Schools line up for first Māori robotics challenge

Twelve teams from primary schools across the Eastern Bay of Plenty are competing in a new regional robotics competition in Whakatāne this week.

The RoboPā Regional Scrimmage, a two-day challenge, is the first robotics competition of its kind in the Eastern Bay. It has been designed by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi technology hub Robopā as an annual competition aimed at inspiring passion for science, technology and learning, particuarly among Māori children. 
RoboPā project coordinator Thomas Mitai said the competition has been developed to actively engage young Māori in learning and help them improve and test their skills in programming and engineering.

Ministry of Education data indicates that Māori students in rural locations and areas of low socio-economic status are under-achieving in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

“Competitive robotics brings a whole lot of opportunities to engage with our rangatahi in a collaborative, fun and challenging environment. It’s about learning by doing. Robotics is a great educational tool for experiential learning and our programme aims to encourage achievement in STEM subjects.”

Much of the programme is taught in te reo Māori, an acknowledgement that many RoboPā learners from locations such as Opotiki, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Edgecumbe,

Ruatoki, Poroporo and Paroa identify firstly as Māori.

Two mainstream schools and four kura kaupapa have registered for the inaugural event, with a further 18 indicating early interest in participating next year. The first day will focus on skills challenges and workshops, with the competition on day two.

“The skills, knowledge and experience acquired throughout this event will help equip our young people to be innovators and creators in digitally driven environments, rather than just passive consumers,” Mr Mitai said.

“Our rangatahi are amazing in the field of technology – they’re experts in their own right, and we put them in the driving seat. We’re there to enhance and support, and provide them with a platform – and we can’t wait to see where opportunities like this can take them.”

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