"How can we use technology to support the people in our community impacted by COVID, both now and in the future?" That was the question the Telstra Foundation and partner Young Change Agents posed to digital-savvy, community-conscious young Australians from four tech schools in Victoria.
Bendigo Tech School, a centre for deep learning that uses leading-edge technology, discovery and innovation to solve real-world problems, supported Bendigo South East College students to design solutions for a Victorian design challenge to solve problems in their community caused by Coronavirus.
Lilly Sukkel, a Year 8 student at Bendigo South East College, took first place with her ‘Project Plant’ concept. Bendigo South East College Year 9 students Cooper Bowen and Alder Pickering secured equal third with their ‘EDU-LEVEL-UP’ study rewards idea.
Last week, the Bendigo students presented their award-winning ideas to thousands of Telstra Enterprise customers and an industry panel at Telstra Vantage, the telco's annual showcase of world-class ideas, technology and business solutions.
The industry panel consisted of Telstra CFO and Group Executive for Strategy & Finance, Vicki Brady, Young Change Agents CEO and Co-Founder, Margaret O'Brien, Yarra Ranges Tech School Director, Ashley Van Krieken and Tech Schools Director, Dr Sarah Hayton.
Lilly Sukkel, 14, presented Project Plant, a business that sends plant boxes to users with fun social media and online competitions that advocate the benefits of plants and how they can be grown at home.
Lilly described working with Telstra, YCA, teachers and the various Tech Schools as an eye-opening experience. "I have enhanced my stem skills, and I feel as though my thoughts and thinking towards coronavirus, issues and problem-solving has dramatically improved, and I can't thank them enough for this experience, "said Lilly.
Telstra CFO and Group Executive for Strategy & Finance, Vicki Brady praised Lily's concept saying, "COVID has bought us back to basics, and made us stop and take stock. You have tapped into something so simple. I love the sense of community here, and it's great for the environment too."
Vicki Brady also spoke about how Telstra employees helped mentor these students during this project and said "I'm so pleased Lily got so much out of the mentoring, it was very much a two-way street. It is so uplifting working with young people who have such incredible ideas."
Then, Cooper Bowen, 15, and Adler Pickering, 15, presented Ed Level Up. This service integrates rewards for completing schoolwork and getting good marks into gaming platforms to motivate students to learn remotely.
'YCA and the tech school has allowed me to flourish as a young adult. Participating in the challenge has given me the chances to grow as a person and an entrepreneur, with resources to develop my ideas for a brighter future," said Adler.
Graeme Wiggins, Director of the Bendigo Tech School, said that industry partnerships provide young people in Bendigo opportunities to solve real-world problems. "We aim to deliver advanced STEAM knowledge and skills that Victorian school students need to flourish in the rapidly changing global economy."
Real learning happens when students apply the curriculum to real-life challenges, said Bendigo South East College STEM Educator Paul Rowland. "Students excel in these programs because we have the resources and time generously provided by the Bendigo Tech School, YCA and Telstra to focus on real, local community issues with student-lead solutions. The autonomy of these programs allows all students to succeed at any level. Education is starting to move in this direction."
Victoria's ten Tech Schools link secondary schools and industry to deliver innovative learning opportunities that challenge students to solve problems in a real-world context and inspire their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).