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Championing Young Innovators

open this image in new window: Championing Young Innovators - Callaghan Innovation

This article was published on 13 November 2018

In a world where innovation is supercharged by technological advancements every millisecond, the skills our young people need to be successful in the future are rapidly changing.

Callaghan Innovation supports a number of initiatives from primary school right through to university, focused on getting more young people prepared for the future workplace. Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) will become increasingly important, as will the ability to think entrepreneurially.

To enable more young people to make impact, Callaghan Innovation helps them to connect, gain skills and see opportunities for themselves along the future innovation pathway. We work to achieve these outcomes through partnerships on the following programmes and initiatives:

The Wonder Project (ages 5-13)

The Wonder Project aims to inspire, excite and encourage children to pursue STEM careers, particularly those from low socio-economic areas and girls, targeting different age groups and mapping to the New Zealand curriculum. In addition to an interactive digital platform, the programme will have three initiatives, starting off with Rocket League, followed by the introduction of a community challenge and careers initiative.

Rocket Challenge (ages 5-8)

Students design, build, refine and launch a water rocket with the help of their teacher and a Wonder Project Ambassador. With the pilot phase for the Rocket Challenge completed, involving more than 29 schools, 1297 students and 72 Ambassadors, we will soon roll out the initiative nationwide. The pilot received very positive feedback and huge interest from schools to become part of the nationwide roll out.

Community Challenge (ages 7-9)

Students are tasked with solving a community issue using innovation and their own genius, reaching a sustainable solution. The pilot phase for the Community Challenge will commence in the second half of 2019, with the aim of rolling it out nationwide in 2020.

Wonder Careers (ages 10-13)

Commencing in Term 1, 2019; senior students are exposed to the boundless job opportunities in STEM. Including talks, industry events, and school visits from Wonder Project Ambassadors who’ll share their real-world experiences to inspire the next generation.

Wonder Project - Rocket Challenge
Wonder Project - Rocket Challenge


VentureUP (age 17-22) - Entrepreneurship

Venture Up is a fully immersive, 4-week experiential learning programme aimed at young people aged 16-24 across New Zealand, some of who are looking to take their first steps into the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

In the past 4 years since its inception, over 126 youth have taken part in Venture Up across New Zealand with participants noting a significant increase in confidence, capability and connection into the entrepreneurship world. In 2018, 26 youth were selected to take part in the programme with 5 teams being formed.

Venture Up 2018 Showcase
Venture Up 2018 Showcase


Chiasma (Uni) - STEM Enterprises

Chiasma is a national student-led organisation that creates links between academia and the wider science, technology and engineering (STEM) industries. Chiasma’s mission is to inspire and help their members to develop a successful career in the STEM industry by providing them with the necessary skills, networks and mind-set.

This year Chiasma opened a new branch in Christchurch as part of the continuing work to further grow its overall membership of students and industry members which currently stands at nearly 4100. This past year also saw nearly 2000 students and industry members gaining knowledge and insights through Chiasma events and initiatives across the country, including the annual Synapse events run in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin.

Check out this video from the 2018 Auckland Synapse event.

Chiasma -Synapse event
Chiasma -Synapse event


Puhoro STEM Academy (Year 11 onward)

Puhoro STEM Academy focuses on raising Māori participation and achievement in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths, collectively known as STEM. It is particularly focused on raising achievement rates for NCEA level 3 STEM subjects, which only 24 per cent of Māori students achieved in 2014, compared to 43 per cent of non-Māori students.

Boosting STEM talent among our rangatahi [youth] will help them face the future of work with confidence. STEM itself also has a lot to gain from a unique Māori contribution and it’s fantastic to have Puhoro STEM Academy join our mission.

Check out this Maori TV news story.

Puhoro STEM Academy
Puhoro STEM Academy

R&D Student Grants

Callaghan Innovation's student grants support tertiary students into high-value R&D positions in innovative businesses across many sectors. This encourages businesses to undertake R&D projects while helping students gain commercial experience and work on real world business problems. It also helps fine tune practical and technical skills in a commercial environment.

  • R&D Experience Grants bring smart, enthusiastic and fresh thinking undergraduate students into businesses to support their R&D activities over the summer break.
  • R&D Fellowship Grants enable Masters and PhD students to carry out and apply their research with an innovating business.
  • The R&D Career Grant is an internship designed to bridge the first six months of employment-gaining work experience for recent PhD or masters graduate students.