Community Outreach

The MedTech Research Network has many initiatives to increase engagement with the public – with a special focus on Māori and Pacific communities.

Almost 100 year 9 and 10 students in the Waikato region got up close and personal with researchers from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute on Innovation Day this week.

Innovation Day is a MedTech Research Network programme initiated four years ago by Te Kōhao Health as part of its Māori Schools Outreach Programme.

The day brings together researchers from universities across New Zealand, to encourage Māori students to stick with their STEM subjects, to highlight where maths and science can take them in their careers, and how it can be used to make a difference in people’s lives.

Students being taught anatomy
Students being taught diagnostics
Students being taught electronics

The event was hosted by Ngā Taiātea Wharekura in Hamilton and this year included students from Ngāruawāhia High School.

ABI researchers were joined by experts from the University of Auckland, University of Canterbury and Auckland University of Technology.

The day included ten presentations, and in a lively and interactive way students could learn about the mechanics of the heart, the fluid mechanics of the nose, about “assistive augmentation”, what happens to the brain when it incurs an injury and more.

“We’ve been looking at the presentations on concussion, and another about new prototype devices, which was really neat,” said Year 10 Ngā Taiātea student, Takiri Te Ata Tohe. “We also looked at how the heart works – they showed us rat hearts contracting, and how they measure how healthy the hearts are.”

Fellow Ngā Taiātea student, Te Arikirangi Paekau, agreed. She said she was encouraged to continue studying science after what she’d seen and had learned. “Especially the concussion stuff. It’s a real serious problem, and these guys are designing an app for phones, which is accessible to everyone, so even if you get a small knock to the head you would be able to check if you’re okay. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Dr Vickie Shim, who is leading research on the human brain at the ABI, particularly traumatic brain injuries, thought the topic might strike a chord. “I think it was key was to bring up an issue that they are familiar with, such as concussion, and their eyes lit up immediately. The presentation became more like a conversation. Hopefully this has encouraged a few students to continue their work with STEM subjects!”

“We all strive to respect Māori values in our research and find ways to involve them at all major phases in our research, so encouraging Māori students to participate in our research will be one of the best ways to help us achieve that.”