Hukerenui School represents New Zealand in the USA

Airpoints™ for Schools gave Hukerenui School's Problem Solving Team the chance to compete in the international finals in Wisconsin.

After taking out first place at the Future Problem Solving New Zealand national finals, four students from Hukerenui School had the opportunity to fly to Wisconsin, United States to compete on the global stage. They did us all proud – taking out first place in their international division. An incredible achievement for the students coming from a small rural area in Northland.

The Hukerenui pupils had dreamt about the trip for months. Flying on a plane for an overseas journey was exciting enough, but the thought of representing their country heightened the anticipation. Thanks to Airpoints for Schools, the opportunity inspired the students to take on the challenge and give it their very best.

At the competition, the Responsible Agricultural Team of Scientists (RATS team) showcased their hard work towards saving and improving their school's agricultural projects. From growing and distilling lavender and Manuka oils, farming alpacas for fibre, planting an orchard, farming maize and caring for a beehive, Hukerenui School had cultivated outdoor projects to encourage authentic and hands-on learning. However, the budding entrepreneurs realised that the school's ventures were unlikely to succeed with current resource and capability. They had a problem to solve.

Competing against the world's best young problem solvers, the RATS team had to prove their process was authentic and show that their solutions made a difference in their community. The experience developed the student's analytical thinking processes and capability to implement solutions, while building their knowledge of science, sustainability and social enterprise. Not to mention the personal growth that came from competing at such a high level – they saw first-hand the results of focus, drive and persistence. Seeing 2,500 other students come together from all over the world was inspiring and the young Kiwis felt a sense of pride singing the New Zealand National Anthem at the opening ceremony.

After the competition, exploring San Francisco was incredibly eye-opening for the students. Coming from rural Northland, the sheer size of the malls, petrol stations and universities was beyond belief. Always finding an opportunity to learn, the students made scientific discoveries at the Exploratorium and learnt all about the Mississippi River while cruising on a riverboat. The kids' dreams came true at the end of the trip when they were given the opportunity to visit Disneyland, Universal Studios and Madame Tussard's wax museum in Los Angeles. A true celebration of their hard work and achievement.

"One of the most exciting things was when Air New Zealand invited us up to the front of the plane to sit in the pilot's seat and put on a head-set. It was also really cool to see the pilot's controls. Thank you to Air New Zealand for the amazing experience." - Holly Hayes, Year 8 student at Hukerenui School.