Noel Leeming pimps its ride, hits the road to give Kiwis a taste of technology—UPDATED

The founder of The Warehouse, Sir Stephen Tindall, is putting plenty of energy into philanthropic causes these days. And the chief executive of The Warehouse Group, Mark Powell, has given the brand a boost with the promise of a living wage for some staff and discussions about the size of his own salary. And, as part of the company’s communities and environment strategy, it’s also built a high-tech truck for Noel Leeming that promises to bring the wonders of technology to New Zealand’s most remote and least advantaged communities. 

Almost like a real-life version of Spark’s Tech in a Sec, or a tech-related version of Sovereign’s Action Unit, the Mobile Learning Centre will visit up to 160 communities throughout New Zealand over the next two years and let students, parents, teachers, senior citizens and community groups experience first hand some of the world’s latest technology. It aims to reach approximately 64,000 New Zealanders around the North Island in its first year of operation and a further 40,000 Kiwis in the South Island. 

There are a total of 470 decile one to three primary and intermediate schools in New Zealand, with over 75,000 students to be reached. And many of the students have never experienced a tablet or any other technology. But the Manaiakalani​ Trust, a collaboration between a number of commercial partners and a number of low-decile schools in Auckland, is showing how technology can greatly enhance learning. And the truck aims to do the same. 

The initiative, which employs two people full-time, is an extension of Noel Leeming’s Open Learning Centres, which were introduced to its stores in May 2013 and have so far provided technology learning sessions to more than 14,000 Kiwis. 

“Technology is becoming an essential part of our daily lives and it’s important that all New Zealanders have access to the learning possibilities it brings,” says National Open Learning Centre manager Daniel Albertsen. “The Mobile Learning centre will be equipped to do this in easy and fun ways.”

The truck is kitted out with a range of technology, including a Maker Bot 3D printer, Google Glasses and booths and pods that allow participants to listen and learn. There’s also an activity area where they can create digital content and experiment using devices like cameras and tablets. 

When visiting schools, the centre has resources that can be used in the classroom and programmes that enable technology to be brought into a student’s learning environment. Schools can roll out full, immersive learning experiences over multiple platforms, like an ability to create and share digital art, music and much more, using educational apps already employed in New Zealand classrooms. 

Like many brands, Noel Leeming, which has recently rebranded with the tagline ‘maximise your machine‘ (it has also signed Josh Emett as an ambassador for its Lifestyle Appliances), isn’t just talking, it’s doing. 

As Noel Leeming chief executive Tim Edwards says: “It seems like a big statement for a company that sells boxes to make, but we’re changing people’s lives and taking the Noel Leeming brand further.” 

Tim Edwards, Daniel Albertsen and Stephen Tindall

As well as the significant investment from Noel Leeming, the initiative is also being supported by some of its commercial partners, including Microsoft, Acer, 2 Degrees, HP, Fairfax, The Radio Bureau, TVNZ, Flybuys and FCB. Operating costs, including the build, are expected to be between $600,000 and $1 million over the next two years. 

  • This story originally said Noel Leeming had invested over $1 million to build the van. 

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