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Maker space empowers Māori and Pacific students to unleash their creativity

28 January 2022

The University of Auckland’s UniBound academic enrichment programme is designed to help Māori and Pacific school leavers achieve a smooth transition into University life through practical workshops, team building activities and peer mentoring over the summer. As part of this year’s programme, students had the opportunity to take part in two creative workshops at Kura Matahuna (Unleash Space), the University of Auckland’s innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

This year, the UniBound programme was split into two cohorts – Tōia ki Waipapa (Unibound Māori) and UniBound Summer (UniBound Pacific). Unleash Space Manager Sean Kelly worked closely with the UniBound team to design workshops that would provide not only an educational experience to each group of students but a culturally meaningful one too.

UniBound Summer participants completed two workshops themed around the metaphorical journey they are about to embark on through university. The first was a creative workshop where students learned how to design and laser cut a va’a paddle featuring their name and an image that was meaningful to them. Each participant also received a laser cut token featuring a Niuean proverb: “Tao e umu ke moho”, which literally translates to “when preparing an umu, make sure it is done properly otherwise the food will not be cooked.” UniBound Summer Coordinator Therese Lautua says, “This generally means ‘when you commence a job, complete the work,’ and for our students, it highlights the importance of starting their university journey well.”

In the second workshop, students worked in teams to block code robots using Mblock. Teams were tasked with navigating their robots down a makeshift river while avoiding obstacles, with a race at the end to see who could complete the course fastest. “We designed this workshop as a way for students to learn through experimenting,” says Sean. “They were guided through the process of laser cutting their waka paddles, but when it came to the robots it was more of a free for all. They could programme the robots to do whatever they wanted, working out the best way of navigating the river through collaboration and learning from failure.”

Tōia ki Waipapa participants learned how to use the laser cutter and vinyl cutter at Unleash Space by working on two projects centred around the Māori flag. They were walked through the process of preparing the flag as a vector file and laser cut it into key chains. They then turned the flag into a vinyl cutting that could be heat pressed onto a t-shirt or tote bag. A Māori facilitator was present to speak to the significance of the flag and guide the students as they worked on the designs.

“By the end of the workshop, everyone had an understanding of how to use Adobe Illustrator, the laser cutter, and the vinyl cutter to bring their ideas to life, and it was great to hear them talking about all the other things they could make using the same tools,” says Sean.

Mereana Toki, who coordinated the Tōia ki Waipapa programme, says “99% of my students would have never had access to anything like Unleash Space in high school. This was a chance for them to explore a new and exciting space and be inspired to think of the endless possibilities. I hope they feel empowered to expand their horizons and open it to the world of opportunities where your ideas can become something real and tangible.”

“Experiences like these are designed to showcase to students the immense potential they have to unleash their creativity at University,” says Sean. “Now that they are aware of what is available, we encourage them to return and continue to build on their technological skills. Unleash Space is a place for them to be creative, try new things, and grow outside of academics. Whether they come with their friends or meet like-minded people here, being a part of the CIE community will open up endless opportunities not only in the maker space but in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

28 January 2022

The University of Auckland’s UniBound academic enrichment programme is designed to help Māori and Pacific school leavers achieve a smooth transition into University life through practical workshops, team building activities and peer mentoring over the summer. As part of this year’s programme, students had the opportunity to take part in two creative workshops at Kura Matahuna (Unleash Space), the University of Auckland’s innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

This year, the UniBound programme was split into two cohorts – Tōia ki Waipapa (Unibound Māori) and UniBound Summer (UniBound Pacific). Unleash Space Manager Sean Kelly worked closely with the UniBound team to design workshops that would provide not only an educational experience to each group of students but a culturally meaningful one too.

UniBound Summer participants completed two workshops themed around the metaphorical journey they are about to embark on through university. The first was a creative workshop where students learned how to design and laser cut a va’a paddle featuring their name and an image that was meaningful to them. Each participant also received a laser cut token featuring a Niuean proverb: “Tao e umu ke moho”, which literally translates to “when preparing an umu, make sure it is done properly otherwise the food will not be cooked.” UniBound Summer Coordinator Therese Lautua says, “This generally means ‘when you commence a job, complete the work,’ and for our students, it highlights the importance of starting their university journey well.”

In the second workshop, students worked in teams to block code robots using Mblock. Teams were tasked with navigating their robots down a makeshift river while avoiding obstacles, with a race at the end to see who could complete the course fastest. “We designed this workshop as a way for students to learn through experimenting,” says Sean. “They were guided through the process of laser cutting their waka paddles, but when it came to the robots it was more of a free for all. They could programme the robots to do whatever they wanted, working out the best way of navigating the river through collaboration and learning from failure.”

Tōia ki Waipapa participants learned how to use the laser cutter and vinyl cutter at Unleash Space by working on two projects centred around the Māori flag. They were walked through the process of preparing the flag as a vector file and laser cut it into key chains. They then turned the flag into a vinyl cutting that could be heat pressed onto a t-shirt or tote bag. A Māori facilitator was present to speak to the significance of the flag and guide the students as they worked on the designs.

“By the end of the workshop, everyone had an understanding of how to use Adobe Illustrator, the laser cutter, and the vinyl cutter to bring their ideas to life, and it was great to hear them talking about all the other things they could make using the same tools,” says Sean.

Mereana Toki, who coordinated the Tōia ki Waipapa programme, says “99% of my students would have never had access to anything like Unleash Space in high school. This was a chance for them to explore a new and exciting space and be inspired to think of the endless possibilities. I hope they feel empowered to expand their horizons and open it to the world of opportunities where your ideas can become something real and tangible.”

“Experiences like these are designed to showcase to students the immense potential they have to unleash their creativity at University,” says Sean. “Now that they are aware of what is available, we encourage them to return and continue to build on their technological skills. Unleash Space is a place for them to be creative, try new things, and grow outside of academics. Whether they come with their friends or meet like-minded people here, being a part of the CIE community will open up endless opportunities not only in the maker space but in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship.”


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