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Bioengineering researchers showcase work

Bioengineering researchers showcase work at Waikato Māori school

Researchers from the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute (ABI) will step outside their laboratories tomorrow and spend a day with 40 Year nine and ten pupils at Ngā Taiātea School in Hamilton.

They will work hands-on with students demonstrating things like the intricate workings of our noses and eyes and how a baby breathes in vitro.

This is the second year in a row the ABI, in partnership with Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE) Outreach, has held an innovation day at Ngā Taiātea Wharekura.

“The Outreach programme aims to build strong relationships with students at high school level and then provide support as they progress to University,” says Diana Siew, MedTechCoRE’s Strategic Relationships Manager, based at ABI.

The MedTech CoRE Outreach has been co-designed with Ngā Taiātea Wharekura and aims to target the Māori community, particularly lower decile schools giving a little extra support to interested students to help them pursue STEM-related subjects.

“Our goal is not necessarily clinically oriented,” says Siew. “Students moving into tertiary education through our programme will have a chance to be mentored by our researchers adding support during their studies and potentially even achieve postgraduate qualifications.

“Last year we ran our pilot innovation day with Ngā Taiātea Wharekura, this year we have extended the invitation to include the wider high school communities of the region.”

Mel Veituna, Head of Learning in the Community at Ngā Taiātea, says: “The students of Ngā Taiātea Wharekura benefit from the interactions with MedTech CoRE because it opens their eyes to a whole range of career possibilities out there.

“These students are passionate about science, and it is inspiring for them to see people working in these types of careers. To hear about it is one thing, but our students are lucky enough to be able to see it with their own eyes.”

Five Bioengineering Research Groups will be showcasing their work tomorrow. These include NIHI, the National Institute for Health Innovation, which is developing an app and website aimed at reducing risks of diabetes, obesity and heart disease for Māori and Pasifika Communities.

Research fellow Dr Hari Kumar and his team will use a printed replica of a human nose to show the “inside” of the nose including sinuses. “We shall explain flow resistance and why breathing becomes difficult when the nose is obstructed. We will also use basic geometry and relate to functioning of the nose,” says Dr Kumar.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Alys Clark will take students through the life of an unborn child. “There is no air in the womb so babies have to get all their oxygen from the mother via the placenta,” she says. “We’ll do some experiments to show how this works, and what effects smoking and diet can have on this delicate process.”

Members of ABI’s Eye Group, Dr Jason Turuwhenua and Dr Peng Guo will demonstrate eye structure with a tangible model. “To inspire our students, we will also show some computer technologies used for visual acuity measurement, including some face tracking and eye tracking devices,” says Dr Turuwhenua.

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