News Item

​Cook Islands Own Mechatronics Marvel

News 13 Mar 2018

As the first Pacific woman across the globe to earn a Mechatronics Engineering degree, Joyana Meyer-Finch would love nothing more than to encourage others to follow a path that opens to a world of opportunities.

Like many young women growing up and living in the Cook Islands, Joyana Mennie Finch enjoyed dressing up wearing her best black pearls and singing and dancing in cultural performances.

But what set her apart from the majority of her peers was her curiosity in how things work.

“Whether it was cars, planes, rockets, boats, microphones, smart phones or whatever, I always wanted to know how they managed to make it work,” she recalls.

Why?

“Maybe I can make my own invention one day,” replies Joyana.

Her curiosity saw her depart from her beloved Cook Islands to New Zealand in 2008 to study engineering at the University of Auckland. A natural performer, Joyana quickly confronted reality on her very first day.

“There were so many people, with big university buildings everywhere. I was nervous, so I thought I’d dress up, wearing my black pearls, with a hibiscus in my ear,” she recalls.

“But when I walked into the engineering faculty, I was instantly told that I was lost and that the Arts Faculty was further down the street.”

For a while, Joyana admits she considered returning home to the Cooks to run a stall at the markets and perform for locals and tourists.

“I’m lucky that I have awesome parents who believed in me. They said that, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, learn from the experience and try again’. I returned to Auckland more determined, saying to myself that ‘I’m a smart Pacific woman and am smart enough to succeed’,” she recalls.

Joyana knuckled down and studied hard, confessing to often spending nights sleeping at university.

When she achieved the top mark in class, Joyana’s lecturer gave her a big smile in congratulating her. In 2012 she became the first Pacific woman in the world to earn a Mechatronics Engineering degree.

“That moment was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling in my life,” she recalls.

Joyana was offered and accepted a job in Japan working for Daifuku, a leading provider of material handling systems which develops, manufactures and provides a full range of automation and logistics solutions and services.

The work has seen Joyana travel across the globe to the UK, US, Europe, Australia, Asia and the Pacific, which is where she one day hopes to return to live and educate young Cook Islands minds to the world of possibilities.

“That’s why I’m here at PISAN,” she says.

“To tell students there’s a world of opportunity and it’s up to them to make the most of them. But learning from those opportunities in order to pass on their knowledge to others can bring benefits broader than we can imagine.”

About the Pacific Island Scholars Alumni Network (PISAN)

Joyana spoke at the recent PISAN Fono. The Pacific Cooperation Foundation runs the NZAID Scholars alumni programme that aims to facilitate scholars to be regional leaders with shared views for regional growth/prosperity and utilising the opportunities for the benefit of the region. The PISAN Fono is an annual event bringing together this diverse group of Pacific scholars from New Zealand tertiary institutions and the Fono programme sessions aim to reinforce the strong expectations of these young leaders.