STUDENTS from Te Kura o Waioweka and Ashbrook School compete at the RoboPa Regional Scrimmage last year. File photo D5962-095

WHAKATANE  technology hub Robopa is gearing up to put 12 primary-intermediate school teams – including Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waioweka – through the wringer to find the first National Robotics Scrimmage champions.

Twenty-four schools battled it out in four regional challenges for a place in Robopa’s two-day national finals in Whakatane tomorrow and Thursday.

The robotics challenge has been designed by the Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi technology hub to actively engage young Maori in teamwork, leadership, communication and STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

Robopa project co-ordinator Thomas Mitai said the popularity of the robotics competition was growing beyond expectation.

“It is only the second year of competition, but the numbers tell the story.

“We started last year with six schools, this year there are 24 competing, we have a further 79 expressions of interest in future competitions, and every month we receive more.

“This demonstrates the power of this programme as a unique and engaging platform for learning.

“Robotics is a huge educational tool for experiential learning. It opens up the whole world of technology, design, innovation and programming, and competitive robotics adds an extra level of challenge, collaboration and fun.”

At the same time, rangatahi were learning other important skills such as problem-solving, critical and strategic thinking, and communicating – 90 percent of which was expressed in te reo Maori, Mr Mitai said.

“The ultimate aim is to nurture an interest in technology while highlighting the importance of working together, sharing thoughts and ideas, and holding on to our language.”

The Year 7 and 8 primary-intermediate students must design and build a robot capable of solving specific problems and completing set tasks.

“The challenge for the finals is next-level,” Mr Mitai said.

“The tasks are more complex, and include picking up items, transporting them and climbing a structure.

“Individual team technical skills are tested on Day 1 of the competition, and on Day 2 strategy, communication and relationship skills are added to the mix, with each team required to form an alliance with another team in order to complete the task.”

The three top-placed teams from each of the regional finals are competing for the national title.

They are: Bay of Plenty – Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waioweka (Porangi Pukeko), Te Whata Tau o Putauaki (Robot Slayer), Te Whata Tau o Putauaki (Terminator); Gisborne region – Te Kura o Te Paroa (OG Wheke), Te Kura o Te Teko (Iratumoana), Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti (Nga Uri o Poraurangi); Auckland region – Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Kotuku (Aina Iti), Kia Aroha/ Te Whanau o Tupuranga (Nga Tangata), Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Mangere (Taniko); Northland – Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kaikohe (Rahiri Te Rangatira), Te Kura o Tautoro (Silly Salmons), Te Kura o Tautoro (Te Hikopiko).