Year 9 Wairarapa College students Mackenzie Tait and Stella Smurthwaite are this year’s ‘Build a Better Future’ winners in the national Minecraft competition. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

From complete newbies to the game, two Wairarapa College students have gone on to claim this year’s ‘Build a Better Future’ winners in the national Minecraft competition.

Year 9 students Stella Smurthwaite and Mackenzie Tait not only won in their age bracket but were also named the overall winners in the competition run by Interface, an ICT technology magazine for education establishments.

Neither having really played the game before, both were surprised to win after being encouraged to sign up by their group teacher, Richard Swallow, who is also the Head of Digital Technology at the college.

Tait said Swallow wouldn’t let them play during group time unless they entered the competition.

“Before we did the competition, we never really played Minecraft.

“It was new to us. So, we were very, very surprised.”

Their Minecraft version of a better world included lots of solar panels, rooftop gardens, a massive house for the homeless and enclosures for endangered animals.

It took about seven weeks and some initial planning to build what the group decided a better future looked like.

Tait was especially passionate about a solution for rising homelessness.

“I hate walking past people on the street and I try to give them some change if I have any on me. Social studies made us more aware of it.”

She was also concerned about the impact of fossil fuels, covering buildings in solar panels, and providing charging stations for electric cars.

For others interested in entering the competition, she said it was important to be creative and patient with planning it out.

Swallow said the four-minute video tour of their world which made up the entry was nowhere near long enough to cover the massive number of things they created.

“Neither of the girls take my subject, but I pitched the competition across all age groups, and they were the only two to put up their hands.”

The two spent many breaks and lunchtimes in the computer room working on the project.

“They would race across school to get into the classroom as soon as they could to maximise the time they had. All I did was to help them decompose the brief and brainstorm what a sustainable future might look like and they were off.”

He said it also had potential for cross-disciplinary curriculum.

The judges praised the group’s focus on the issue of homelessness as it was a growing problem in the country.

The group took home a Meccano super construction set prize for winning the secondary level category and a laptop in the overall category.

  • More information including a link to a video tour of their Minecraft world can be found online at interfaceonline.co.nz/2020/07/31/minecraftwinners2020.