A recently-announced MBIE-funded research project led by
Dr. Rod Badcock of Victoria University has designated Ara,
along with Manukau Institute of Technology, as the lead in
ensuring that diploma and technology degree students gain
the expertise needed to work with futuristic electric
vehicle technologies.

The project, helmed by Te
Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington’s Robinson
Research Institute under the Strategic Science Investment
Fund – Advanced Energy Technology Platform – is a
collaboration between local and international tertiary
institutions and industry to develop high-power electric
motors for large-scale transport systems including trains
and aircraft, and to train those who will develop and
maintain these new technologies.

The effort is timely;
with New Zealand hosting the UN SDG’s Summit series next
year, the country is primed to begin tackling the
environmental problems posed by the transportation
industry’s overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels – today,
96% of transportation energy still comes from high
carbon-emitting fuels. The technical challenge for aviation
systems is particularly acute with current battery
technology simply not yet able to supply a superior
power-to-weight ratio to that of modern jet fuel.

Dr.
Badcock points out that New Zealand’s economy is heavily
dependent on aviation and – as has been acutely demonstrated
by recent events – is highly exposed in the case of
limitations being imposed upon international
travel.

“Reducing global carbon emissions from heavy
freight and passenger transport requires the switch to
electric propulsion for rail, shipping and aviation. But
these applications require new high-power, lightweight
motors which are beyond existing
technologies.”

Therefore much work needs to be done
before the carbon footprint of the global transportation
industry can be diminished – presently it consumes
approximately one-third of all energy produced
globally.

To tackle this immense challenge, the new
programme has four workstreams: superconducting machines,
cryogenic systems, power electronics, and training and
education. Engineers and scientists at the Robinson Research
Institute are continuing their cutting-edge work on
high-temperature superconductors and working with aircraft
manufacturers on new electric aircraft. Meanwhile, experts
at Callaghan Innovation and AUT will be working on
cryogenics while teams from the Universities of Auckland and
Canterbury develop power electronic systems, and Ara plus
Manukau Institute of Technology are undertaking the training
portion.

This contains a provision for seven Bachelor
of Engineering Technology scholarships at each institution,
destined for Māori and Pacific students. The scholarship
recipients will also receive a paid summer placement between
their second and third year at one of the partner
organizations. Additionally, there will be 16 Diploma of
Engineering scholarships which are designed to further
enhance the participation of Māori and Pacific within New
Zealand’s engineering industries.

According to Dr.
Badcock “We want to produce industry-ready engineers who are
familiar with these new technologies. We are especially
interested in attracting young Māori and Pacific students
into these new science and technical careers.”

Te
Marino Lenihan, Ara’s Kaiārahi Director of Māori
Development applauds this initiative and emphasizes the
absolute value for New Zealand’s long-term prosperity
through facilitating higher participation and success rates
of Māori and Pacific peoples within scientific and
technical fields. He comments “Ara’s Framework for Māori
Achievement, in alignment with Ngai Tahu’s Workforce
Development Strategy, aims to get more Māori learners on
study and career pathways that give them the skills for
sunrise industries and tomorrow’s jobs. Māori and Pacific
communities are young and will become a larger and larger
component of our nation’s future workforce. We want and
need skilled Māori and Pacific individuals and families in
higher paid jobs that are resilient to the onset of
automation, global pandemics and future financial
crises.”

Likewise, Chief economist at Business and
Economic Research Limited, Hillmarè Schulze was quoted by
Radio New Zealand on August the 24th as saying that Māori
needed particular help moving into further education and
employment – as long as it was the right kind of education.
“When you look at engineering apprenticeships, these have a
hugely positive outcome.”

Scholarships for Māori and
Pacific students will not only cover the course fees, it
will also connect them with summer jobs in local industries
during their holiday breaks.

Dr. Michael Edmonds, Head
of Engineering & Architectural Studies at Ara says “This
is an exciting development as it will not only allow
students to study fees-free, it will also provide them with
paid work in an industry relevant to their studies. We are
lucky to have some world leading industries here in
Christchurch, and having our students able to do some work
for them is fantastic.”

Alongside the recent move by
the government to provide free fees for study of engineering
diplomas because of ongoing industry needs, this project
demonstrates that even in a recession engineering continues
to be a stimulating and in demand career
choice.

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