Following on from our last article covering the first three days of the Innovative Young Minds programme, the rest of the 2021 residential experience was equally as action-packed and engaging. Founded by Hutt City Council and Hutt City Rotary in 2017, IYM gives participants the opportunity to experience the many career and research opportunities available in science and technology. Nearly 40 young women in Year 11 and 12 from high schools around the Greater Wellington Region took part.
Day 4 of IYM Residential 2021 started with a visit to WelTec’s School of Construction and Engineering with six ‘taster’ engineering sessions. Participants rotated around a series of activities where they were able to try out measuring distance with a theodolite used for land surveying, estimate the force required to break a test rod in a destruction testing exercise, and see the effects that different temperatures can have on different metals.
The group then changed focus with a visit to finance technology company FNZ. A key learning the participants took away from this session was the importance of creating sustainable technology for the future. FNZ is doing this through its sustainable investing initiative and its focus on harnessing advances in statistical computing and artificial intelligence. The session finished with an interactive panel led by women working in different roles at FNZ. Kristina Bantilan from Kāpiti College said: “I really loved the opportunity to hear from the panellists and everyone was so generous with their time and knowledge. It was great to have the opportunity to network and find out about different career options”.
Wednesday afternoon was spent at Victoria University of Wellington. Firstly, at the Wellington University Coastal Ecology Lab in Island Bay, where the group toured the facility and learnt about the research being undertaken there. Three PhD students spoke about their research projects and the participants were able to spend time exploring the labs, viewing samples and trying out equipment. After a short trip over to the Kelburn Campus, the focus moved to Chemistry and Physics with lab tours of areas such as the Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy facility and hands-on sessions, one of which saw the participants create their own light sticks.
Thursday morning provided another incredible opportunity for the young women to see science and technology in action at Callaghan Innovation’s Gracefield Innovation Quarter. The session started with an inspirational presentation from James Hutchinson, CEO of KiwiNet – a company that turns scientific discoveries into commercial realities. Following on from this, the group split and rotated around four different areas- The Measurements Standards Laboratory, Biotechnologies, The AddLab (3D printing technology) and Audio and Acoustic Technologies- to learn about the exciting research and development taking place.
While Thursday morning focused on learning how to harness scientific and technological discoveries so that they can make a difference in the world, the afternoon’s spotlight shone on the art of communication- a vital skill for anyone working in STEMM. The participants took part in an interactive communication skills session and then headed to Parliament for a networking reception where they could put their newly acquired skills to work! Generously hosted by long time IYM supporter Ginny Andersen, MP for Hutt South, the participants were able to meet sponsors and people working in the science and technology sector.
After a morning exercise session led by Lower Hutt local Martine Carroll, the participants started the day feeling invigorated. The last site visit of the programme was to Massey University’s School of Health Sciences where the group rotated through a series of activities which showcased Massey University’s study and research options. At one station participants experienced an electrical impulse being passed through their arm and they enjoyed getting hands-on dissecting anatomical models at another.
The final afternoon of IYM Residential saw the 39 young women present their Innovation Challenge pitches at a graduation ceremony. During the week, teams of participants worked together to design a renewable energy solution using design thinking skills. With only three-minutes to deliver their pitch, competition was fierce with the winning team presenting a sustainable heating prototype for New Zealand schools. The three judges- Dr Catlin Powers from the Namaste Foundation, Harvey Reid from DieselGas and Dr Anne Ryan from Hutt Science- were blown away by the quality of the pitches with Dr Powers remarking: “I found it inspiring to see the environmental solutions that the young women in this years’ IYM cohort developed during the residential programme and the poise with which they presented their ideas. Young people think of solutions that adults would never dream of. Investing in them might be the key to building a better world”.
And with that, another impactful IYM residential programme drew to a close. Around 100 contributors from 25 STEMM organisations contributed to this year’s programme along with 34 generous sponsors and 10 volunteers on the ground. Without support from local organisations and sponsors, these incredible opportunities would not be possible, or accessible. IYM is incredibly grateful for the support of the local Lower Hutt community and other supporters which made this programme a reality.