'Nanogirl's message to final CPIT graduates

News News & events

21 Mar 2016

Long before she knew what nanotechnology was, a young Michelle Dickinson was taking apart household appliances to find out how they worked (and trying very hard to fly).

CPIT Aoraki is delighted to have Dr Dickinson as guest speaker at the Autumn Graduation ceremonies on 24 March at Horncastle Arena. Dickinson will address the final group of students to graduate with a CPIT qualification, as the institute has formed a new organisation with Aoraki Polytechnic to extend the delivery of excellent vocational training to the entire Canterbury region. Almost 800 people will graduate in person on the day across the two ceremonies.

Now an internationally recognised nanotechnologist, engineering lecturer, charity founder, communicator and mentor, Dickinson has not lost her fascination with science and engineering, nor her passion for sharing her knowledge with the world. Whether delivering an online TEDx talk or talking to school children, Dickinson's key mission is to demystify science and make it accessible to everyone.

Her determination to make science comprehensible earned her a Member of New Zealand Order of Merit, the Sir Peter Blake Leadership in 2015, the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014.

Dickinson is also Co-Founder of the charity OMGTech!, which makes science and technology less intimidating and more fun for children. OMGTech! teaches children, especially girls and those from low decile schools, how to code and write apps.

It's an area the government is also interested in. In alignment with the Government's Tertiary Education Strategy 2014 – 2019, which addresses Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills needed for innovation and economic growth, CPIT Aoraki runs a series of STEM programmes for secondary school students. IT Girls, Aerodynamix, VEX Robotics, Evolocity (electric vehicles) and Ecobots are all examples of practical, engaging workshops that explore STEM subjects and introduce students to the engineering and science departments at CPIT Aoraki.

The government and educationalists agree that attracting girls into these initiatives is a priority. As founder of New Zealand's only nanomechanical lab, Dickinson is a positive role model and while she describes her Nanogirl work as a 'hobby' there is no doubt she is committed to helping to create a science-literate society.

Dickinson is currently senior lecturer in Engineering at the University of Auckland and a sought after public speaker. Her 2012 TEDx talk in Auckland endearingly focused on her efforts to become a superhero – through science – and the strategies she has developed for public speaking. 

CPIT Aoraki was launched on 1 January 2016 when CPIT and Aoraki Polytechnic created a new organisation together that will better serve the industries and communities of Canterbury from Kaikoura to Oamaru. CPIT Aoraki will announce a new name and brand on 30 March 2016 with a dawn ceremony and lunchtime events for students and staff.