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Source: Electric Kiwi

Electric Kiwi has joined forces with Auckland University of Technology to make a tangible step in closing the gap in STEM diversity. The electricity retailer is collaborating with the University’s Women in STEM programme by connecting students with industry mentors and providing opportunities to work on real world business problems, giving a commercial element to their learning. The programme kicked off with a virtual Hackathon event on 2-3 September.

Running over two years, Electric Kiwi’s support will see it engage with women in AUT’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses. The programme will help them overcome barriers they may face as a woman in STEM, gain industry exposure, and help build out their portfolio of experience which will further enable them to obtain a job in STEM post university.

The Hackathon event combined the best of this activity by giving STEM students real-world experience by challenging them to work in teams and solve an Electric Kiwi problem.

Twenty-four under-graduate and post-graduate students participated in the Hackathon event. Using Electric Kiwi’s Juice Hacker developer platform – built in-house using open-source – their challenge was to provide customers with ways to optimise their electricity usage and ultimately save more in their power bill. It was an online event, in line with alert level four restrictions.

The scoring looked at the build and presentation of the solution as well as how the team worked together.

The winning team of four Masters of Analytics students, who named themselves Team Robin after their favourite university professor, designed an in-app calculator allowing customers to check electricity consumption rates of different household appliances. They mapped appliance usage on a graph against the customer’s consumption on an hourly basis, and also compared usage to other appliances. The team showed great problem-solving ability in meeting the criteria of the brief, with a fantastic presentation to the panel that saw them take the team prize of $5000.

Co-founder and director of Electric Kiwi Huia Burt, was impressed with the results delivered in the Hackathon but most importantly, was excited to see the students gaining valuable on-the-job experience ahead of their STEM careers.

“While there is significant interest in a range of STEM study fields, women remain under-represented in the top jobs of science and technology.

“Given the strategic importance of STEM fields for New Zealand’s future, Electric Kiwi wants to ensure women have equitable access to education and careers in these sectors.”

Associate Dean – Engagement at Auckland University of Technology Dr Yvonne Chan was also pleased to see the results of its students and see the opportunity for them to present themselves in front of a leader in the STEM industries.

“Our graduates are known for entering the workforce with real-life, practical experience. Having Electric Kiwi on board to connect with more than 840 female STEM students takes what they are learning in lectures and brings it to life.

“We are proud to be supporting the futures of women in STEM and are excited to see their careers unfold.”

Over the next two years, Electric Kiwi’s collaboration with AUT will include a rolling mentorship programme, Electric Kiwi Speaker Series and networking events.