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Fostering future thinkers

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Fostering future thinkers

Recognising that children are the future of our bright and innovative region, Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson is now inviting the region’s high school students to take part in the Telstra Innovation Awards, where they can showcase and develop their clever solutions to a range of real-world problems.

Our children are the minds of the future. They are the next generation of innovative and sustainable thinkers ready to challenge, question and spark meaningful change in the decades to come.

With the world at their fingertips, these bright, young minds require nourishment and a platform to spark innovation and guide them on the right path to creative genius.

To foster this, the annual Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards invites high school students across the region to bring their ideas to life and connect with industry mentors, providing an exclusive insight into the world of innovators.

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson says the program, which started in 2016, supports high school students to develop business ideas that use innovation or technology in a new way to solve a community, environmental or business challenge.

It has a particular focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM subjects, which are often the driving force behind innovation.

“The students and teachers involved in this competition each year demonstrate we are well and truly on the right track in encouraging opportunities for our young people to succeed in the 21st century,” Mayor Jamieson says.

“As a community, we are continuing to see the benefits from these types of initiatives, with an increase in programs such as robotics, entrepreneurship and coding being offered in schools and through extra-curricular activities.

“We know many of the jobs and careers of the future will be built around science, technology, engineering and mathematics … so it’s incredibly important to foster these skills in our region.”

The awards, which are now open to Sunshine Coast students from Years nine to 12, have produced a range of ingenious inceptions in the past, from LED plates for learner and provisional drivers to portable lockers.

Telstra regional general manager May Boisen says innovation is critical for the future and that it is important to foster the imaginations of our youth and help springboard their ideas into reality, especially at a local level.

“Innovative technology is critical to keep us connected and these awards are just one way we can support the Sunshine Coast to continue to be at the forefront of innovation and fostering talent,” Ms Boisen says.

“These awards encourage students and schools to embrace and be creative with technology and offer a wonderful opportunity for students to network, explore and develop their passion for entrepreneurship and gain real life experience, skills and knowledge to prepare them for the next step in their journey.

“It’s so important that all of us, in business and the community, continue to nurture and support this talent.”

A panel of judges will assess applications and 12 finalist teams will progress to the next stage, which includes a four-week industry-led mentoring program. Mentors will help participants develop their idea, understand their potential customers and develop a prototype.

Finalists will gain skills in presentation and public speaking in preparation for the Live Pitch and Awards Ceremony in July.

Key dates

  • Entries are now open, with the competition closing on April 27.
  • Finalist teams are announced with phase two of the competition beginning on May 6.
  • Phase two entries close June 21.
  • Live pitch and awards ceremony will happen on July 14.
  • For more information and to apply, visit studysunshinecoast.com.au/innovationawards.

Mayor Mark Jamieson, Glasshouse Christian College students Josiah, Charlie and Arno, and Scott Mullaly from Telstra

Previous innovations

In 2021 a group of students from Glasshouse Christian College won the Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards for their creation of LED plates.

Arno, Charlie and Josiah developed a bright new way for learner drivers to display their ‘L’ plates, along with a compatible phone app to change the plates as needed from Ls to Ps. They then went on to win the Generation Innovation GI Challenge.

Realising the hassle of changing plates and difficulty seeing them at night or in poor weather, the boys say the awards provided them with a major stepping stone to bring their idea to life.

“Throughout our journey, we learned valuable lessons on the importance of both a polished product, and a clear presentation, both of which helped us to re-imagine how we portrayed our project,” Arno says.

“The chance the program gave us to generate interest in our innovation paved the way for future successes, not only within the project but in public speaking and critical thinking.”

Acknowledging youth and innovation is forging the way forward, Charlie says their participation is opening the door to a variety of opportunities to solve large issues at a community level.

“Youth and innovation go hand in hand and as a team, we believe that they can solve problems within the community and on a global scale,” Charlie says.

“With the increasing importance of technology and innovation in Australia, the Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards can help our youth make that invaluable first step into the world of innovation and business.”

Josiah is encouraging any high school student on the Sunshine Coast to consider putting their ideas forward, jump out of your comfort zones and soak up the innovation experience.

“Just go for it; have a go and sign up. Even if you don’t make it very far, you’ll be surprised with the amount of quality information there is to take away and the opportunities up for grabs,” he says. “If we had stayed in our comfort zones and didn’t enter, we would never have gained the proof of concept and validation of our idea provided through the feedback we gained.”

From their success, 2021 second place-getters and Suncoast Christian College students Joshua, Noah and Rain are now hoping to find investors for their portable locker creation.

“Our idea is to create a portable locker system,” Rain says. “Lockers on trailers that are taken to events, like music festivals, where people can safely store the valuables, or at public events and open spaces, like at the beach.”

Noah says even though they are still working to find an investor, the experience from the awards has given them the confidence to keep at their dream.

“There is still a chance to bring it to life,” he says. “If we can scratch together a prototype and more developed business plan, we could also take it to other competitions or investors.”

Giving advice to budding innovations, Joshua says to keep your ideas simple and to seek consumer feedback.

“It’s better to not go over the top with your ideas – try to keep them real,” he says. “Be committed to your team and be persistent. It’s also important to do customer evaluation because public opinion matters a lot if you want your project to be successful.”

 

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It combines aspects of critical thinking through technology and has been adapted nationally to schooling curriculums. The Australian government regards high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as critically important for current and future productivity, as well as for informed personal decision making and effective community, national and global citizenship.

Study Sunshine Coast program director Tracey Coobula says the awards are a fantastic opportunity to place STEM subject into the spotlight and for students to develop their skills and gain real-life business experience.

“More and more we are seeing the integration and application of new technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and coding into our workplaces” Ms Coobula says.

“That’s why it’s never been more important for the fundamental building blocks of these technologies – STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and math to be fostered, offered and promoted to students in our region.

“The Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards are the ideal platform to discover and showcase the incredible talent we have here in our high schools, and set our students up for successful, enduring and high-demand careers of the future.”

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