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THE KIWIBOTS STORY

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In 2008, a team of enthusiastic Kiwi educators, business representatives and students could see that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was about to be the forefront of education. This group scoped out what was happening in the world, and travelled to see the VEX programme in action and saw the potential of sharing these with New Zealand - inspiring young kiwis one robot at a time.

The NZ Robotics Charitable Trust was founded in 2009 with the support of businesses that could see the future growth of the tech industry and the imminent global need for more innovators, problem solvers, and creative thinkers.

NZ teams competed in their first season of VEX Robotics in the 2009-2010 season. In true kiwi fashion, the students showed innovation and a 'No.8 wire' approach to problem solving that resulted in a World Championship title, knocking reigning champions out of the top spot!

Since then, Kiwibots has grown, creating and supporting teams from intermediate through university to world calibre levels that put NZ on the map in the robotics and tech industry.

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Kiwibots teams have won a World Championship title 9 times against 53 competing countries. They have also won awards such as the Inspire Award, Community Award, Online Challenge Competitions, and many more.

Our shared successes would not  be possible without the support of our generous sponsors over the years.

Thanks to them and the amazing students, parents and teachers, the future of robotics excellence and STEM advancement will be filled with passionate kiwis.

About: Who we are
The Kiwibots Difference

We are unlike other software and coding based education as we encourage students to create physical results using robotics. The gamification of learning tasks creates a more engaging experience, while also fostering a collaborative and social environment.

Many of our programme alumni find themselves in careers with top technology firms across the world after gaining their initial interest and skills with Kiwibots and making friends for life. 

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Meet The Team

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MICHELLE 
HAZELEGER-MOLLARD

NATIONAL OPERATIONS MANAGER

Based in Palmerston North, Michelle leads the Kiwibots NZ programme nationwide, working with Regional Coordinators, educators, and all of our Kiwibots community.

 

Responsible to the Board of Trustees, Michelle covers the main business aspects of Kiwibots NZ, sponsorship and support of teams at Nationals and World Championships.

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DOUG BRYAN
EVENT PARTNER -
AUCKLAND

Doug is a technology teacher and comes from a background of automotive and hard materials technologies. 

He has been with Kiwibots since the first years, starting the teams at Onehunga High School (SymbiOHsis) who have represented NZ and won at the VEX World Championships.

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STEPHAN VAN HAREN
EVENT PARTNER -
MANAWATU

Since 2014, Stephan has organised the VEX IQ National Championships for Kiwibots. Stephan has also set up the Central Region Robotics Trust to support new schools/teams that want to try robotics across the central North Island.

Stephan is based in the Manawatu, teaching at St. Peter's College and won the Inspiration All-Star award in 2019.

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KATANA DUNN
EVENT PARTNER -
CANTERBURY

Katana is based in Christchurch and has been with the Kiwibots programme since 2010 and then joining as a Regional Coordinator in 2017. She has been teaching Digital Technologies at Burnside College since 2010.

Known as the Christchurch regional mum, she supports the teams across Canterbury as well as other South Island groups.

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JOHN OVENS
EVENT PARTNER - OTAGO/SOUTHLAND

John has been involved in the Kiwibots program since 2014, competing in 2015 with Long Bay College and then in 2017 with AURA.
Now working as a mechatronics engineer in Dunedin, John is keen to get more competitive robotics going down in the Otago region. Contact us if you’re keen to be a part of our robotics down south!

 

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DAVID ASTON
EVENT PARTNER -
AUCKLAND

David is based in Auckland and is one of our longest serving Kiwibots ambassadors, creating teams and introducing VEX to his school when Kiwibots started in 2009.

Winner of Inspiration All-Star 2016, David juggles supporting many VRC teams across Auckland as well as the pick, pack and despatch of goods for teams nationwide.

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TONI DE RIJK
EVENT PARTNER -
BAY OF PLENTY

Toni and her husband, Paul, help support all the events and teams from the Bay of Plenty.

Toni's been with Kiwibots for a number of years. As well as all the engagement from her region, she has also had her own children go through the programme. She has won Volunteer of the Year a number of times to recognise her passion and work in the community.

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BEN ELLERY
EVENT PARTNER -
MANAWATU

Ben is based in Palmerston North and is the Chairperson of Central Robotics Trust, running this with Stephan van Haren. 

 

Ben has been through the Kiwibots programme as a student before joining as part of the core team, with a particular interest in the technical side of our events.

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ANDY KERRISON
EVENT PARTNER -
CANTERBURY

Andy has been a key volunteer with Kiwibots for a number of years working alongside Katana. He is currently at St. Andrew's College.

Prior to his extensive career in teaching, Andy comes from an engineering background and brings these skills to his work, sharing invaluable insights for students and colleagues.

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ISSY RIDDELL-GARNER

REGIONAL COORDINATOR - WELLINGTON

Based in Wellington, Issy has been through the Kiwibots programme herself after stumbling upon it while at Wellington Girls' High School.

 

She's joined us as a Regional Coordinator to continue creating events for our Kiwi kids and has been one of our longest student turned alumni volunteers!

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CRAIG YEARBURY
EVENT PARTNER -
AUCKLAND

Craig teaches at Lynfield College and has been part of the Kiwibots programme since it started in NZ.

 

He has coached many teams across Auckland, and successfully brought teams to the World Championships to claim titles for NZ too. 

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SHANON O'CONNOR
REGIONAL COORDINATOR - TAIRĀWHITI

Director of Tōnui Collab, Shanon (Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tahu) is passionate about all things tech and tech education.

Quickly becoming a hub for us in the Eastern regions, Shanon and her team at Tōnui Collab work with tamariki all across the region to help them get access to the opportunities and STEM Education in a truly bilingual environment.

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BRANDON MONTAGNANI
EVENT PARTNER - MANAWATU

Brandon is based in Palmerston North and first started as a student at PNBHS in 2011.

He has continued to help as a volunteer at scrimmages and other events ever since.

 

Brandon is a Mechatronics engineer and Massey University alumni, based in the Manawatu region, with a huge passion for Science and Technology.

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ANDY THAWLEY
EVENT PARTNER - CANTERBURY

Andy is the Head of Digital Technology at Christchurch Boys’ High School and is involved with Kiwibots, eSports and laptop refurbishment.

Prior to returning to Christchurch, Andy taught in Auckland and the UK. He is passionate about getting as many people involved in technology and innovation as possible. When possible he loves to travel but is settling for doing this virtually at the moment.

 

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LEON BOWIE
REGIONAL COORDINATOR - WELLINGTON

Leon is a passionate programmer with a love of robotics and education. He's competed in robotics for the last 5 years, becoming the National Rep for RoboCup.

 

Passionate mentor and coach with a focus on helping kids achieve their goals and has founded multiple trusts to achieve this work. He currently spends his time either at university or delivering courses to kids around technology.

Meet the team

Proudly supported by

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Board of Trustees

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Mike Hearn

Executive Director

AmCham

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Neerali Parbhu

Foundation Lead

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare

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Kate Thompson

Development Manager, Science
The University of Auckland

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Ant Self

Group Chief Financial Officer

Netlogix New Zealand

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Meleane Akauola

Student Support Advisor, Student Development & Engagement

University of Auckland

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Stephan van Haren

TIC Physics, DT and Robotics

St. Peter's College PN

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Greg Smale

Director

Smales Farm

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