Te Reo robotics programme finalist at science innovation awards

By Mare Haimona-Riki

A programme that sees more than 700 rangatahi engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths through a Te Ao Māori lens has just been named as a finalist in this years CIO Summit awards which recognise leadership, innovation and foresight in ICT (information and communications technology) and business.

Robopā,  the Whakatāne-based programme started in 2017.

Robopā project coordinator Thomas Mitai (Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Awa) says the goal was to engage rangatahi in the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through Te Ao Māori.  

“On the first day, the kids don’t even touch the robot,” he says.

“Our programme is delivered 98% in Te Reo Māori and we strive on uarā (values) so we go beyond robotics and delve right into Te Ao Māori.”

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi launched the kaupapa with 300 rangatahi at schools in the eastern Bay of Plenty and it has grown to include primary students from all around the country, including bilingual schools and rangatahi who live in rural areas.

“So after getting these rural schools into the kaupapa, we hold the big nationals in Whakatāne, and bring all these kura into the one area.”

Although the science world and Te Ao Māori seem disconnected at first glance, Mītai says that they can definitely co-exist and that this will provide a pathway for children to excel in life.

“We want all of our tamariki to immerse themselves into the world of STEM, and for them to hold on to this tāonga as another support mechanism for them so that our kids are not left behind in this world of technology.”