Pupils motoring on derby car project

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Demolition, rugby and racing are the makings of an exciting project for a group of Cromwell College pupils.

They are working with former rugby league sportsman and sprintcar racer Whetu Taewa to create a demolition derby car.

Taking part in the project are year 9 pupils Matty Paranihi, Trent Ainsley, RJ Thompson, Mac Emeny and Tia Cullen.

When completed, the car will be able to race in a demolition derby at the Central Motor Speedway, Mr Taewa said.

The work included stripping out the interior fittings, removing all the glass and installing safety bars.

“Then, eventually, we will be painting it up and selecting someone they would like to drive in it.”

The pupils had a lot of questions and were learning the rules and regulations of the speedway, Mr Taewa said.

Life skills included working together and understanding how to be safe in a workshop environment.

The pupils had agreed on a set of rules and if they “stepped out of line” they would not be able to continue with the project, so there was an incentive to follow the rules, Mr Taewa said.

“At the end of the day, it is for them and it is about them.”

Pupil Trent said making the demolition car was fun but also hard work, which he enjoyed.

“It is actually quite cool learning all the new things.”

So far, they had “ripped it out completely and put in new seatbelts”.

Next was installing a safety bar behind the driver’s seat to make it safer.

They had taken it out for a test drive the other day, he said.

“It is real fun.”

The project began when Mr Taewa approached the college about how he could be a mentor to pupils.

Year 9 dean Kieran Parsons said Mr Taewa was a great male role model, having achieved success both in sports and business.

“You really can’t have enough positive role models in the lives of young people – the more the better.”

The project supported pupils at the school who “learn by doing and getting their hands dirty”.

The college recognised learning happened in a “number of different ways”, and this project enabled the pupils to connect learning at school to learning in life, Mr Parsons said.

“The boys get a chance to work in a group, to work on a project and to have a common goal.”

As well as year 9 boys, the group included year 12 pupil Tia Cullen as a peer mentor.

Year 12 pupils were not part of the official peer mentoring programme that began at year 13, but Tia was selected as suitable, Mr Parsons said.

“We selected her because she has a real passion for speedway, and she also has a passion for peer mentoring.

“Those two things aligned beautifully for her to be part of this programme.”

The project would continue into next year, and they aim to have the car ready for next year’s demolition derby in March.