Inspiring tomorrow’s innovators

One of New Zealand’s leading research facilities has played host to the next generation of aspiring scientists and engineers.

More than 80 students from Innovative Young Minds toured WSP Opus’s Research centre in Petone, going behind the scenes to learn more about the experimental research that is carried out at WSP Opus.

Innovative Young Minds is a pioneering initiative by Hutt City Council and Rotary Hutt City to encourage more young women to explore careers in science and technology.

One of the students, Trinity Whyte, was amazed at the range of work carried out at WSP’s Research facility.

“We felt very privileged to be able to visit the centre and see a handful of the thousands of jobs carried out there. Getting to talk to the engineers and scientists was incredible, they were all lovely people, and each of them said no two days are alike; something I want in my future career. I know many of the other girls found the visit to be very valuable and, for me, the visit increased my interest in mechatronics, and I will be considering it as a career choice!”

During the tour students learnt about the testing of new road seals, research into the safety and quality of drinking water, behaviour research on intersection design and got to see the wind tunnel in action.

“One of my favourite parts of the tour was seeing the WSP Opus Wind Tunnel. This blew air at varying speeds and directions around, through and over miniatures to model wind movement around different clusters of buildings. A great example they had was for research into the effects of wind on a new skyscraper in the Wellington CBD, a miniature of the Wellington CBD was at the end of the long tunnel," says Trinity.

While at WSP Opus Research, students also had the chance to speak with the team which includes engineers, chemists, physicists, materials scientists, environmental scientists, geographers and behavioural scientists.

Lia van den Kerkhof, WSP Opus Research Scientist, loved the opportunity to show the students around, and was impressed with their keen interest and enthusiasm.

“Women are under-represented in science and engineering, and part of the reason is that they can’t see someone like themselves in the profession. You can’t be what you can’t see, which is why it’s so important that we provide young women with opportunities like this.”

Lia says it was exciting to meet some of the awesome young women who will be part of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Wendy Turvey, National Manager WSP Opus Research, is extremely supportive of the work Innovative Young Minds is doing in changing the way young women view careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

She says Hutt City Council is a strong supporter of science, research and technology in the region, and welcomed the opportunity for her facility to play a role in inspiring future innovators.

“It’s impressive to see Hutt City Council’s willingness to champion initiatives that excite and stimulate tomorrow’s workforce. Innovative Young Minds is a great example of this, as was the first Te Wā Heke – Invent the Future festival held this year.”