Apps snap up design thinking awards

The Game Changer Challenge grand final saw 24 school teams come up with ideas to change the world. Student journalists report on the outcome.

Students holding large photo frames. Students holding large photo frames.
Image: The Ponds High School won the 2023 Game Changer Challenge with its 'Ergovision' app.

A gamified app that encourages young people to think about ergonomics has won a major award at the Game Changer Challenge 2023.

The Innvisioneers, a group of friends at The Ponds High School, worked all year to develop their idea, before winning the high school category.

“We hope that this app helps people; that was our main goal,” Year 9 student Saanvii Yadiraj said.

“We want them to take the concepts from the app and use them for the rest of their lives.”

Sanjana Chandramohan, Year 10, summed up the pitch with an effective slogan: ‘Don’t slouch but stand tall with Ergovision’.

“As young people in the 21st century we overlook ergonomics and its importance to health ... whether you’re a gamer or studying long hours,” she said.

The students used artificial intelligence and augmented reality for the app, which detects slouching on screen and includes balloon games encouraging users of technology to stop and stretch.

The research phase of the app included a survey of 150 secondary and university students, which revealed that 80 per cent of participants were not aware of ergonomics.

The 24 school teams – from Casino in the north to Wagga Wagga in the south – used design thinking methodology to solve a real-world wicked problem in the NSW Department of Education’s Game Changer Challenge. 

This year students were challenged to invent or innovate something that would change the world and leave a lasting impact. 

A very different kind of app impressed the judges in the primary school category, won by southern Sydney school Oyster Bay Public.

Despite being among the youngest competitors, The Crazy Collaborators’ team came up with an app to alert pet owners when their cat or dog escaped and notify authorities if it strayed into the nearby Royal National Park.

Year 4 student Adelyn Gould said the team was passionate about protecting native wildlife.

“We all have pets of our own and sometimes they bring back dead animals, and we wanted to prevent that from happening,” she said.

The app links to a microchip on a domestic pet’s collar and an alert on the household fence. If the pet crosses the fence the app notifies the owner and wildlife authorities.

Adobe has offered the Oyster Bay students a workshop to continue developing their app, while Amazon has also expressed interest supporting the students from The Ponds High School to continue developing their ergonomic app utilising current and emerging cloud technology.

NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar gave a special shoutout to the teachers who mentored the students in design thinking methodology that “broadened our students’ horizons”.

“The Game Changer Challenge showcases some of the best aspects of public education – innovation, creativity and a willingness to learn and adjust ideas,” Mr Dizdar said.

“Whether it’s coding an app to improve ergonomic awareness, sustainable and affordable housing solutions, or innovative ways to tackle bushfires, our students are opening up new possibilities for the future.”

The Teamwork and Research Award went to Clovelly Public School for a walk to school safely app that addresses children’s mental health needs and helps them socialise.

Drawing on real-world experience, Alstonville Public School’s concept to make affordable housing from fast-growing bamboo won the North Coast school the Impact and Awareness Award.

Students said it could help solve the housing crisis in the Northern Rivers following last year’s devastating floods.

“Bamboo has a lot of elasticity, and it can withstand natural disasters like floods and bushfires and it’s really cheap to make houses with,” Year 6 student Manni Pollard said.

Asquith Girls High School envisaged being the broker in the reuse of sap and waste products to create a sustainable energy source. The ‘zap to sap’ plan won the school the Innovation and Implementation Award.

Now in its sixth year, a record number of submissions were received in 2023, with almost 400 school teams entering The Game Changer Challenge.

Of these, 120 teams went through to eight virtual semifinals, with the 24 highest-scoring teams progressing to the three-day grand final at the Department’s Parramatta office.

On the last day of competition, teams presented their solutions and prototypes at the Game Changer Challenge Ideas Expo, where judges and industry partners spent time walking around the expo area, interacting with students, learning about their ideas and sharing feedback.  

The 2023 Game Changer Challenge is supported by our partners: Winc., Rothfield, ABC Education, Adobe, AM Visuals, Amazon Web Services, ARUP, Become Education, Canva, Education Perfect, Engineering Ingenuity, EY, Food Ladder, HP, Macquarie, Makedo, Mott MacDonald, Powerhouse, Terracycle, Think Different Anyday, TOMRA Cleanaway, The University of NSW, Uprising Designers, Woolworths, Young Change Agents. 

This report was researched and written by Game Changer Challenge student reporters: Shreyan Addanki and Amira Rahman, Year 10 at Hurlstone Agricultural High School; and Hayley Paterson, Year 8, at Asquith Girls High School.

Students jumping in front of a media wall. Students jumping in front of a media wall.
Image: Oyster Bay Public School won the primary Game Changer Challenge.
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