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  • Terevaka Archaeological Outreach (TAO) 2015 field report:Engineering and renewable energy
  • Matthew Petney, Marilla Lamb, Dylan Shepardson, Britton L. Shepardson, Eduardo Arancibia, Beno Atán, Tea Belen, Gonzalo Droppelmann, Julia Godinez, Kamilha Haunani, Kiara Icka, Katalina Isla, Madison Ledesma, Omar Monares, Erin Mullin, Akivi Nahoe, Ariki Nahoe, Sara Sanford, and Tahira Tuki


For the past twelve years, Terevaka Archaeological Outreach (TAO) has offered educational programs for young people in the Rapa Nui community – focusing on the study and conservation of cultural resources. In 2014, local community leaders suggested that in addition to the successful archaeological outreach program, the island would benefit from an educational program that introduced young people to engineering and technology. During the ensuing ten months, we developed a hands-on engineering curriculum to be implemented in Spanish for a small group of high school students participating in the TAO 2015 program.

Since the inception of TAO, our most general goals have been to promote education and conservation on Rapa Nui. The engineering curriculum we piloted this year, with its theme of renewable energy, was a natural extension of our past focus on cultural resources – a parallel curriculum devoted to the conservation and sustainable exploitation of natural resources. Students applying to the 2015 TAO program elected to participate in either the engineering or the archaeology track, with seven participants opting into each of the two groups. Each group had its own set of activities and projects (see "Terevaka Archaeological Outreach (TAO) 2015 field report: Archaeology, conservation, and toponymy" in this edition of the Rapa Nui Journal).

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Figure 1.

TAO students and staff visit Ahu Akahanga.

For two weeks, TAO students and staff lived and worked together, camping on land provided by Explora Hotel and Mike Rapu. In addition to the activities and projects specific to the two tracks, the entire TAO cohort participated together in a number of excursions, activities, hiking trips, and a series of eight evening lectures by experts on the island's history, geology, wildlife, and archaeology (see Figure 1). The immersive nature of the program, and the sense of community it fosters among the participants, enables [End Page 52] students to accomplish a tremendous amount over the course of the two-week period and to make substantial progress on the projects they take on during the program. The program ended with a final presentation, hosted by Explora, where the student participants in the program presented their work to members of the local community.

Engineering Curriculum

Our ultimate aspiration for the engineering curriculum is to foster curiosity about science and technology in a new generation of leaders who will be grappling with questions about the island's energy and resource needs in the future.

The main challenge was to design a set of "lessons" that would be interesting to a group of students with no prior exposure to engineering, and relevant to the theme of sustainable development within the Rapa Nui community. To this end, each of the twelve roughly three-hour lessons included a significant hands-on component, so that students were working together to design, disassemble, reassemble, build, improve, and tinker with a variety of systems and machines (Figure 2).

The goals for these lessons were to instill in the students:

  1. 1. An understanding of the engineering design process.

  2. 2. Curiosity about the natural and mechanical world.

  3. 3. Experience working with tools to solve mechanical problems.

  4. 4. An understanding of the energy and resource needs of Rapa Nui.

  5. 5. Confidence in their ability to design and implement solutions to real-world problems.

  6. 6. Experience using mathematics to engineer solutions to real problems.

Beginning with the first project, which was to design and build paper airplanes, students worked to understand and implement the engineering design process (identify the problem, do background research, brainstorm possible solutions, choose a promising solution, build a prototype, test the prototype, redesign and improve the current iteration).

We talked extensively about the connections of the students' projects to Rapa Nui, and in particular about the energy and resource needs of the island. We visited the power plant run by SASIPA (, where the plant's operators gave the students a...


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