Northland’s Flying Toasters underwater robot team ready to take on world – fundraising permitting

Parua Bay School Aquabot team, The Floating Toasters – Alex Balcombe, Issy Nudds and Max Stallworthy – won the Intermediate class of the NZ National Aquabot finals in December and Issy and Alex are now furiously fundraising to get to the US in May for the international finals

The Flying Toasters are set to take on the world with their underwater robot – but first – some of the Northland student team need to raise money to get to the US to take part in the international Aqubot competition in May.

The Floating Toasters – Alex Balcombe, Issy Nudds and Max Stallworthy from Parua Bay – won the Intermediate class of the New Zealand National Aquabot finals in Tauranga in December, earning the right to represent New Zealand at the international STEM competition final to be held at Maryland University, Washington DC, in May.

The competition includes challenges outside the pool including a presentation to judges and submitting a technical engineering design report before the event for teams to demonstrate the scientific and engineering knowledge behind their Aquabot.

The trio were excited to have won their section of the national competition, and the right to represent their country in a major STEM – science, technology, engineering, and maths – competition to take on their counterparts from across the globe. But then the reality hit of how to get there, Lisa Clough, Issy’s mum said.


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Clough has started a give-a-little page to get Issy and Alex to the finals, with Max’s family able to fund his trip.

There is also an “amazing race’ event at Parua Bay School on April 30 to raise funds for the pair.

‘’They were really stoked when they won, but then reality hit of how are we going to get them there,’’ Clough said.

‘’They are representing their country and we couldn’t just say ‘sorry, we can’t afford it’ to them after all the hard work they had put in to get there. They won the right to be there and it’s all about the use of STEM, which is really important.


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‘’It’s also an opportunity to show what they have learned and their achievements so far.’’

She said the students also understood that it was important for them to give something back so they would also be giving talks to other schools to get more kids interested and excited about the possibilities of STEM, and where it could take them.

Clough said they held a stall at the recent ArtBeat event in Whangārei, and judging by the reaction of other children, STEM activities certainly excite and entertain.

‘’The kids were just mesmerised by the underwater robot and it definitely keeps them engaged. It’s pretty cool and they learn so much at the same time.’’

To donate to get the team to the US go to

To find out more about the Amazing Race fundraiser Amazing Race email

The money raised will go towards the cost of airfares and accommodation.

Gareth Bodle, who organises the NZ Aquabots competitions and who is helping several school teams get to the US for the finals, said this won’t just be a trip playing with underwater robots for the students, but a chance to get educational opportunities normally not open to them.

‘’This is going to be a great experience for them all. It’s not just a trip to compete with their Aquabots against the rest of the world or a visit to a theme park,’’ Bodle said.

‘’They will get the chance to visit the United Nations and a marine research centre to look at conservation and shoreline restoration. We’re also hoping to get them to the Rocket Lab launch site and they will go to a major naval base and museum. They will get educational opportunities that are normally closed off to people, but because they are recognised as national winners competing on the world stage, they will get access to them.


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‘’This will be a wonderful trip for them.’’

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