This team-based activity day was run by the Ministry of Primary Industries to find solutions to everyday problems they face in the area. The students used a variety of skills they learn in Social Sciences, Science and Technology to find a solution to a country-wide problem. Industry experts are there to guide them on the day. It is a competition that challenges young minds to come up with innovative solutions to current environmental issues.
The problem they had to solve was that New Zealand experience a large shortfall of workers across the farming and growing sectors due in part to the COVID-19 effect on immigration. The students' challenge was "to develop an idea to help farmers and growers attract and/or retain New Zealanders into work in the primary sector".
Seventy-two students from nine schools around Canterbury competed for a prize pool of $450. The team of Alex Cutforth and Madeleine Sawyer teamed up with two students from Riccarton High School for the top prize with a well-thought-out solution using robotics and virtual reality to pick fruit.
Basically, using a robot to pick fruit and control it with a virtual reality headset and gloves from the comfort of their own home or a local center. Using a VR headset at home makes it more attractive to New Zealanders because you can avoid the hot summer days and it also gives job opportunities to disabled and injured people because of how adaptable it is. This robot basically does the same thing you would do on a farm but it is remotely controlled by a VR and moves exactly how the person is moving simultaneously.
"I learnt from this experience that the best solutions are often on the edge of impossible. I loved meeting new people and coming up with creative ideas until we found the one. Overall this was an awesome experience and I would definitely do it again if it was offered and my team and I each won a $50 Westfield gift card for coming first!! - Sawyer"
Our own Victoria Ding finished the day by thanking the organisers and judges.