We believe that our environment is vital to our future wellbeing, our tūrangawaewae – where we live, learn, work and play. It is our home, our identity and very much the foundation of our culture and traditions. Embracing modern and traditional methods from tangata whenua, we connect to be a part of, not apart from the environment.

We also believe that the world is changing fast, and we need to empower our future generations to prosper in an uncertain future, and to care for our place, Papatūānuku.

The global needs for clean water, good food, cheap energy, flourishing flora and fauna, warm and dry housing, affordable healthcare and accessible learning are growing exponentially.

There is an opportunity here for us all, for New Zealand to be the centre of, no the gravity well of, excellence for enviro-tech. For our people to become the innovators that change the world, for real.

Technology is just a tool. It can do some clever things, but it is as clever as the people designing it are. Technology has more purpose when the people implementing it have a purpose.

We exist to connect people with the environment to teach them new skills to care for and innovate in it, using technology.

The Institute of Awesome was founded by Vaughan Fergusson and Zoe Timbrell in 2019 as part of their charitable foundation, the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust, to be a venue for the many educational programmes the Trust currently runs, and to form new programmes in the community moving forward.

The centre was established in 1974 as an outdoor education camp. 45 years later it is being “re-booted” as an outdoor enviro-tech education camp. We will be hosting schools and community groups again, who want to learn how to use technology to care for the environment.

Our goal is to make outdoor and technology education accessible to anyone, any school, any group. School camps are closing, and those that remain are becoming too expensive to run to be an option for many schools to pay for.

Our mission is to make the school camp model work again.

We believe we can do this by engaging with both industry and Government to return to them a benefit to businesses, schools and communities.

The programmes

We do this with 3 main activities at the centre:

  1. We host camps.
    These are where youth come to learn and explore and innovate. It’s as you would imagine a school camp would be. A the lodge in the bush, with everyone living together, sharing food together, learning together and building life-long experiences together in the outdoors. We teach the kids enviro-tech skills so they learn how to innovate with technology alongside outdoor education. We teach them to become our future enviro-tech innovators.
    We can assist schools with funding for camps.

  2. We are an accredited facility to train teachers.
    We host professional development workshops and retreats for schools to learn the curriculum. Our MoE accredited facilitators focus on technology, digital skills, science and outdoor education.
    We can help schools with funding for these workshops from the Ministry of Education.

  3. We provide leadership development to businesses.
    Using our unique venue we invite industry to come and develop their future leaders in a new way, by helping build and design projects, facilities and content that kids and educators will use at the centre. By doing this they also sponsor schools to come.
    We can tailor exclusive residencies to suit corporates.

As a not-for-profit we use all net proceeds from our programmes to subsidise and sponsor schools to use the camp.

Community projects

Everyone who visits the centre works on a community project. Through consultation we work with local communities to find out what their needs, challenges and opportunities are, then we develop projects that solve that need or can take advantage of an opportunity to benefit that community.

We consider how technology can be used in the project, and we involve local industry in designing the potential solutions. We then develop, with industry and educators, these projects so groups visiting the centre can pick them up and continue running with them over time.

The projects are designed by industry, but built by students. We call these projects Secret Projects (shhh).

Over time, depending on the scale of the project, many schools may be involved in undertaking the project, each contributing a part. They may build something in the workshop, perform some research, programme software, install sensors in the environment. Whatever the project needs.

Once the project is complete, it is gifted back to the community in an engaging and informative way. The project will then live on in the community, continuing to foster curiosity and learning.

Support we need

We need support to make the Institute of Awesome succeed. There are a number of ways support can be provided.

We are looking for sponsorship partners to help fund some of the new facilities as well as cover the day to day operational costs of the centre. We can structure sponsorship packages to suit. Contact Vaughan or Zoe for information on how to become a sponsor of the Institute of Awesome.

Leadership residencies
By registering your company and team to attend one of our monthly leadership residencies you contribute to the learning materials and content at the centre as well as sponsor one or more schools to attend. To find out more about our residencies click here.

Professional development for educators
If you are a principal, HOD or an educator you can elect to attend our professional development programmes at the centre. Most often these programmes are funded by the Ministry of Education and we can help you secure funding for these. To find out more about our PLD programmes click here.

Attend a camp
By picking The Institute of Awesome as your school or youth camp, you help support us. We have a full programme of activities we can tailor to suit your school, and we can provide funding assistance for schools who may require it. To find out how to book your camp click here.

Sponsor a kid or a school via a donation. All donations are made to the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust and are 100% directed to a school or programme.


Our programmes

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Enviro-tech Camps

Our enviro-tech camps are for schools and community groups who want to have an immersive experience at the lodge, learning technology skills in a practical format. Activities include design, programming, engineering and electronics applied to projects in the outdoor environment.

We explore power generation, conservation, water, food production and the history of the land using technology in a fun hands-on format.

Build sensors in the bush that measure what’s going on with CO2, pests, birds, the water and soil then take those sensors back to your school to share the learning with other kids and parents.

A modern take on the “old school” camp model.

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Tech Training for Educators

We are an accredited provider of professional development for the Ministry of Education and we run technology workshops for teachers who want to learn STEAM and design.

Learn programming, electronics and the 2020 digital technology curriculum for schools with our accredited facilitators.

The technology skills learnt are able to be taken back to the classroom with practical projects the kids can learn from at school.

Our workshops are single or multi day, and can be run along side our kids enviro-tech camps so teachers and students can learn the technology curriculum together.

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Corporate residencies

We hold multi-day residencies for 20 professionals to collaborate together on a technology project for the centre that solves a community problem.

Each residency is themed to a particular technology, e.g. IoT, Energy, Wireless, Recycling, Machine Learning/AI, Smart Towns

Build something together utilising latest technology with the goal to leave it behind as a project for kids to continue and learn from.

These are great opportunities for corporate leadership development, CSR and a way for young people to have vocational experiences.

Send your future leaders to join a cohort of others in our enviro-tech workshops to team build, learn some new tricks and make a difference to the environment at the same time.