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Māori and Pasifika Superstars of STEAM

Celebrating some amazing Māori and Pasifika working in STEAM careers in Aotearoa, and some of the tupuna (ancestors) who paved the path forward.
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With the relaunch of our Love / Science exhibition, we want to celebrate these amazing Māori and Pasifika working in STEAM careers in Aotearoa, as well as the tupuna ancestors who paved the path forward.


STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths, or perhaps we should start saying PHMTP: Pūtaiao, Hangarau, Mātai Pūhanga, Toi, Pāngarau.


Tame Malcolm – Biosecurity Champion
Te Arawa
Tame Malcolm is part of the Leadership Group for BioHeritage and fuses mātauranga Māori with western science to manage the environment. He’s been working for the last ten years on understanding Māori ecological techniques and using them to eradicate pests in our environment. Tame wants to use his knowledge to help make Aotearoa pest-free by 2050.


Dr Pauline Harris - Astronomer
Rongomaowahine, Ngāti Rakaipaka, and Ngāti Kahungunu
Dr Pauline Harris has a PhD in astroparticle physics and is a key figure in the revitalisation of Māori astronomy. Her research looks for extra-solar planets and she is involved with teaching mātauranga Māori at Victoria University.


Sir Ian Taylor - Tech Guru
Ngāti Kahungunu and Nga Puhi
Sir Ian Taylor started his career as the lead singer in a rock band but soon moved into work as a TV presenter. In 1991 he started Animation Research Limited which has grown to become a leader in the industry. You can see his graphics when you watch the America’s Cup, international cricket, golf, advertisements, and shows.


Dr Rangi Mātāmua - Astronomer
Dr Rangi lives by the philosophy “Knowledge hidden isn’t knowledge at all.” He has pioneered the work of integrating traditional Mātauranga Māori with modern western knowledge and technology. He is the first Māori to win a Prime Minister's Science Prize for his work on Matariki in 2019 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.


Dr Ocean Mercier - Physicist
Ngāti Porou
Dr Ocean Mercier is a scientist, TV star, and all-around inspiring Wahine. She was the first Māori woman to earn a PhD in physics in 2002. Dr Mercier is interested in combining western science and Māori perspectives to help solve educational and environmental problems. In 2019, Dr Mercier received the Callaghan medal for science communication. Her work as a TV show host on Project Mātauranga illuminated how Māori people, knowledge, and methods can work with the scientific community to solve a variety of problems.


Sir Hugh Kāwharu – Academic, Leader
Ngāti Whātua 1927-2006
Sir Hugh Kāwharu is a legend of Ngāti Whātua. He earned a doctorate from Oxford, helped to design the University of Auckland’s Marae, negotiated treaty settlements, and headed the Anthropology department at the University of Auckland. Hugh Kāwharu had so many accomplishments that they could not possibly fit onto this blurb. Needless to say, he was a man of many talents!


Te Rangi Hīroa (Peter Buck)
Ngāti Muhunga 1877-1951
Te Rangi Hīroa was an absolute legend with an almost countless array of talents. He was a doctor, member of parliament, soldier, academic, museum director, and to top it all off, an Aotearoa long jump champion! Later in life, he dedicated himself to research and anthropology as a museum director in Hawaii. Aotearoa’s Te Rangi Hīroa medal is given to an Aotearoa academic every two years.


Rina Winifred Moore - Medicine
Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne, and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui 1923-1975
Rina was one of the first Māori women to graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and was a fierce advocate for mental health in Aotearoa. Rina spoke at the fourth International Congress of Social Psychiatry in Jerusalem in 1972 where she presented her work on the intersection of Māori health and mental health.


Lindah Lepou – Fashion Designer
Lindah is an Aotearoa-Samoan fashion designer who is bringing innovative ideas to the cutting table. She has always believed that Pacific fashion could be evolved and now is making moves to expand the designs and develop Pacific couture. She is a proud Fa’afafine and says she uses her femininity as a filter to inspire her designs. (Fa'afafine are people who identify themselves as having a third gender or non-binary role in Samoa. It is translated to western terms as “like a woman.”)


Alexia Hilbertidou – STEAM Leader/Entrepreneur
Samoan and Greek Descent
Alexia’s journey in STEAM began when she looked around her I.T. and physics classes and noticed that she was frequently the only girl there. At 16, she founded Girl Boss New Zealand. Girl Boss encourages teenage girls to participate more fully in leadership, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, and maths. They now have over 13,000 members and is Aotearoa’s largest women’s network.


Kahu (Kahupeka, Kahukeke, Kahurere) - Medicine
Tainui – 1400s
Kahu is an important ancestor of the Waikato. Kahu undertook a legendary journey through the King Country, while on her journey she fell ill and sought to find medicines using plants. She experimented with harakeke, koromiko, kawakawa, and rangiora and made significant contributions to traditional Māori Tohunga medicine.


Whakaotirangi - Botanist
Te Arawa - 1300s
Whakaotirangi was one of Aotearoa’s first scientists. She had the crucial role of caring for kūmara seeds on the great migratory waka, Te Arawa. After she succeeded in bringing these seeds to Aotearoa, Whakaotirangi experimented with growing and tending to a variety of plants. Without her, it would have been hard for Māori to survive.


Tupaia – Astronomer/Navigator
Tahitian - 1700s
Tupaia is one of the unsung heroes of the first contact between British and Māori in Aotearoa. Without his mediation it’s likely there would have been much more violence. Tupaia was an extremely gifted navigator and map maker. He used the stars and currents to guide himself and Captain Cook’s crew to Aotearoa.

STEAM Stars-collage3b

It’s important we continue to recognise Māori and Pasifika innovators, as indigenous innovation has thousands of years of evidence. We are stronger together. To the next generation of STEAM leaders, keep pushing, and ka pai for getting this far!

Whaowhia te kete mātauranga, fill the basket of knowledge.

Story by Phoebe Drayton, MOTAT Educator


MOTAT's Love / Science Exhibition

Providing Future-World Pathways Into STEM careers

Māori Educational Providers

Pasifika in STEM

Pushing Hard for Pasifika Achievement in STEM

Learn more about each profiled STEAM Star:

Tame Malcolm

Dr Pauline Harris

Sir Ian Taylor

Dr Rangi Mātāmua

Dr Ocean Mercier

Sir Hugh Kāwharu

Te Rangi Hīroa (Peter Buck)

Rina Winifred Moore

Lindah Lepou

Alexia Hilbertidou




Cite this article:
Drayton, Phoebe. 2022. Māori and Pasifika Superstars of STEAM. New Zealand: The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). First published: 19 January 2022. URL