Elf, who is currently completing his PhD in Physics at Victoria and was part of the University’s 2013 Know Your Mind recruitment campaign, was snapped up by the School of Engineering late last year to lead its new outreach programme.
His mission for the next three years is to travel around New Zealand secondary schools and excite students about engineering.
His school visits will include initiating hands-on projects, such as making and playing with robots.
“The programme will challenge stereotypes about what engineering is and where it can lead,” says Elf. “My work aims to help students be well prepared if they choose to pursue engineering at university.”
As part of his work, Elf helped to set up a robotics club for budding engineers in the Wellington region late last year. The group has been meeting once a week to build robots that can do set tasks.
Although mostly made up of students in their final years of secondary school, some of those taking part are as young as 11.
Elf says the group has taught him a lot about how to engage students. “It’s not the victories, but the near successes that get them excited,” he says. “It gives them a problem to solve and a feeling of accomplishment when they figure it out.”
Above all, Elf wants to show students the sense of community and collaboration that makes Victoria’s School of Engineering a great place to study.
“After all,” he says, “engineering is about people, not robots.”