Rocket Lab gives $40,000 in tertiary scholarships to two Tairāwhiti students

By Taroi Black

Two rangatahi Māori from Māhia and Ruatoria have been launched to success by Rocket Lab, which has awarded them $20,000 each.

It will be the first time this annual Rocket Lab Scholarship will award two recipients. Hinewairere Sollitt-Mackey and Pikitangarangi Ratapu both whakapapa to Rongomaiwahine iwi, in Te Mahia Mai Tawhiti where Rocket Lab controversially launches from Māori owned-land.  

With the double-awarding of the Rocket Lab scholarship this year, Rocket Lab has now thrown its support behind six students studying tertiary degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the tune of $120,000.

But the US-owned company is committed to providing future opportunities for Māori who demonstrate clear determination and a passion for the industry.  

Sollit-Mackey, 22, will be studying engineering at the University of Auckland after finding a lack of support to continue at the University of Canterbury. So, she returns to her dream career to make another attempt but this time she has a clear plan. 

Career opportunity

"I did talk to Rocket Lab about career opportunities and its people said I could become a project manager," she says.

Sollit-Mackey is based in Wellington where she works in construction for Transmission Gully. 

"Working in a construction industry for many years would mean more experience of those kinds of things."

"There are a lot of people back home that don't realise there are so many opportunities."

Pikitangarangi Ratapu, 17, from Mahia, is another recipient who plans to study biology and chemistry at the University of Auckland. He spoke of volunteering at community gatherings and supporting hui at his marae Tuahuru.

His goal is to help develop satellite technology that will assess the impacts of climate change and mitigate environmental hazards from Earth observation data.

Applying passion

It has led to his passion by collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD students to monitor marine life, like his tīpuna (ancestors) around kaitiakitanga at the Horokaka and Te Toka Tamure Mahinga Mataitai reserves.

The tertiary education fees will last for up to four years and recipients also get mentorship from Rocket Lab experts. This year, Arianna Ormond from Mahia who was granted a scholarship in 2017, will graduate with a BSc in computer science from the University of Waikato.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says encouraging young New Zealanders to continue their education and follow career paths in STEM, while directly supporting the community in Mahia and the surrounding regions, is the foundation of the Rocket Lab Scholarship.

"Bright and dedicated young people like Hinewairere, Pikitangarangi, and Arianna are going to shape the future of New Zealand, and I’m proud we’re able to have played a small part in helping them achieve their dreams."