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Maori STEM Academy students blast off to NASA

Maori STEM Academy students blast off to NASA

On Monday 16 April, 15 students from the Puhoro STEM Academy will be taking off to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Centre in Houston, as part of their ongoing science studies.

Puhoro is an exciting transformative programme aimed at advancing Maori leadership and capability to deliver a world class science community. The programme works directly with secondary school students and their whanau. It provides students and families with mentoring, tutoring, wananga (experiential learning/field trips) to help them navigate career pathways into science and technology related industries.

Our Land and Water, National Science Challenge and several other partner organisations sponsor the Academy which is hosted by Massey University. Currently, the Academy has 450 Maori students from schools across four regions. The students are affiliated to a staggering 75 iwi spanning the length of Aotearoa.

Students, Annaleise Faint and Sean Ferguson-Pye, have been selected to go to Houston and are predictably excited about their trip and futures in science.

Faint says, “Going to NASA is such a crazy experience to have at such a young age, it’s inspired me to keep studying hard to keep achieving my goals for what I want to do in the future.”

Ferguson-Pye says, “It’s providing a lot of motivation for me as a Maori student, seeing what we could be, what we could do and the impact we could have on the world.”

Director of Puhoro STEM Academy, Naomi Manu notes that the trip to NASA is a part-of providing opportunities to further inspire students on a global scale.

“We teach them that they’re the leaders of tomorrow but that they have a voice now, they can influence now, and their voice can be carried across this country and also the world. The work they’re doing and want to do can change the world,” says Manu.

The programme has proved its success with students NCEA results in all science subjects ranking above the national averages for Maori student achievement rates. “We are always oversubscribed”, Manu says, “we have a huge demand but we don’t have the resource to meet the demand. We’re always looking for new partners which will allow for more students from around the country to take part in the programme.”

With a student retention rate of 92% the Academy is fast becoming the largest and most comprehensive indigenous STEM programme in the world because it supports the transition from school, to tertiary education and then into the workforce.

The Puhoro programme was started in response to nationally low engagement of Maori students in STEM subjects that subsequently led to lower numbers of Maori representation in science and technology industries in Aotearoa. The Academy aims to change this space and recognised that a STEM competent workforce is required for an innovation focused society.


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