The shortage of science, engineering and technology graduates is cramping New Zealand’s economic growth potential and limiting companies’ business prospects. It topped the concerns of American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand members in its 2007 survey.

The search for a solution has led a North Shore office park to a US initiative that pits robots against each other in a team sport that involves 32,000 students in seven countries.

“[Today’s students] are at a different level of sophistication,” says Smales Farm Technology Office Park advisory board chairman Diana Twigden. “Everyone is concerned that young people today get to understand technological careers. You have to capture them at school to do certain subjects.”

So Smales Farm, which boasts EDS, TelstraClear and Sovereign among its tenants, has done a deal to bring New Zealand into the First (For inspiration and recognition of science and technology) Robotics Competition.

In the competition, large robots (up to 55kg and 1.5m tall) fight each other at annual competition that has been running in the US for 17 years.

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