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NZ’s first Maori robotics challenge to be held in Whakatane

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

The RoboPā Regional Scrimmage two-day challenge will be held September 19 to 20 and 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 a passion for science, technology and learning, particularly among Māori children.

RoboPā has been developed to actively engage young Māori in learning and help them improve and test their skills in programming and engineering.

Thomas Mitai, RoboPā project coordinator says, “Competitive robotics brings a whole lot of opportunities to engage with our rangatahi in a collaborative, fun and challenging environment.

“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 are from locations such as Opotiki, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Edgecumbe.

Two mainstream schools and four kura kaupapa have registered for the inaugural event, with a further 18 indicating an early interest in participating next year.

The first day will focus on skills challenges and workshops, with the competition on day two.

Mitai continues, “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.

“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.”

RoboPā is a maker-space where Māori youth can access technologies, code and equipment. 

Participants will engage in computational tasks designed to challenge them to solve problems in a team environment.

Participants will be shown how to break large abstract problems down into more manageable and comprehensible concepts. They will be encouraged to construct, test, retest and reflect on collaborative solutions in authentic environments.

They will then be able to demonstrate these solutions to their peers, whanau, hapu, iwi and communities in organised, community supported robotic challenges.

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