Innovative aquabot takes out Supreme Award at Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā Science and Design Fair

Three Rotorua Primary School rangatahi who designed and built an aquabot prototype that can be used to help test, clean and restore waterways has taken out the Supreme Award at the Te Arawa Lakes Trust Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā Science and Design Fair.

The mātauranga Māori science fair had double the entries this year, with more than 75 science and art displays from 150 rangatahi from across the Rotorua rohe.

The rangatahi have been working on their entries for months, with experiments ranging from cultivating the perfect rewana bread ‘bug’ to running electrical currents through native berries.

The winning experiment, called The Devil Marines, was an aquabot named Ihenga, which was created by Year 7 pupils, Mereana Tawhai, Deborah Peake, and Tyson Cunninghan, and can be used to gather water samples, pest weeds, and rubbish.

Deborah says she has loved taking part in the science fair.

“There are so many different experiments we have learned from and we’re also able to teach others about Ihenga and what it can do.”

Mereana says Ihenga can be used in a variety of ways to help keep waterways all over Aotearoa clean.

“We’ve enjoyed experimenting with what the best materials were to make our aquabotmore effective and in the end, we decided that the 3D printed components work best.

What we’re most excited about is seeing the ways we can use Ihenga to help Te ArawaLakes Trust clean up and restore our lakes here in Rotorua.”

Te Arawa Lakes Trust board member and judge, Mariana Te Rangi, says talking to each of the rangatahi and seeing the time, thought and passion they’ve put into their experiments is inspiring.

“They made my job as a judge incredibly difficult.”

“Our rangatahi are our future and we want them to be better than us, to reach new heights, and come up with better solutions to our environmental challenges.”

Te Arawa Lakes Trust Operations Manager – Biosecurity and Jobs for Nature, William Anaru, says the science fair is an opportunity for rangatahi to share their whakaaro (ideas) about how we can protect te taiao (the environment) in the future.

There are concepts here that people already working in these fields could learn from.

We’ve had double the entries this year and we are only going to build on this in the years to come. We want this to be the Te Matatini of science fairs, with rangatahi from all over the motu coming together to take part.

Anaru says the fair highlights that there is a real and valid place for mātauranga Māori in our modern world.

It’s so heartening to walk around this room and see all the amazing ideas coming from our rangatahi. Many have practical applications and the next steps will be to work with them to solve some of our most pressing environmental issues.”

Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā Science and Design Fair is open to the public until 12pm Saturday.