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VR, robots, drones and Lego attract potential engineers

Virtual reality displays, technical challenges, and fun with machines, water, paper, mud and Lego attracted over 2200 parents, students and children to Shed 6 on Queen’s Wharf on Saturday for the annual free public Engineering Expo.

Story and photos by Mark Cubey unless credited otherwise

The Engineering Expo capped off the third annual Week of Engineering around the country.

Interactive activities were very much to the fore, as Engineering New Zealand focused on getting children interested in engineering from as young an age as possible.

Engineering New Zealand Chief Executive, Susan Freeman-Greene, said that Engineering Week is designed to offer people the opportunity to feed their natural curiosity and get hands-on with the latest, future-led engineering technology.

“Tomorrow’s engineers will have jobs that don’t even exist today – and we want to open young minds to this world of possibility.”

Photo by Mark Tantrum/ http://marktantrum.com

A number of virtual reality simulators attracted long queues of children eager to immerse themselves in BECA’s virtual New Plymouth airport, or climb one of Meridian Energy’s wind turbines.

The New Zealand Defence Force was out in… force, with army packs, 3D printed weapon parts, and other examples of how engineering is transforming the military.

A Navy demonstration of how a thin A4 sheet can form a boat capable of keeping 1.2kg of sand bags afloat was a popular test for children.

Across the hall, sheets of paper were folded in diverse ways to support iron weights, with the winning entry supporting a total weight of 13.75kg – plus a paperback book.

The Lego play pit run by Hutt City Libraries was in constant use, alongside children constructing geared robots that then battled under remote control at a nearby stand.

Drones, operating 3D printers, Jacob’s ladders and bridge and tower building challenges also  grabbed the interest of young potential engineers.

Two other free public expos on Saturday in Auckland and Christchurch helped attract more than 7000 people across the three centres.

Ms Freeman-Greene says the industry has come together behind Engineering Week because New Zealand needs more engineers.

“Engineering is a wide-ranging and creative profession, yet there exists a large skills shortage in New Zealand.”