We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Transpower Neighbourhood Engineers Awards. These awards offer students the opportunity to work with engineers on practical projects in the school and community as well as providing a creative way to enhance the Technology curriculum. Every year the Transpower Neighbourhood Engineers Awards gives prizes to the best and most innovative collaboration between students, teachers and volunteer engineers.
Senior Merit Awards
Churchill Park School’s winning project provides their fellow students with a place where they can use creativity and imagination to make music together during playtime and as part of music lessons.
The team of ten Year 8 students designed an outdoor Sound Wall with four different activities that catered to the needs (and heights) of all the school’s students, including a pots and pans spider web and a thongophone made using sections of PVC piping. There was a strong environmental element to the project, including the use of recycled materials and careful consideration of treated timber options for the frame.
Construction of the students’ design was started by BNZ staff participating in their ‘Closed for Good’ programme, then completed by the students under the guidance of the school caretaker.
Rosalind Payne and Clark Taylor from Beca mentored the Churchill Park School team and believe that the project provided the students with an insight into work as an engineer.
“The students got hands on experience with the full life cycle of a project – brief, concept, developed design, construction. In doing so the intricacies of what it takes to get a project from an idea into a reality were realised. The health and safety challenge, the choice of materials, the connection details, the need to design for strength and stability, the difference between what is on paper and what gets built, and the challenge of working with financial constraints.
"We think this has been a tremendously valuable experience for the students regarding having exposure to the engineering and other like industries.”
Supervising teacher Vicki Patten was very pleased by what the project had achieved; both the actual Sound Wall and the learning opportunities for her students.
"Teamwork has been an integral feature of all that has been achieved. Our engineers, Clark and Rosalind, have been amazing. They have assisted us each fortnight, and their skills and technical knowledge have been vital to the students’ decision making.
"They offered a variety of ideas and solutions, discussed engineering principles and requirements, all while ensuring the students owned the project and were responsible for the informed decision they made. Their involvement was invaluable.”
The judges commented that it was a “great innovative idea with a clear benefit to the school community, thorough engineering work and was clearly a great team effort by all involved.” They also appreciated the “stupendously informative” report that was submitted for judging.
The St Cuthbert’s College Young Engineers group of nine Year 8 students tackled a redesign of an outdoor eating area. Middle School students are required to eat their lunch in this area, but have been getting into trouble for eating in other more comfortable areas. “This issue was something that most students in the Middle School cared about and had strong opinions about,” commented teacher Deborah Lean.
“Working with Melanie Wood, our Neighbourhood Engineer, provided expert knowledge and advice, as well as putting an inspirational role model in front of students. She specifically taught skills to students such as how to use a scale ruler, the vocabulary specific to her area of expertise and the details of her job. Melanie was able to give the students feedback on their work, discuss next steps and provide us with a model for presenting the final design.
“It was exciting to see the students’ progress in the sophistication of their ideas that took into account the constraints of the site and the context, as well as meeting the needs of the students who would use the facility.
“Student confidence increased as time went on. The Young Engineers became less hesitant in contacting experts. There was huge excitement when emails to experts and phone calls had unexpected results.”
The group followed a process including surveying fellow students, researching information and going on field trips, learning about constraints, measuring the site, producing concepts and sketches, and evaluating concepts. Innovatively they used the computer game Minecraft to build a 3D model of their proposed design.
Melanie, a structural engineer at Harrison Grierson, enjoyed working with the students and guiding them through the process of solving their problem.
“The students worked together well and weren’t afraid to share their ideas. I was particularly impressed with how they took the initiative in contacting suppliers and gathering information. I think the students will now have a good understanding of what an engineer does, how to use problem-solving skills and how to use engineering skills to present ideas.”
The judges commented that the project represented a “well-defined problem with well explored options” and also appreciated the “incredible research” and “clear team effort” involved.
A group of 25 Year 5 and 6 students have designed a garden shed for the school, taking into account the needs of different age groups and a student in a wheelchair. The judges noted that the investigation to make sure that the design met everyone’s requirements was a real highlight of the project.
Teacher Gordon Blair used the competition as a context to teach the technological process, and says he’s benefited from the support of Neighbourhood Engineer Su Young Ko, an infrastructure engineer from the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
“Pyes Pa School has always embraced new learning, and the Transpower Awards competition has provided a fantastic opportunity that has benefited our school. Our slowly developing school gardening areas will soon have a purpose-built garden shed area that all students (including students in wheelchairs), teachers, other staff and the wider community can use and enjoy,” he says.
“Once built, the garden shed will provide a model example to the students, and the wider school community, of what can be achieved by working through the technological process, and more especially the deeper learning of how through collaboration, taking risks and perseverance we can achieve our big ideas.”
Su Young noted that she had learnt a lot about how to talk to and work with young people.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how technologically knowledgeable and capable the students are. The willingness and speed of the students at learning new things, brilliant ideas, hard work, consistent engagement, excitement and the initiative of a couple of girls in making a video log are some of the things that caught me by surprise.
“Overall it was a very rewarding experience and I would highly recommend it to other engineers.”
The shed is currently under construction with help from the students’ parents.
A class of 23 Year 5 and 6 students of at Macandrew Bay School completed a project called Let’s Move, which focused on safe and efficient movement around the school.
“We have just undergone a major building project,” explains Toroa class teacher Christine Ward. “The children identified the frustration that they had lost a lot of play space with the new building, that the junior children did not come down so easily to the adventure playground, and that the big ramp built for access was ugly, glarey and took up lots of space. They identified the need for people to move around the school safely and easily as a priority and making the most of the other play spaces we had in the school to reclaim a sense of space.”
After interviewing stakeholders – children, parents, staff, the caretaker and Board of Trustees – the class formed into four teams to investigate different issues. Teams looked at reducing collisions on the corner of a path behind the new building, painting the ramp to make it more attractive and less reflective, redevelopment of a dirt track, and painting floor games to encourage students to use currently underused spaces.
The team was mentored by structural engineer Millie Alexander and engineering technician (and ex-pupil) Erin George, both from Opus. Millie and Erin enjoyed seeing the development of the students’ investigative and teamwork skills as the project progressed.
“It was an enjoyable experience to be able to share our knowledge, advice and skills with the class, and in return be surprised again and again by the ingenuity and intelligence shown by the pupils in Toroa class. It was rewarding to know that by teaching them the roles involved in civil engineering, we may have kickstarted the beginning for future engineers.”
The judges noted that the team had written up a “wonderful report” and found a “great solution for a real need”. They also enjoyed the innovative artwork proposed for the concrete ramp.
First time participant Eskdale School designed and built a Peace Garden, complete with a shelter, a water feature and scented plants.
The 10 students in the school’s Gifted and Talented Group decided on their project based on a real need – the school library is currently being used as a classroom so students don’t have a quiet place to sit and read during break times. They worked with mentor Kirsten Wallis, a civil engineer at Opus, to choose a suitable site, including checking for underground services and testing the soil, as well as design, consultation and construction. Funding for the project came from a combination of fundraising, grants, donations, particularly of materials and time from parents, and local polytech EIT built and installed the pergola and outside furniture.
“I was taken aback by the passion and interest the group showed from the early stages of conception right through to the grand opening,” Kirsten says. “Overall I considered the peace garden to be a very well managed project, as it was under budget, on time, exceeded stakeholders’ expectation and at no point did it appear that anyone was under unnecessary stress. The students and Mrs G all worked well as a team and everyone pitched in on every level – that was great to see. Given the incredible time and financial constraints, the students have delivered an outstanding project that they can be very proud of. I have been privileged to be part of the team, assisting where required.”
The school is an Enviroschool so there was a strong desire to be environmentally sustainable throughout the project, including the use of recycled materials, future maintenance and the overall lifecycle of the materials used.
Teacher Wendy Gillespie reflects that it was a rewarding learning experience both for the students and for herself.
“What did the kids learn? Where to start! They learnt so much that they didn’t even realise they were learning! The National Curriculum key competencies came into major play. They needed to perfect their communication skills and be able to communicate, negotiate and lead in a way that wasn’t bossy or argumentative. They learnt about compromise too. The Technology Curriculum was well covered over the process and the kids have done a lot of new learning in direct relation to this.”
The judges commented that the project was “clearly produced by students with support to achieve a great outcome” and that it was “awesome to see the community engagement”.
The school’s ‘big question’ was how they could improve the safety of their school scooter circuit, which children have to cross in order to play on the field in the middle.
The Engineering Cadets group of eight Year 4-6 students designed a pedestrian crossing to encourage children to cross the track at a designated point. A diamond painted on the track lets scooter riders know that they need to slow down. The group also designed a portable battery-powered traffic light, incorporating recycled materials such as the wheels off an old barbeque.
Teacher Jessica McAuley explains that it was the first time that the school has participated in the Awards and “with our active extension programme this was a perfect opportunity to get the children involved in a purposeful and authentic project.”
Civil engineering technician Olivia Heer from Opus visited the school every second Friday, and structured the sessions so that they started with engineering games, such as building towers using spaghetti and marshmallows, rockets and catapults.
Her first task was to help the group decide on a project by analysing the cost, time, practicality and benefits of the four main options. The scooter track crossing won out over an outdoor clock, a system for controlling use of the field and a musical playground feature.
“The traffic light and pedestrian crossing was an important issue to deal with as it directly affected the safety of the children and would also teach them valuable lessons about road safety and detailed design,” explains Olivia.
She thoroughly enjoyed working with the group and is proud of what they accomplished. “The kids were so enthusiastic and eager to learn that it motivated me to put 110% into each step of the process and come up with creative ways to get them thinking like engineers.”
The judges commented that the group had found “an innovative low-cost solution to a very real problem”, and that the project was well researched and showed good team work.
This team continued working on a project they started last year with engineer Mikesh Patel from Fisher & Paykel Appliances. The original idea was to provide a system to alert students, including those with a hearing impairment, when the school needed to perform a lockdown in an emergency scenario. This year the team focused on wireless communications and built a working model of their system using 3D printing.
“Working with the Project Lockdown team has been a great experience once again and they have definitely stepped up from last year to deliver upon missed targets. They were rather disappointed to miss out on podium position last year so they have worked harder and efficiently to implement the solution and demonstrate its capabilities,” Mikesh says.
“Last year they had focused on communicating with computers on the network but by providing a physical panic switch, they have addressed a wider audience. This was challenging in terms of getting the hardware set up and understanding the concept of radio transmitters. They have also discovered the potential uses of 3D printers and used them to print school models.”
Teacher Robert Hargreaves comments that this was his first year at Mission Heights Junior College experiencing its “very forward-looking timetable structure, which allows students to have a dedicated time allowance in which to work collaboratively, pursue an idea and develop it through to a conclusion. My primary role was to understand from the students what they wished their outcome to achieve and then assist them in the development of this, I must stress that the end goal was entirely their own and I played the role of facilitator to help them meet this.
“I was hugely impressed with the existing depth of knowledge they had of the design process and also that they had already worked out who would concentrate on a particular area of the development. They also possessed excellent IT and presentation skills which had resulted in the production of a ‘Project Lockdown’ folio which enabled me to follow the intentions of the project and what progress had been made to date.”
The Project Lockdown team were also finalists in the junior engineering section of the 2016 ASB Bright Sparks Awards.
The Project X team tackled the problem of pedestrians being injured by drivers failing to stop at crossings. They researched ‘twenty-first century solutions’ and developed a prototype for an automated road patrol system. Sensors pick up pedestrians waiting to cross and trigger the traffic lights to change to amber then red. LCD screens and barrier arms control the movement of pedestrians across the road.
Teacher Robert Hargreaves was very pleased by the design process followed by the Project X team, how well they worked as a team and their commitment to learning new skills.
“I was impressed by the way the group was willing to beaver away at the problems until a solution was arrived at. Sometimes this took several weeks (the detection system) and sometimes only a few minutes (learning to check the voltage levels of the controllers). In the end I think they surprised themselves at how they had developed the necessary skills to problem solve and the end result was a working prototype of their crossing idea that received a great deal of praise for its operation.”
“The Project X team has put together a project that’s unique in the sense that it considers students’ safety above all,” commented mentoring engineer Mikesh Patel. “Their concept has applications at pedestrian crossings with minimum hassle and low cost.”
The judges commented on the high level of organisation, the strong focus on the problem and the quality of the report, and noted that “the project was successful with the model demonstrating their ideas”.
This team created a system for logging musical equipment borrowed by students. It included motion-activated security cameras, a QR code scanner to identify each item and a website where students log in and record what they’ve borrowed. Teachers and administrators can use the site to see what equipment has been borrowed and by whom.
“The best part of the work from Project Identity was the ability to brainstorm, mind map and evaluate the errors and challenges we had come across and the ability to create pathways to solve similar problems in the future,” commented teacher Tashi Hishey.
“It has been a pleasure and a learning experience to work with Project Identity. As teachers our cups are always full. The team was able to convince me to empty my cup and create a beginner’s mind.”
“Team activities are always challenging especially when you have a goal to achieve. Based on our first meeting I was pretty confident with the team. They were clear with their objectives and had all the required skills in the team to finish the project well in time,” commented engineering mentor Raj Kumar of Opus.
“The working prototype was functioning during my third visit and was well within the deadline. Overall, the team did a great job.”
The judges appreciated the well-written report and great organisation, and noted that “the concepts were well developed” and that the team had “overcome high-level technical problems to solve a real issue – a great result.”
The project brief for the Trashket-ball team was to find a way to reduce the amount of rubbish that is left lying around the school grounds. They came up with ‘trashket-ball’ as a way of motivating fellow students to do the right thing via gamification. The idea is to throw rubbish through a hoop above the bin, which then triggers flashing lights and sounds as a reward.
Their mentor, product development engineer Abby Arulandu from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, commented “I have enjoyed working with team ‘Trashket-ball’ and have been impressed with their positive attitude. The team was willing to take suggestions on board and were a delight to work with. They have taken on an important topic that can often become quite dull and boring, and turned it into something fun and exciting.”
This year teacher Raeesa Dada facilitated a large group of students working towards the Awards. "This was a project they wanted to do as a class – and we've all thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience.
“It was very interesting to watch my students develop in confidence as the project progressed and watch every student contribute in their selected roles. As a teacher/coach, it was a learning curve for me to step back and allow my students to take the lead, and I was pleasantly surprised.
“Abby was amazing. Her advice to my students really helped to guide and direct their thinking, creating opportunities for them to reflect on their work and their next steps.”
The judges commented that it was a “fantastic, innovative idea on a difficult project” and that “great research was evident in the concept and prototype development”.