Local children show promising digital futures

Monday, 2 November 2020

Following local success at the AquaBots National Competition (Nelson) last year, Rotorua students are looking forward to hosting the regional event here this weekend (Saturday 7 and 8 November 2020).

The 2020 Rotorua Regional Aquabots Competition is the largest region in the country with 60 teams participating across the two days. This year see’s lots of first-time entries from teams as far away as Rotoiti, Rotoma and Hautapu.

Rotorua Museum Digital Technology Educator, Jessica Wilkes, has played a key role initiating and coordinating Aquabots competition within the region.
“Alongside ongoing support from Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, the Ministry of Business and Innovation provided a Curious Minds grant to fund a large number of first-time teams in 2020 and it has been amazing to see the uptake across our region”, explains Ms Wilkes.

AquaBots is an underwater robotics programme for school-aged children in New Zealand. Teams are formed from Year 5 – 13 students and aims to inspire students and help discover the next generation of Kiwi scientists and engineers.

The public are invited to attend the event at the Rotorua Aquatic Centre and watch teams complete several challenges including completing the NZAquaBots Obstacle Course, a competition to retrieve the most balls and bottles, and a competition to deliver various items to an underwater shelf.

Winning teams will be heading to the Aquabots National Competition in Wairarapa (28 November 2020) and will receive funding from Hayes International, Trimble and Learning Architects which will provide financial support to teams who qualify.

Last year two of the four Rotorua teams that went to the national event were successful qualified to take part in the international Sea Perch Challenge at the University of Maryland, USA, in May 2020. Unfortunately the competition was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Another competition that has displayed the high level of local digital and engineering skills is Evolocity. Evolocity is a competition were teams of students work together to design, build and then race an electric bike or go-kart. Teams from Te Rangihakahaka, John Paul College, Mokoia Intermediate and the Te Aka Mauri Young Engineers Club worked with mentors from Toi-Ohomai, Rotorua Motor Works, Real Cool and Hayes International to design and build go-karts.

Rotorua had teams in the 2020 National Evolocity Competition (16 October 2020) for the first time and they were among the youngest teams participating. Events included a drag race (go as fast as possible in a determined space – measured with a police radar gun), economy run (drive as many laps as possible on a given amount of power) and gymkhana (manoeuvre around a track and transport a liquid filled container and deliver batons). Team Toru from the Te Aka Mauri Young Engineers Club placed first in the economy run for karts.

Generous support from Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust has supplied funding to provide electric kits for all eligible Rotorua Schools for 2021.

“We are looking forward to connecting with more mentors from our local engineering firms, mechanics and other interested volunteers to mentor teams next year”, says Ms Wilkes
Contact jessica.wilkes@rotorualc.nz to volunteer as a mentor or to sign up as a school or team for Aquabots or Evolocity in 2021.

Image credit: 2020 Aquabots build day at Kaingaroa School


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