Twelve teams from primary schools across the Eastern Bay of Plenty will compete in a new regional robotics competition in Whakatane this week.
The RoboPa Regional Scrimmage two-day challenge tomorrow and Wednesday is the first robotics competition of its kind in the Eastern Bay.
It has been designed by Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi technology hub RoboPa as an annual competition aimed at inspiring passion for science, technology and learning, particularly among Maori children.
RoboPa project co-ordinator Thomas Mitai said the competition had been developed to actively engage young Māori in learning and help them improve and test their skills in programming and engineering.
Ministry of Education data indicates that Māori students in rural locations and areas of low socio-economic status are under-achieving in the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths.
"Competitive robotics brings a whole lot of opportunities to engage with our rangatahi in a collaborative, fun and challenging environment," Mr Mirai said.
"It's about learning by doing.
"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 Maori, an acknowledgement that many RoboPa learners from places such as Opotiki, Whakatane, Kawerau, Edgecumbe, Ruatoki, Poroporo and Paroa identify firstly as Māori.
Two mainstream schools and four kura kaupapa have registered for the inaugural event, with a further 18 indicating early interest in participating next year.
The first day will focus on skills challenges and workshops, with the competition on day two.
"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," Mr Mitai said.
"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."