During our latest episode of SAP ANZ’s The Best Run podcast, I caught up with Travis Joy, Program Manager for Young ICT Explorers; Edwin Tomlins, a teacher from Wahroonga Public School; and Benjamin Gonzalez, a former winner of the Young ICT Explorers competition who’s currently interning with SAP. We looked at how this annual competition encourages school students to develop and present their best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects for tackling real-world challenges. You can listen to the full podcast.
According to Travis, the purpose of Young ICT Explorers is to give students a platform for exercising critical thinking and problem solving for modern issues.
“Young Explorers is an open-ended challenge to solve real-world problems that the students see in their daily lives that they want to change,” he explained.
“It’s giving them the opportunity to come once a year and showcase their projects at an event where we have a community of really warm, welcoming, likeminded individuals who really want to see students shine – bringing together ICT professionals and academics from the field to reinforce the changing evolution of digital technologies in Australia for the younger generation.”
Travis noted how the competition has produced some incredible projects such as a dehydration tester, a planetary transfer calculator, a riptide-reading device, a remote fish-feeder, plus various 3D mapping and virtual reality projects.
“One of the major projects that I think of all the time is School Bytes, which came from Chatswood High School and is now a fully-fledged business,” Travis said. “It’s a comprehensive school management system and also a payment gateway for schools. Blake, who owns School Bytes, is in something like 300-plus schools across NSW now doing $40 million worth of payments through the NSW Department of Education for school fees and things like that.”
According to Benjamin the competition offers students real-world experience while bridging the skill gap between high school and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workforce. “You learn how to pitch, and you learn the confidence to stand up and explain the technology,” he expressed. “That’s one of the hardest things that I’ve learnt because I’m especially interested in machine learning, so learning how to explain that concept and how it works to someone who doesn’t know machine learning.”
Edwin says the best lesson students gain from the competition is their engagement with every part of the design process. “The students come up with some crazy ideas, so part of their process is to change their expectations and find out what they can actually achieve and what they can actually make. Students end up learning about prototyping, they learn how to make something and test it, work out if it’s going to work properly.
“All of those steps along the design process – it’s just incredibly authentic – it’s exactly what you would do if you were trying to take a real idea and make it into a real product. We help, coach, and support the students along the way, but the students have to be engaged with each one of those steps.”
For more information on how Young ICT Explorers is guiding young Australians and New Zealanders towards careers within the STEM industry sectors, please visit the competition website.
The winners from last year’s competition will be showcased at SAP’s 2019 e’ffect event in Sydney on 8th August and features innovators from various industries speaking about the future of technology and ways of working.