CPIT Taking a lead in teaching robotics

CPIT Taking a lead in teaching robotics

CPIT can build them. It has the technology. It can make them better than they were. Better, stronger, faster…

If you're a fan of 1970s TV shows, you'll recognise a few lines borrowed from The Six Million Dollar Man, when astronaut Steve Austin, a man barely alive, was turned into a bionic man.


CPIT's STEM coordinator Miranda Satterthwaite, who delivers learning and holiday programmes in the science, technology, engineering and maths fields, has added a line to the theme; CPIT has the capability of becoming the South Island's leading institution in teaching robotics and staging competitions.

"It's a really exciting prospect to think that we are not only leaders in developing programmes to bring robotics to kids, but that we could also take a lead in holding national VEX robotics competitions."

VEX Robotics

These are the forerunner to world championship events, the Olympics of robotics. In fact, a Christchurch Boys' High School Year 13 student Alex Towse, who cut his teeth in robotics through CPIT's holiday programmes, has been selected to represent New Zealand in the VEX Robotics World Championships, to be held in the United States in mid-April. A kiwi team has won this event four years in a row.

Kiwibots and VEX IQ

At this weekend's regular robotics scrimmage, where enthusiasts will gather to pit the wit and will of themselves and their bots, The New Zealand Robotics Charitable Trust (known as Kiwibots) national manager Chris Hamling will be talking to Satterthwaite about planning a proposed VEX IQ national championship at the end of this year.

"I would love CPIT to be the lead institution and the work that Miranda is doing is certainly re-enforcing that feeling," he said.

Last year, the robotic enthusiast and passionate advocate of science and technology teamedwithCPIT to bring VEX IQ, an international robotics platform that inspires STEM learning in young students and their teachers through competitions and challenges, in a competition held during October.

About 60 primary and intermediate school students attended the VEX IQ Robotics but twice as many students applied for the programme, which highlighted robotics' popularity as a growing sport in Christchurch. Following its success, Satterthwaite is planning another of these events for October this year.


A former teacher of robotics at Christchurch boys', she has also been responsible for introducing Ecobot, short for Ecological Robot, which are powered by carbon dioxide-producing waste matter from the environment.

A free workshop at CPIT during last year's July school holidays challenged students to build a robot that could tackle dangerous environmental tasks, using their maths, physics and computing skills. An interactive workshop, called the Ecobot Challenge, was for Year 11 and 12 students, where teams pitched their Ecobots against each other. Another event is planned for the July school holidays, and this time would be aimed at year 9-10 students.

"It's all about growing young people to be interested to study engineering," Satterthwaite said.

CPIT taking a lead

It's all grist for CPIT's robotic mill, to play an important role in the multi-billion bionics and robotics industries.

It's also state of affairs that makes CPIT diploma of engineering student Harry Loughnan's eyes light up brighter than the robotic characters C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars.

A tutor in the VEX IQ programme, Loughnan will also travel to the VEX world champs in Louisville Kentucky as a judge, not as a competitor, as he has been in the past. The 20 year-old third year NZDE student was first introduced to VEX robots in 2010, and has been hooked ever since.

"Everything I've done in life, including my interest in robotics, has led me to doing engineering."

He said robotics would play a huge part in engineering in the future, with Australian ports and mines already using robots that could be programmed to act autonomously, for heavy lifting, instead of dump trucks.


Year 12 Chemistry Competition - May 7 2015.

Year 11 Chemistry Competition - September 17 2015.

The holiday courses on offer in 2015 are:

LIGHT IT UP             Year 11-12  April 13-15, 2015

ECOBOTS                  Year 9-10    July 13-14, 2015

AERODYNAMIX      Year 11-12  July 15-17, 2015

VEX IQ Bootcamp     Year 7-8      October 5-6 2015

AQUA SCIENCE       Year 9-10   October 7-9 2015   

For more detail visit cpit.ac.nz/liaison  Phone 0800 24 24 76

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