Pacific perspective valued in STEM problem solving

posted: 8:00 pm - 15th March 2020
auR8msLQ

(Picture caption: Aisea, centre, with his parents Siaosi and Michele Fanamanu at the Northern Region Toloa Awards in Auckland.)

Civil and Environmental engineering student Aisea Fanamanu believes seeing more brown faces in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, Pacific students will find it easier to envision themselves on the same paths.

The 22-year-old is in his fourth year of his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at the University of Auckland, and is a 2020 Toloa Tertiary Scholarship recipient.

Toloa Tertiary Scholarships are funded by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) to support Pacific students to pursue studies in STEM subjects.

As a recipient, Aisea says he hopes to inspire more students to take up STEM-related subjects by being successful in his field and being a good role model.

“My goal is to work on infrastructure projects throughout the Pacific region,” he says. 

“I believe a lot can be done in the Pacific islands in terms of infrastructure which can help to benefit everyone in the region.”

Of Tongan descent, Aisea was born and raised in Auckland but moved back to Tonga to finish his secondary school education, exposing him to his culture and things he says he took for granted.

Following high school, Aisea decided to pursue a career in Engineering.

“Personally, I saw engineering as a natural path to go down as I enjoyed Maths and Science at high school and wanted to pursue the practical side of those subjects. 

“I also saw Civil and Environmental Engineering as a path to be involved in infrastructure projects - the space I want to work in.”

As part of his Engineering studies, Aisea has interned with GHD as an undergraduate Water Engineer and held a tutoring role with the Genesis programme at university, where he tutored Māori and Pacific students who did not meet the entry requirements into Engineering after Level 3 NCEA.

In the summer of 2018, Aisea undertook a literature review in the use of indigenous knowledge in Engineering, not only in New Zealand but globally.

He says it is vital to have more Pacific people in STEM as they are under-represented in these areas. 

“Pacific people can bring a unique perspective to solving some of the problems we face as a society.”

With his skills and knowledge, Aisea hopes to be able to positively impact New Zealand and the Pacific region soon.

Aisea is one of 13 Toloa Tertiary Scholarship recipients in 2020, who stem from around New Zealand.

Visit MPP for more information about the Toloa Programme.