15 Jul 2016

Māori rangatahi head to Silicon Valley

7:45 pm on 15 July 2016

A group of young Māori are heading to Silicon Valley in San Francisco this weekend.

The students will visit Google and Stanford University.

The students will visit Google and Stanford University. Photo: 123RF

The 26 Māori students will visit Google and Stanford University in a bid to show them what careers are possible in the future.

They'll get the opportunity to meet some of the world's best innovators of the digital world.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, chief executive of Ngāti Ruanui iwi Taranaki ki te Tonga, is taking 19 students from her rohe who have been part of a coding, technology and design programme for the last year.

"They've learnt a lot about design thinking and where it originated from but they are really looking forward to understanding the culture of Silicon Valley and how you can have a start-up business in a garage and explode and expand and become one of the most successful businesses internationally."

The students from Taranaki had an emotional church service with their kaumatua and Ms Ngarewa-Packer said the trip was hugely significant for their entire iwi.

"Our kaumatua expressed their excitement that iwi is putting rangatahi first and these rangatahi are going out to see sites that they want them to bring home and share with their whānau, hapū, iwi and their kura. This is quite radical thinking for the iwi, but from the kaumatua perspective it's natural," said Ms Ngarewa-Packer.

The Āmua Ao programme is a partnership with Callaghan Innovation, NZQA and iwi and it was seen as a way to get Māori students excited about science, technology, engineering and maths.

NZQA deputy chief executive Māori Daryn Bean said the programme aimed to inspire rangatahi about the exciting career possibilities available to them in our global, digital and connected world.

"The programme will be evaluated and the students' progress tracked so that we can see how these experiences are reflected in their NCEA STEM subjects and subsequent STEM careers," said Mr Bean.

Student Tamaari Kupe-King said the digital classes had opened up a new world to him and he was expecting the same on the trip.

"I was introduced to the coding class by Aunty Debbie and we've been doing workshops and learning about design thinking, making prototypes and using 3D software. It interests me because of the relevance for us in this day and age.

General Manager of the Maori Economy at Callaghan Innovation Hemi Rolleston said programme aimed to inspire and show rangatahi global and digital career possibilities.

"We really had this motivation to try something with our rangatahi to get them more exposed to more creative coding, innovative technology and in this fast changing world of technology it's the future," said Mr Rolleston.

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said the students were embarking on a journey into the unknown just like their ancestors did centuries ago.

"They know that what they are about to experience is going to explode their mind and they're really excited but you can tell there is that maturity, that they know that they are the start of the unleashing of some creative solutions."

When the students come back they will be offered opportunities to build on the inspiration they experienced to ensure their interest is maintained and share widely with other students.