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Engineering firm takes mentoring to another level

Image: Wintec engineering students Nathan Reidy and Robbie Puncheon working on the prototype with Jemoal Lassey, project engineer at Longveld.

When six Wintec Māori and Pasifika engineering students volunteered for work experience at Longveld recently, they got to work on a very special project. Together they have made the framework for Hamilton’s Matariki Interactive Waka sculpture.

The work undertaken by the students on the waka ‘skeleton’ complemented their trade training  as it required them to weld and assist with cutting steel while experiencing a real-world workplace.

Longveld directors Pam and Les Roa launched their business with little more than a toolbox, a welder and some great trade skills in the early 90s. They celebrate innovation and believe very strongly in culture and wellbeing. Their adoption of mātauranga Māori principles added a welcoming, cultural dimension to the students’ experience.

“We’re no strangers to interesting projects, in fact at Longveld we relish the challenge. To work with students who are embarking on a career in engineering, and at the same time help to create something that is so culturally significant for our community, is really inspiring for our team,” says Pam.

The students have been mentored by Longveld engineer Jemoal Lassey who says he has a new respect for teaching and learning.

“Upskilling these students, who I hope will become part of a new generation of engineers, was a reminder of how important it is to get the basics right, learn by doing and to ask questions along the way and challenge better ways of doing things,” says Jemoal.

Wintec tutor and PhD candidate Joe Citizen is behind the multidisciplinary Matariki Interactive Waka project which to date has involved Wintec students studying trades, engineering, early childhood education and media arts working with industry partners and Wintec’s Māori Achievement team.

“I can’t say enough how awesome it is that Longveld are involved and through this project they are mentoring our students. It was just wonderful to walk in there and see how they’re getting top-level mentorship in making a prototype that informs the cladding process,” says Joe.

“It’s real hands-on stuff. What’s particularly cool is the way I’m learning from the students, as they could tell me what the hard parts were and what they think needs to be done next.

“The next part will be working on the illuminated access hatches, which need to be integrated into the cladding design.”

Looking ahead, there are exciting plans for the Matariki Interactive Waka project as  the sculpture nears completion in time for a June 2018 installation at Hamilton’s Ferrybank. Wintec media arts, business and IT students will work together to create an app with the sensor data from the waka project. Sustainable energy options have been researched by Wintec electrical engineering students and next year will see their implementation, using solar and wind solutions.

Background
The multidisciplinary Matariki Interactive Waka project was developed by Wintec tutor and PhD candidate Joe Citizen. Joe envisaged this project as a public art installation that encompassed many of the disciplines and values related to his research.

The seven metre tall interactive sculpture is being built with a stainless-steel skeleton and clad in 3mm corten plate, and will utilise an interactive design that engages with the seven stars of Matariki through LED lighting and ambient soundtracks. The interactive sculpture will be activated by movement and its environmental sensor network will operate at dawn and dusk.

The sculpture will be situated at Hamilton’s Ferrybank, having gained unanimous consent from the Hamilton City Council at both its concept and siting stages. It is a collaborative, consultative, multidisciplinary partnership with Wintec’s researchers, Media Arts, IT and Māori Achievement teams, guided by Wintec kaumātua Tame Pokaia.

Current industry partnerships include Longveld, ACLX, and Taranaki-based MechEng. More than $100,000 of funding has been secured so far, with donations, grants, and in-kind support received from Perry Group, Trust Waikato, WEL Trust, Longveld and Wintec.

Follow the Matariki Interactive Waka Project on Facebook.

Homepage image: Artist's impression, the Matariki Interactive Waka sculpture at Ferrybank, Julian Smith. 

Above: Wintec engineering students Nathan Reidy and Robbie Puncheon working on the prototype with Jemoal Lassey, project engineer at Longveld.