Young Minds Driving Future Tech to Solve Real World Problems


Every year for the past five years tech savvy high school students on the Gold Coast have helped solve real world problems through the Mayor’s Telstra Technology Awards.

Dr James Birt, an Associate Professor from Bond University’s Faculty of Society and Design has been there since the inception of the awards. His role is to nurture those young minds by providing guidance and direction for their projects.

According to Dr Birt you’ve got to have a passion for what you’re doing to successfully drive a project forward:

“With anything related to creativity or entrepreneurship if you don’t have passion for your endeavour then why would a potential backer want to invest in it when you’re not invested in it?”

When it comes to mentoring these young minds James says it’s crucial each team not only thinks about why they’re doing it, but what’s the unique perspective on their project.

The 4 Keys to Success

Dr Birt says each team entering the competition needs to consider four key aspects to their project:

• Students need to feel comfortable in pitching an idea to me. If you can’t pitch it to me as just one person, how are you going to do it to an audience of 300?

• Who are their direct competitors? You don’t have to come up with an amazingly innovative solution, but what is it about your perspective that defines a gap that currently exists in the market?

• Is the idea scalable? Is it an idea that genuinely could be brought to fruition in the Australian market place? Is it cost effective?

• How are you going to sell your idea to the judges? Is it a physical object, a virtual prototype; or is it simply the mind map of a concept that you’re trying to present?

IMG 0840

Selling Your Concept

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing the competition can come down to how well a team presents their idea. And while James says he has a good idea of what the expectations are from the judges, he can be just as surprised by the concepts presented as the eventual winner.

“A few years ago the winning entry was flying cars! In that particular instance it was the passion of the students in their presentation that won over the judges, so the higher you reach for the sky, the more convincing you need to be in pitching your idea.

I’m always surprised at the genuine ideas they come up with, it amazes me how often they come up with concepts that align with what we’re teaching and talking about here at a tertiary level. It’s wonderful that they’re engaging in future thinking and developing solutions for critical tasks now.”

If a team doesn’t win that doesn’t mean their concept won’t get off the ground. With entrepreneurs and secret investors attending the final pitch night there’s a very real possibility that others will be keen to see a project realise its potential. In the past teams that haven’t won have still had their ideas developed with the help of a kick starter program.

*The Final Pitch Night for the Mayor’s Telstra Technology Awards will be held on Wednesday 22nd August at Bond University.