Leading the way with robotics

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01 Jun 2015

Child's play today, engineering jobs tomorrow. That's Kiwibots National Manager Chris Hamling's prediction for the future after seeing CPIT's successful delivery of junior robotics programmes in the last year.

"Much of what CPIT is doing is what we're trying to achieve in the rest of New Zealand. A lot of tertiary institutions are involved in robotics but they haven't seen the full potential. At CPIT you've seen what it can do for kids, and that it is a learning tool for the future." 

Robotics and engineering have direct parallels in terms of skill level, in construction, computer programming and problem solving, Hamling says. 

In fact, Hamling says the robotics programmes programmes have been so successful at CPIT and elsewhere in the country that he has been asked to assist with guiding similar initiatives in Australia and possibly the Pacific Islands. 

Kiwibots uses remote control-driven robots which come in kitset form and are made by American-based manufacturer VEX Robotics. 

A junior robotics holiday programme at CPIT helped get Christchurch Boy's High School student Alex Towse, right, to the VEX Robotics World Championships this year. Towse, pictured with CPIT engineering student Harry Loughnan, reached the semi-finals in his division. 

Run as a charitable trust, Kiwibots brought the first robotics programmes to the nation's schools in 2007 and has made strong inroads in Christchurch. This is due to CPIT's commitment to supporting activities in the science, technology, engineering and maths fields (STEM) learning for intermediate and high school students, run by co-ordinator Miranda Satterthwaite. 

"By 2026 these kids will be running the city," Satterthwaite says. 

Hamling agrees, and says, "we need the sort of science and technology skills and resilience these kids are gaining for the challenges we'll inevitably face in the future."

CPIT is on the way to positioning itself as the lead South Island tertiary institute for teaching junior robotics as well as staging national robotics championships.

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