New Zealand's young innovators have been set a mission of creating an InsectBot capable of surviving on Mars for the chance to win an exclusive VIP tour of the Rocket Lab facilities.
The Great InsectBot Mission Competition is being led by STEM Wana Trust ahead of Tauranga STEM Festival, New Zealand's largest science, technology, engineering, and mathematics festival.
Students aged between 10-16 years old will be able to submit their InsectBot design, with five finalists then chosen to go on and bring their creation to life.
A panel of experts in space, entomology and robotics will decide the winner at STEMFest on Sunday, October 2.
"Space is always a super popular subject and the work being done by organisations like Rocket Lab are highlighting the incredible opportunities in this sector in New Zealand," says STEM Wana Trust founder Tia Lush.
"With Rocket Lab's successful launch of NASA's Capstone spacecraft from New Zealand to the moon, plus the first images from NASA's new James Webb Space Telescope making headline news, a career in space is a reality for Kiwi kids now.
"Similarly, robotics is another field where New Zealand's future workforce will need creative problem solvers and we aim to engage and encourage our rangatahi to get involved."
The grand prize includes a VIP visit to the Rocket Lab facilities on Mahia Peninsula with the winner able to meet some Space Ambassadors and put their mark on a real rocket.
"Rocket Lab is proud to support community organisations doing the vital work of helping young people fall in love with STEM, and understand all the amazing opportunities available to them in New Zealand," says Rocket Lab education program lead Felicity Powell.
Other out of this world prizes include an astronomy session with Space Dave for the winner's whole class, and an exclusive Stargazing session with New Zealand Astrobiology Network.
The competition has already attracted entries from around New Zealand. Students who register for the competition will receive a Mission Guide of resources and links on insects, robots, and Mars, as well as weekly blog updates and video posts.
The five finalists will then be sent a starter building kit to help bring their creation to life.
"The whole process is about learning; from research to creative thought, problem solving and maker skills," says Lush.
"We're grateful to our amazing partners for sharing their knowledge and the incredible prizes on offer. This competition has been made possible with the kind support of the US State Department and has been inspired by NASA."
"The best way to learn is to do. Designing a robot to complete a given task is the greatest way to get a better understanding of how the engineering process works," says Judging panel member and VEX robotics champion Charlie Hazeleger Mollard.
STEMFest is returning after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 50 exhibitors are expected in Tauranga from all over New Zealand for the free, family-friendly street festival aimed at engaging and inspiring a new generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.
This will include an extensive Space Zone with an Astrobiology Dome, life-size high-powered rocket, and interactive astronomy demonstration; as well as multiple robotics experiences, where visitors will be able to interact with, control or build robots.
Entry information for The Great InsectBot Mission Competition can be found at: www.stemfest.nz
Design submissions close on Tuesday, August 9, with the five finalists announced on Thursday, August 18.
FREE Tickets for STEMFest will be released in August. Sign up at the website www.stemfest.nz to receive information and announcements of early bird tickets.