Opening May 25, Te Puawānanga is set to radically redefine the way our tamariki engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with the development marking the most significant investment in visitor experience at Auckland’s iconic transport and technology museum in more than a decade.
Background image


Media release 2 May 2024

Tear up the textbooks and skip the boring lessons, MOTAT’s new Science and Technology Centre is a quantum leap in making learning fun.

Opening May 25, Te Puawānanga is set to radically redefine the way our tamariki engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with the development marking the most significant investment in visitor experience at Auckland’s iconic transport and technology museum in more than a decade.

With science achievement in New Zealand schools in decline and a pattern of disengagement with STEM subjects from a young age, Te Puawānanga addresses a growing need to remove education barriers and shake up the way curious young learners grasp these fundamental topics.

Exploring everything from light and colour to energy and matter, forces, motion and more, visitors can expect an upright rainbow, multigenerational friction slide and a reflection room as just some of the key interactives.

Working with local knowledge holder Pita Turei, the centre also explores science and technology unique to Aotearoa. Celebrating the different knowledge systems in use, Te Puawānanga is a site for playful learning and exploration that is relevant and accessible to all young minds.

At the helm of the project, lead exhibition developer Esther Tobin says the centre will play a pivotal role in fueling the minds of young people throughout Tāmaki Makaurau and beyond. Under her watch, every interaction and experience in Te Puawānanga is packed full of potential to meet the physical, social and learning needs of visitors of all ages.

“Families are hungry for inviting environments that foster learning and creativity, teachers are eager for science and technology experiences with clear curriculum alignment and universities are concerned about the number of young people moving into some of these areas at a tertiary level.

"We are addressing these needs with this new centre by hooking our young people, along with their families and educators, in early and nurturing their curiosity and potential.”

Research underscores the significant influence a child's early career aspirations will have on their future professions. In a recent report compiled by the Tertiary Education Commission Te Amorangi Mātuaranga Matua (2020), data cites that children who do not express interest in STEM careers by the age of 10 are unlikely to develop an interest by age 14.

"We have a crucial moment in time to capture a child's imagination – if by14 it's too late, zero to 10 is our sweetspot to instill a love for science and discovery that carries through their teen and tertiary years,” adds Tobin, who brings more than a decade's experience in museum design and development specifically.

"Te Puawānanga can be the touchstone that bridges this gap; a place to play and create, building a pipeline of curious kids fascinated by science and technology knowledge specific to our part of the world."

Steeped in 60 years of rich history, MOTAT has long been New Zealand’s hallmark of how things work. While heritage steam trains, trams and trucks remain, Te Puawānanga marks the evolution of exploration and inquiry, and New Zealand’s rich cultural identity befitting of the 21st century.

“This is a centre distinctively of this place, and when you step inside the centre you truly feel that,” says Tobin.

"Learning is for everyone, and science and technology is all around us – and for our young people in Aotearoa, sharing this knowledge in a way that resonates with their own world view is vital to their engagement.”

The facility's 2295 sqm footprint comprises three distinct spaces; each with carefully curated learning opportunities that meet the developmental needs of children at all ages and stages.

• Te Tumu is a soft-play space designed especially for under-five-year-olds that calls upon nature as our teacher. MOTAT's tiniest tamariki are invited to tinker and use their natural intuition in a safe, comfortable playground layered with technology, science and mātauranga Māori. Tactile features include a puna (spring), kūmara garden, harakeke (flax) weaving, and a pūriri grove that creates a nest for little ones to play in.

• Te Puku is the belly, a central space for upper-aged children (up to 10 years) to delve deeper into the science and technology that surrounds them. Dive into a dynamic world where the mysteries of light, colour, energy, forces, motion and more come to life in unexpected ways.

• Te Waha is visitors’ chance to have a go in a multi-purpose space housing everything from after-school clubs to science demonstrations and collection displays in The Magic Box. Here, guests can take on self-led design challenges and learn about some of the best tech currently in Aotearoa.

The landmark project four years in the making is the culmination of a wide range of renowned creatives, industry experts and knowledge-holders from across Aotearoa, and receives esteemed endorsement from Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor.

"Te Puawānanga promises to energise our young people and motivate them to question the world around them. STEM can give them, and their teachers, the tools to answer these questions and bring the excitement it imbues back to the classroom.”

Not only is Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard a fan of Te Puawānanga, she's a feature. Her contributions to the advancement of science locally are immortalised in ink alongside other innovators of Aotearoa in the Agents of Change exhibit in the Te Puku gallery, comprising a selection of drawings imagined by Kiwi illustrator, Toby Morris.

"I’m really chuffed to be included in this, especially because I’ve been drawn by my all-time favourite cartoonist,” says Gerrard. "And it is great to see science advice recognised as an agent of change, and included as part of the science ecosystem making a difference in Aotearoa.”

Garnering widespread support from the science and technology community both here and abroad, Te Puawānanga is the collaborative smarts of valued partners and advisors including the Pūhoro STEMM Academy, Science Alive and Te Whai Ao Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies. MOTAT also received generous support and advice from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in the development and naming of the centre.


About the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

MOTAT uses the past, present and future technology and ingenuity of Aotearoa to educate and inspire the innovators of tomorrow. Experience interactive learning and exploration through exhibitions, events and education programmes. With changing exhibitions, school holiday experiences, unique events and live activities, MOTAT is a great family-friendly destination to explore, learn, discover and spark imaginations.

For further information or interviews, please contact Undertow Media:

Ash McEnaney Tel: 021 177 8043 ash@undertowmedia.com

Holly Muller Tel: 021 258 6125 holly@undertowmedia.com

Our valued supporters

White logo sponsors