This month I'm catching up with Rab Heath, the Waikato-lad who is part of the team behind OMG Tech!, a new project all about giving kids access to future technology a world of nanobots, biotech, programming, robots, 3D printing, and rockets! OMG Tech! helps break down barriers so that kids whose families might not have the funds to help them explore technology are given entry into this amazing new world.
So Rab - how exactly does a young dude from Hamilton end up launching a venture with Vaughan Roswell (Vend) and Michelle Dickinson (Nanogirl)?
The summarised story is I had driven to GridAKL, (the new innovation precinct being built in Auckland) and was sleeping in my car on the roof and working out of GridAKL while I decided if I was going to make the move to Auckland or not.
During this time I was involved with Derek Handley's Shoulder Tap initiative, so I tracked down Michelle to find out more about Derek and the project, as she was also involved. Michelle and I then became friends and a few months later I got a call to see if I would like to be involved cofounding OMG Tech! with Vaughan and her.
Did you have access to technology as a kid? What part did it play in your personal and professional development?
I come from a very low-income family, a single mother with very little support. So I never had fancy new technology as a kid. I was however lucky enough to get an old broken Amiga 500 when I was about eight years old (thanks Mum!), an amazing computer for playing games that came out of the 1980s.
I pulled this apart and played around with it until it worked and I had myself my first computer. This had a profoundly positive impact on me - I became addicted to computer games in the best way possible. It taught me to problem solve, to question things, to take risks and to try again if I failed. Because of this I grew up craving adventure, digitally and physically. So on a personal level it got me involved in adventure sports such as rock climbing and skydiving.
At a professional level, getting that old broken computer has influenced me to become involved in entrepreneurship and business, with a focus on digital for that I will be forever grateful.
OMGTech is currently aimed at South Auckland kids and other lower decile areas of Auckland what about your hometown, Hamilton? Do you feel there's a need for the program in the Waikato too?
There is a dire need for what OMG Tech! is doing nationwide. It's about investing in the future of not only the kids, but also the nation as a whole, and the Waikato plays a very important part of that. The country's economic landscape is going to change drastically due to advances in technology over the next 20-30 years. OMG Tech! is our way of enabling all kids in New Zealand, both well off and not, with the opportunity to gain access to technology early.
We hope this will light sparks of interest and curiosity, that in time inspires them to go on and create new technologies and businesses that will be based in, owned by and contribute to the New Zealand economy. So watch this space, OMG Tech! will be coming to you very soon.
What's the one thing you hope kids walk away from OMGTech with?
To be excited about technology, as it gives the context to why they actually need to know about science and mathematics. How else will they get to make zombie robots again!?
You must get to play with some pretty cool tech toys as part of setting all this up what's your personal favourite piece of new technology?
3D Printing hands down. It can be used in so many ways, from being creative and designing models, to prototyping products, to replacing little parts around the house that break. Super useful!
Is there anything the OMGTech crew are looking for in these early stages - funding, or additional resources perhaps?
We are currently looking for funding from both national and local strategic partners.
So if you'd like to start a conversation on how your organisation and OMG Tech! can work together to help change the lives of thousands of kids in the Waikato and across New Zealand, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about what this amazing guy is up to at www.omgtech.co.nz. Do you have a kid who loves making (or breaking!) stuff? Let me know their story - email@example.com.