10 August, 2017
‘My mind exploded. No joke, the feeling was like I had a crush!’ Three rangatahi talk about discovering their passion for science at MacDiarmid DiscoveryCamp.
First published in The Spinoff.
DiscoveryCamp is a fun, hands-on programme designed for year 12 or 13 Māori and Pasifika secondary pupils with an interest in science. Students are chosen from all around the country to attend the annual, all-expenses-paid science camp, where they’re mentored by some of the country’s leading scientists at two leading universities.
David Meti from Taipa Area School, a remote Northland school that teaches years one to 13, attended this year’s camp in Palmerston North after being encouraged by his chemistry teacher, Dwayne Walsh.
“He was helping me find pathways and get experience so I could figure out what to do with my life,” says David.
The successful applicants aren’t neccesarily those with pefect academic records or those who go to fancy schools. They are students that have shown enthusiasm and determination, and who might still be unsure what the future holds for them.
“It made me realise that a person like me from such a small area and school can achieve the same opportunities as a head student from a massive school,” says David. “I thought I had no chance, that there would be someone else out there who is smarter with a more impressive resume than I had. But I applied and I got it. There’s no harm in trying for a great opportunity at the risk of losing nothing!”
As well as laboratory experience, he says one of the most important things he learned was simply what life at university might be like. “Getting to know the campus and what facilities it has, what the campus dorm rooms and their utilities are like. You get to live it, you get to talk to the students there and the teachers, there’s just so much knowledge to gain from such an experience that can’t be given through pamphlets and brochures.”
Lupesina Koro found out about MacDiarmid DiscoveryCamp while she was scrolling through her social media. “What really grabbed my attention was the opportunity to travel for the programme, this really excited me. So I clicked on the link and applied.”
She was relieved her family didn’t have to do anything more than be proud and excited for her.
“One of DiscoveryCamp’s greatest selling points was that I was able to enjoy the experience with no cost or financial burden to my family; that was greatly appreciated.”
Since going to the camp she has chosen to study a conjoint degree in Engineering and Commerce at the University of Auckland. The St Mary’s College head girl was recently awarded a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship Awards by Samoa’s Minister for Pacific Peoples to help with her studies.
“What really stuck with me from Maan [Professor Maan Alkaisi], our DiscoveryCamp’s host, is the importance of inventing creative solutions and the endless possibilities that we as young people are faced with because of the rapid technological advances. Maan really opened my eyes to the potential we have to succeed and how crucial innovation is in our generation of explorers.”
DiscoveryCamp doesn’t always stop at the end of the week. The MacDiarmid Institute also offer a three month paid internship for DiscoveryCamp alumni.
This year Eteroa Lafaele spent a fascinating summer working in chemistry, physics and biology labs.
“We also went out near Island Bay at the marine labs and did injections in kina to see the changes of pollution to marine life.”
She was living in Cannons Creek, Porirua, when she attended the 2012 camp that changed her life.
“In college I was hooked on chemistry. It was the year before university and all you heard was ‘plan now for your future!’ Summer camp came around and my mind was still set on chemistry. It was a session about computer science that won me over.
“My mind exploded. No joke, the feeling was like I had a crush!” she laughs.
“I actually ditched my group and walked around the computer science department and there were all these old school computers. I looked into their displays and I promised myself that I would be up there with the computer science greats.”
She’s halfway to her goal, studying a double major in Software Development and Computational Intelligence at AUT. Eteroa believes that science, technology, engineering and maths are the perfect industries for our innovative Pacific people. “Its important for Māori and Pacific students to be in the STEM industries because there are opportunities just flowing from this industry. The world is changing and I believe we should change with it.”
The MacDiarmid DiscoveryCamp – Te Tohu Huraina is all expenses paid, including flights, accomodation and meals. Students can choose to attend either The University of Auckland or Victoria University in Wellington.
Applications close 3 September 2017!