Helicopter hoist design workshop offers pupils engineering experience

King’s High School pupils (from left) Gabe Asuncion, Josh Caldwell and Zach Schwenke (all 17)...
King’s High School pupils (from left) Gabe Asuncion, Josh Caldwell and Zach Schwenke (all 17) discuss their prototype with Leonardo Helicopters’ aerospace engineer Tom Fox at a Stem workshop at the school this week. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Pupils' spirits are flying high after they attended a workshop in which they designed their own rescue helicopter hoist system.

UK engineering company Leonardo Helicopters has landed at eight schools around Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown to provide sessions in Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) to inspire careers in engineering.

"Our aim this week is to educate, attract and inspire students of all ages into engineering through Stem activities, which we have tried and tested successfully in the UK," Leonardo Stem committee events vice-chairwoman Mia Robinson said.

"The key takeaways for these events [are] for students to develop and grow their communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills."

The activity showed pupils how Stem subjects could provide key life skills that could be transferred into an engineering career.

"We recognise the strength and opportunity of the New Zealand engineering sector and the need to keep it innovative and sustainable by attracting local students into engineering-based jobs and careers," Leonardo campaign director Aaron Lewis said.

"The Stem activities are about showing young people the prospects of how their science, maths or even English studies can transfer into an engineering career."

Pupils were issued an urgent rescue mission to design a system that could safely deploy a hoist to rescue a person missing at sea.

Honing their problem-solving and engineering skills, they had to incorporate sustainable materials into the design, within a strict time limit.

The pupils proved themselves to be effective engineers.

The sessions mark the launch of the Southland and Otago Regional Engineering Collective (Sorec) Academy.

"The purpose of the Sorec Academy is to attract youth into the huge variety of pathways and career opportunities in engineering," United Machinists chief executive and Sorec board member Sarah Ramsay said.

"To manufacture a helicopter, it takes design, project management, accounting, electronics, software development, precision manufacturing and fabrication," she said.

"Across the region, we have companies spanning all of these disciplines who need more bright young students, like we met today, joining the sector. Leonardo provided a really tangible exercise on how these disciplines are all brought together.

"The engagement from students was fantastic."

Leonardo will continue to support Stem sessions virtually, and hopes to undertake more in-person sessions again in New Zealand.