Creating tomorrow’s innovators

Junior Supreme Award winners Amelia Shorter, left, Cleo Putty, Erin Walpole and Haylee Hextall. Photo/Supplied.

For many Year 7 to 11 students, YIA is the highlight of the school calendar, upcoming young innovators, entrepreneurs and game-changers the opportunity to present their creative solutions to real-world problems based on their own experiences or passions.

This year was the biggest yet, drawing in more than 300 individual and team entries, of which 56 finalists were selected to progress to the finals. The finalists came together to attend workshops with local innovators to develop prototypes for testing and feedback.

The competition culminated at the YIA Awards Night at the end of October where all the finalists were celebrated and the winners announced for each category.

Head judge, Jono Jones says it was exciting to see so many students and schools engaging in problem solving with an innovation and design mindset.

“We saw a significant increase in students and teams entering this year which demonstrates the level of engagement. There was a very high calibre of thinking, which we were lucky enough to judge.

“The judges recognised how mature some of the problem spaces were that the students were tackling. The amount of work they’ve dedicated to researching, developing prototypes, testing and refining their innovations is huge.

“Every finalist was a worthy winner – the judges had some really tough decisions to make on the day. We’re excited about the next generation of talent coming through.”

Winners of each category were: Isla Martin and Nina Young (Intermediate award), Amelia Shorter, Cleo Putty, Erin Walpole and Haylee Hextall (Junior award), and Michael Ren (Senior award).

Guest judge, Sarah Stevenson (was impressed with how many innovative rangatahi there are from local schools and says the future looks bright.

“It was awesome to be invited into the minds of young people for a day. I was so impressed with the entries that really took the time to match the problem with the solution and how they incorporated customer and/or user views.

“One entry had a survey that yielded 500 responses – that’s an amazing achievement,” says Sarah.

Sarah’s says for students considering entering the awards next year to work through the steps, don’t be tempted to jump to the solution too early.

“Hold your initial solution or prototype loosely but be open to throwing it out or changing it when it’s not quite fitting with what you’re trying to achieve.”

New to the category awards this year was the Social Impact Award, sponsored by Tauranga City Council. The award acknowledged entries that embodied social impact in a meaningful way to make a difference in the community.

The inaugural winners were Estee Taylor, Victoria Geck and Genevieve Kennerley from Otūmoetai College. The council was impressed with their mental health support idea that they have offered to host the students for several days to work with the team to make their app a reality.

YIA was founded by Priority One’s Instep programme, aimed at providing opportunities for budding business and social innovators to connect with some of Aotearoa’s best in sector.

Priority Onw innovation manager Shane Stuart says the level of creativity and innovation coming through in the next generation puts our region in good stead for the future.

“The standard of entries was exceptionally high this year,” saysShane.

“The students impressed everyone. I think we’re in good hands in terms of the next generation of leaders and innovators, as well as the schools and teachers supporting them.”

The YIA programme is supported by local secondary schools, business partners – Woods Agency, Bluelab, and Cucumber – and sponsors Bayfair, Beca Tauranga, Page Macrae Engineering, Robotics Plus, Tauranga City Council and the University of Waikato.

The 2021 awards, held at Mount Classic Flyers, was delivered under alert level two restrictions, with 170 people able to attend on the night. It was also live-streamed on YouTube for those who couldn’t attend in person, with approximately 270 tuning in on the night.

MC for the evening was former Otūmoetai College graduate, entrepreneur and founder of Nude Greens, Alex McCall.

The 2021 judges were:

· Co-head judge: Jono Jones, Chief Product & Innovation Officer at Bluelab

· Co-head judge: Kat Sutherland, Marketing Manager at Ubco

· Guest judge: Sarah Stevenson, Portfolio Manager, Bay of Plenty District Health Board

· Guest judge: Alex McCall, Entrepreneur and Venture Scout, Hillfarrance

· National judge: Reuben Woods, Woods Agency

· Category judge: Brian Glynn, Senior Director – Business Development, Trov

· Student judge: Alaya Callinan – yia! 2020 senior winner, Otūmoetai College.

Winners:

Intermediate category

Isla Martin, Nina Young, Aquinas College. Fong (Fear of Needles Gone) – a product in the shape of something fun that slides over vaccination needles.

Junior category

Amelia Shorter, Cleo Putty, Erin Walpole and Haylee Hextall, Otūmoetai College, Networx – a tracking device that attaches to fishing companies’ nets that connects to an app helping them retrieve the net if it is lost.

Senior category

Michael Ren, Tauranga Boys College, Insightz – a web-based data visualization tool that converts grades into easy-to-understand graphs.

People’s Choice

Intermediate: Isla Martin, Nina Young, Aquinas College. Fong (Fear of Needles Gone) – a product in the shape of something fun that slides over vaccination needles.

Junior: Noah Ball, Aquinas College, BikeStand – an app to allow cyclists to locate their nearest cycle repair stations/water sources.

Senior: Robert Unsworth, Otūmoetai College, Bell Badge – to create a device that will act as an alternative for school bells.

Category Winners

Communication: Noah Ball, Aquinas Collete, BikeStand – an app to allow cyclists to locate their nearest cycle repair stations/water sources.

Sustainability: Thomas Wigley and Tomas Andrew, Otūmoetai College, Treasure our Trees – an app that pinpoints and notifies the community of possible positions of kauri dieback or myrtle rust by logs on phones.

Creativity: Michael Ren, Tauranga Boys College, Insightz – a web-based data visualization tool that converts grades into easy-to-understand graphs.

Research: Amelia Shorter, Cleo Putty, Erin Walpole and Haylee Hextall, Otūmoetai College, Networx – a tracking device that attaches to fishing companies’ nets that connects to an app helping them retrieve the net if it is lost.

Social Impact Award (new for 2021):

Winner: Estee Taylor, Victoria Geck, Genevieve Kennerley, Otūmoetai College, Simply Positive – to provide a free and effective app on Mental Health.

Highly commended: Sarah Bryan and Maddy Duncan, Otūmoetai College, StallD – to make an app that pinpoints local fruit stalls to save time, save money, support locals, and reduce wasted food.




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