.

Written by Olivia, Sophia and Wahi