Samoan brings Pacific voice to engineering

A Samoan engineer says he is seeking to bring culture into his profession and give the Pacific community a voice in the field.

Samoan Luke Fitzpatrick completed his Engineering degree in 2020 and graduated from the University of Auckland in 2021 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with First Class Honours in Engineering Science.

Mr. Fitzpatrick received a Ministry for Pacific Peoples Toloa Tertiary Scholarship to assist him in his final year of studies, the department said. 

The Toloa Tertiary Scholarships cover tertiary tuition fees and compulsory course related fees up to $10,000 for one year of full time study for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) -related courses and subjects.

Mr. Fitzpatrick now has a position at Beca, one of Asia Pacific’s largest independent advisory, design and engineering consultancies, as a Transportation Engineer where he works on transport projects, aimed at improving communities and keeping people safe.

According to the statement, he also has a key role in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Team at Beca, helping to bring Samoan and Pacific culture into technology, and give a voice to our Pacific communities.

“We started the Talanoa Project, where we created multilingual and multicultural virtual agents which listen to people’s views, aspirations, and feedback in whichever language people feel comfortable with, be that English or Samoan,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said in the Ministry of Pacific Peoples statement.

 “I worked with communities and found our Pacific people, especially the older generations, relish the opportunities to have a conversation in a culturally familiar way.”

In terms of AI, he explained that the most valuable aspect there is in new technology is the ability not only to just translate a language, but to understand a culture and know how to speak and present information in a culturally appropriate way.

“This can’t be done by any translation service; it can only be done by Pacific people who understand the culture.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick said that  it was an honour to be a recipient of a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship, explaining that it gave him confidence in his abilities and made him appreciate even more the success of all Pacific who paved the way and are still helping and giving opportunities to the people.

He encourages people to apply for the programme, because according to him, it allows people to see why Pacific people, their knowledge and values are so important in the modern workforce.

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