Venture Taranaki has announced four new Curious Minds community science projects, bringing the total number of projects in the region to 50 since 2015

Led by Venture Taranaki and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Curious Minds works with school and community groups who have questions or ideas that can be explored or tested with science. Teams partner with the science or technology expertise to help them engage with science and understand more about topics relevant to them.
 
The four new projects reflect a variety of our regionally strategic goals and aspirations, aligning with our community vision for a better tomorrow, through community-based, innovative research. The new projects span mushrooms cultivation from spent coffee grounds, applying traditional Māori knowledge and indigenous dying methodologies to innovate current textile manufacturing, trialling solar-powered sound lures for pest traps, and an investigation into drone-based kiwi location technology.
 
“Our newly funded projects are about to start their Curious Minds journey, exploring their ideas through a collaborative research model that promotes the development of science and technology capability in Taranaki through locally relevant and community driven investigation,” explains Justine Gilliland Venture Taranaki chief executive.
 
 “It’s pleasing to see our projects this year will directly contribute to many of the action areas identified by our community in the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap. From projects that focus on health and wellbeing and environmental sciences, to food and fibre and the Māori economy, it’s fantastic that this platform can be utilised to support our community’s development across a wide variety of sectors.”
 
“The great thing about science and technology research is that even when things don’t work to plan, the results are often just as interesting and can lead to more interesting questions and lines of enquiry. The Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform (PSP) allows our community to be inquisitive and have the freedom to explore without fear of failure.”
 
“It is also important to recognise the huge amount of work that has already gone into these projects before they get to this point. Building project partnerships and the detailed planning work required for project delivery take time and resource, and the quality of the proposals this year is a credit to the passionate and motivated teams that put them together,” concludes Josh Richardson, Venture Taranaki Project Co-ordinator.
 
The Taranaki community  has been busy investing in and backing these projects too; alongside the $820,000 Curious Minds has allocated to projects since 2015, Taranaki individuals, organisations and enterprises have given from their own pocket, almost matching the region’s funding to date through in-kind and co-funded project support, that sees the total value of these projects now reaching $1.5 million.
 
 The core objective of Curious Minds PSP is to build capability, and a life-long interest and fascination with science, through engaging, real world research, to inspire and provide relevance as to how science forms a critical part of our daily lives.
 
 “These projects represent an exciting opportunity for not only those conducting them, but the wider Taranaki region too, often bringing together youth, community, enterprise and science and research,” explains Josh.
 
“We’re extremely proud to be announcing these projects today, and excited to see how these projects progress, and to share their progress and the stories of those involved along the way,” says Justine
 
These next projects are getting underway now, as the groups begin their journey to explore, validate and evolve their thinking.
 
About the new projects
 
Haurapa Kiwi – Taranaki Kiwi Trust
Haurapa Kiwi is a project which aims to change the way kiwi are monitored in Taranaki. All kiwi translocations to new areas require monitoring of birds for 1-2 years after they are released. The current method for tracking kiwi involves using telemetry equipment from the ground. To track non-territorial sub-adult kiwi, a fixed wing plane is often used as young birds on Mt Taranaki have been known to move up to 12km after they are released. This combination of methods is both time consuming and expensive. The Taranaki Kiwi Trust is working with Drone Technologies NZ and Oakura School to research whether telemetry equipment can be attached to a drone, and then test its efficiency in locating kiwi. If successful, this could allow a more economical and more accurate method of kiwi detection and monitoring.
 
He Whenua, He Tangata, He Oranga: A Fashionable Fight – Whiri Design
In an industry where environmental and social impacts are catastrophic, the fashion sectors’ public image remains largely unscathed.  Referred to by the United Nations as “an environmental and social emergency”, the $2.75 trillion fashion industry produces almost 20% of the world’s wastewater and contributes to 10% of global greenhouse gas. Led by Whiri Design, A Fashionable Fight: He Tangata, He Whenua, He Oranga sets out to explore how indigenous textile development and pedagogies intersects with 21st century commercial design and production methods within the fashion industry.  Supported by Dr Steve McNeil of AgResearch and local Mātauranga Māori experts and Māori Art Practitioners, students from Te Wharekura o Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai i Rangiātea will lead an exploration of how traditional Māori knowledge and indigenous dying methodologies can innovate current textile manufacturing processes and systems.
 
Ground Breaking Mushrooms – The Bishop’s Action Foundation
Mushrooms and coffee. For many people this will sound like a match made in heaven. For The Bishop’s Action Foundation and Spotswood College, this partnership of bean and fungi is the focus of research. Spent coffee grounds collected from cafes are an ideal substrate ingredient for growing oyster mushrooms. The grounds are full of unspent energy and, through the process of coffee making, are pasteurised. Students will work with local mushroom growing expert Matthew Williams and their school science department to experiment with how different substrate mixes and environmental variables effect mushroom growth. Results from this study will help the development of a social enterprise dedicated to utilising spent coffee grounds from cafes around Taranaki.
 
Auroa School Sound Lures – Auroa School
Auroa School are investigating the way sound can be used to increase the efficiency of pest traps. Students have been working with their teacher Myles Webb and local engineer Andrew Hornblow to develop weather tight, solar powered devices capable of emitting any pre-recorded sound. The first step will be to work with local landowners to see if sound lures help attract possums to traps. Following this further refinement of the device will take place, and conservation groups will be invited to trial the lures and provide feedback on their utility.