Pacific peoples have always been scientists, technologists, engineers, artists and mathematicians. Now thanks to WeSTEM funding, more Pacific youth can see themselves in Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM).
WeSTEM, which is an initiative of Te Hononga Akoranga – COMET/STEM Alliance Aotearoa and funded by the Ministry of Pacific People’s Toloa Programme, aims to accelerate and increase Pacific people’s participation in STEAM.
West Auckland schools and Pacific community groups are encouraged to apply for up to $10,000. Applications are now open until May 2022.
WeSTEM Project Manager Ying Yang says Pacific people are massively underrepresented in Aotearoa’s STEAM industries. *Estimates suggest that only 2-3% of our digital technologies workforce are Pacific people, whereas they make up about 9% of the population.
“There is huge potential to uplift Pacific communities through STEAM education and employment, and that starts with creating more STEAM learning opportunities for our youth.”
Last year, a successful WeSTEM pilot engaged over 50 students in STEAM learning and research. Leata’ata o Tupulaga Preschool students explored their local stream environment and learnt all about how the tuna travels from Aotearoa to the Pacific Islands to breed. Pacific youth at the Ranui135 community hub worked with University of Auckland exercise science researchers to test the best training methods for improving their basketball-dunking performance.
Yang says tapping into interests that resonate with young people is key to engaging them in STEAM. “It is exciting to see the range of ideas and questions that our communities come up with and being able to support youth to explore STEAM in their everyday lives.”
Working in partnership with scientists and engineers is another highlight for WeSTEM participants. Seeing relatable role models helps open young people up to new learning and career possibilities. Collaboration also enables a sharing of expertise, knowledge, and resources that groups may not otherwise have had access to.
There are a set of criteria for applications: the project must (a) grow the capacity of Pacific Island STEAM by involving primarily Pacific Island students or community participants; (b) be locally relevant; (c) tackle a substantive science or technological question in active partnership with a STEAM partner(s); and (d) offer educational value for everyone involved.
Funding is available for short term ($4,000, 6-8 weeks) or longer term ($10,000, ~6 month) projects.
For STEAM partners:
Are you a Westie keen to give back to your local community and share your passion for STEAM? Sign up to our partners’ database for an opportunity to support a STEAM project near you. Find out more here or get in touch with the team today at STEM@cometauckland.org.nz.
* Read more about the state of Aotearoa’s digital skills workforce here: https://nztech.org.nz/reports/digital-skills-for-our-digital-future/