The kaiako who breaks things

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WITT Te Pūkenga Kaiako (tutor) Robert Short from the Engineering School has a reputation for breaking things, but in his defense, it’s all about learning. 

“I like to bring learning alive with hands-on experiments and something engineers like to know is the effect of loads on structures and structural elements,” says Robert.

He uses as many hands-on experiments for his ākonga (students) as he can to illustrate engineering concepts. A favourite is imploding coke cans to show the point of weakness under external pressure – this portable experiment has been at expos, open days and even run live on local radio!

With a dedicated engineering lab, Nōna te ao, on site the imploding coke can is just one of many experiments engineering ākonga experience as part of their engineering studies.

“Bringing theoretical principles alive with practical learning is more relevant and engaging to today’s learners,” says Robert.

Practical learning is also a key component of the Sydney and Dublin accords, which our engineering qualifications align. The accords are international agreements that outline the standards for the accreditation of engineering education programmes in different countries.

The majority of the equipment in Nōna te ao is designed and configured to replicate industry standards, but on a smaller scale. When a student graduates, they will be familiar with the principles and methodology of the equipment and be able to use their knowledge of it in the workplace. The equipment can cater to school students through to those doing Level 6 and 7 programmes.

“The equipment can be used to illustrate a principle or run an experiment scaffolded to cater for the complexity and level of learning required.”

Robert teaches mechanical engineering across the degree and diploma level programmes, similar to what and how he studied himself, albeit in a different country and a few years prior.

Robert completed an apprenticeship as a toolmaker in the UK, worked in NGOs in Bangladesh before returning to the UK and completing an engineering diploma then a degree. Robert and his wife, who also worked at WITT, moved to New Zealand in 1995. Robert joined WITT in 2020 after 25 years working in the local engineering industry.

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