Father encouraged passion for problem solving that led her to internship with engineering firm

Tongan engineering student Sela Maka hopes to be the first female Pacific student to gain a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours from Massey University.

She was the first recipient of the King Tupou VI Coronation scholarship.

Maka is the second youngest of five children and comes from the village of Lotoha’api Ha’ateiho.

She spent part of her childhood in Fiji.

Maka said her parents had worked hard and made sacrifices to help her better herself.

Her late father was a commercial farmer and in the holidays she would go back to Tonga to help him sell his crops.

She said helping her father helped her see the importance of resource management in the region as well as developing her passion for problem solving.

“I developed a zing for problem solving while in high school,” she said.

“It became more evident in subjects like calculus, physics and chemistry,” she said.

She was Dux of Tonga High School in 2016.

“My dad showed me how agriculture plays a big role in Tonga and other Pacific countries,”she said.

She said if Tonga found ways to manage its food, water and energy more efficiently, it could become more secure.

Maka is one of this year’s Pacific Co-operation Foundation internees.

She is doing her internship with global engineering consultancy GHD.

“This will allow me to be learn how the New Zealand engineering field formulate solutions towards sustainability, and then I will be able to apply what I learn here, in Tonga”

“Because I come from a small country and a small village, this internship is my proudest achievement so far,” she said.

Maka said she hoped she would inspire other Pacific women to study STEM subjects – science,technology, engineering and maths – and work in those areas.

A recent UNESCO study said STEM fields were crucial for sustainable development because they helped find solutions to climate change, global health epidemics, and increased income inequality.

However, the report said that female students were more likely to study science rather than mathematics and that the percentage of female engineers in an Asia-Pacific survey was extremely low.

The main points

  • Tongan engineering student Sela Maka hopes to be the first female Pacific student to gain a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours from Massey University.
  • Makas is the second youngest of five children and comes from the village of Lotoha’api Ha’ateiho.
  • Maka is one of this year’s Pacific Co-operation Foundation internees, working with  global engineering consultancy GHD.

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Stemming the flow

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