Brainy students are in for a few days of fun at the upcoming inter-school science and engineering competition hosted in Whangārei and Dargaville intermediate schools.

The Northpower EPro8 Challenge will see tech-savvy kids build Mars rovers, construct a crane, design a party popper machine or calculate how many balloons it would take to make a friend float away.

Hosted by Whangārei Intermediate and Dargaville Intermediate, 70 teams from years 5 to 8 will undertake a range of engineering-based challenges, with the top teams from each event moving on to a Northland grand finale the following week.

EPro8 Challenge initiator Kelvin Thiele said it was incredibly rewarding seeing what the teams achieve.


"Schools are seeing just how important it is to have children involved in STEM, and the children can't get enough of the event.

"I love it when you tell the teams what the challenges will be – half of the teams look excited, and half look scared. But by the end of the event, they have all achieved something very impressive."

The Ninjaneers from Parua Bay School took out fourth place in the year 5-6 heat last year. Photo / Supplied
The Ninjaneers from Parua Bay School took out fourth place in the year 5-6 heat last year. Photo / Supplied

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Thiele, who is an engineer, launched the EPro8 Challenge in Wellington in 2015 and after getting two more project co-ordinators on board, Thiele brought the competition to schools across the country.

The Northland heats were first held in 2018, and Thiele said seeing so many teams joining the event was great – especially for the schools and students involved.

The competition is designed to give students a fun and rewarding introduction to science and engineering.

What sort of problem the kids will have to solve remains secret until the challenge officially kicks-off.

Northpower has stepped in as a sponsor for the Northland event, enabling more schools to take part this year, including for the first time Kaipara.


Northpower's general manager Network, Josie Boyd said the company saw the competition as a way of getting younger students engaged with science and technology in a fun environment, while also acquiring engineering and problem-solving skills.

Boyd hoped that those participating in the competition will not only have enormous fun, but that the experience will foster ongoing curiosity and passion for engineering and science.

Whangārei Intermediate will have five teams join the competition and teacher Tom Peyton said the kids were getting really excited.

He said while they covered robotics, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and programming in class, they hardly ever got a chance to combine all subjects – especially not a big inter-school challenge.

"The competition format makes for a great learning experience."