Mātai News

An X-cellent X-perience

The Gisborne Herald, 18 August 2021

Students had fun assembling a fully-functional robot as a part of an engineering workshop at Tonui Collab this week.

The Project X workshop was a joint collaboration between Tonui Collab, Matai research centre and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. The objective was to introduce intermediate school students to different uses of tools and procedures to assemble an electronic circuit board in the form of a robot. Under the guidance of IET, Matai and Tonui Collab staff, 19 Maori students from Gisborne Intermediate learned how to identify the electric components and solder them, along with some LED lights, to robotic frames. The frames were then connected to computers and after some coding, lights on the frame flashed and it played tunes. The workshop was part of an IET-funded initiative run through its nationwide Schools Reach Out programme as IET celebrates its 150th year. The initiative started around 10 years ago in Christchurch and its name, Project X, is derived from one of the initial designs — a Christmas (Xmas) tree. Project X has gone through three design changes and is now in the form of a robot.


“There is no other school programme like it — to allow students to work with real tools and to give a sense of achievement of building something and taking it home and showing their parents,” IET retired fellow and project co-ordinator Frank Lewis said.


“The goal is to inspire these kids to be our future generation of engineers, technicians and trade artisans.


“You can use your head, hands and heart to gain a career in engineering if you have the desire.”


Tonui Collab director Shanon O’Connor said the programme was good exposure for the students to the diversity of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) — “to imagine a different future for themselves”.


“And it was really good for the students to see the possibilities that were shown by the professionals.”


The workshop ended with the children singing a waiata to the attending professionals.


“It was the first time that anybody sang it for us,” Mr Lewis said.


The organisations hope to have further collaborations and deliver workshops like Project X to other Tairawhiti children. Tonui Collab is a charitable trust that provides STEM education opportunities for young people in Gisborne.