Regional students find ways to connect their communities, beat isolation and futureproof the country as the Game Changer Challenge heads west.
A plan to waterproof the state’s central through a recycling system and education program has secured Narromine High School the title as 2019 Game Changer Challenge Dubbo champions.
The school was among nine public high school teams that travelled to Dubbo for the Game Changer Challenge, which was brought to regional NSW for the first time under a collaboration with the Department of Education, The Exchange and Charles Sturt University Dubbo campus.
The student teams were asked to answer the 2019 Challenge question, 'How might we humanise technology?', with a focus on regional issues.
Narromine High School’s pitch to overcome water shortages – known as RES (Recycle, Educate and Store) – looked at ways of increasing water recycling opportunities and using the resulting increased water flows to protect the endangered Darling River snail and platypus. The students also saw increased tourism opportunities around an attached water education centre.
Nyngan High School took out the People’s Choice Award for its Project Opportunity pitch, which was about “advancing isolated communities” who may be lacking services and even inspiration.
It aimed to tap into the creativity and ambition of youth in regional areas by using technology to foster interpersonal relationships and to encourage students to “think outside their comfort zone” when it came to skills and careers.
Parkes High School won the Best Collaboration Award with its plan to help those in jobs affected by automation. The digital networking ‘EGG’ used technology such as a website and social media – and a physical meeting place – for young people to connect with jobs, to network or upskill. It was called EGG because “it symbolised a new life” for workers.
Narromine High School teachers Chris Schubert and Sarah Mallon said they were incredibly proud of the students’ efforts.
“They have surprised themselves and definitely the event has taken them out of their comfort zone,” Ms Mallon said.
She said the majority of the team came from farms so it was not surprising they had addressed the drought as an issue of concern. “They are all really feeling the impact of the drought on their friends and families,” she said.
Narromine High School student Joann Fidock said she was surprised by how much fun the event was.
“We were all really engaged and I’ve learned my classmates are very hard workers and really creative,” she said.
Mendooran Central School student Emma Adams said the Game Changer Challenge experience had been empowering through listening to the stories of panellists including The Exchange founder Jillian Kilby.
“I am never going to think about the design process in the same way. [The Challenge] has taught us a whole new way of thinking,” Emma said.
Mendooran Central School head teacher secondary studies Troy Newberry said he was blown away by the Game Changer Challenge.
“It is the best excursion without a doubt that I have brought students to in seven years,” Mr Newberry said. “The students have been collaborating, creating and totally engaged.”
During the pitch session the teams came up with solutions to a range of issues affecting regional Australia including water restrictions, social isolation, community connection and empathy, the city-country divide, maintaining health professionals in regional communities and bringing new job opportunities to the bush.
Judging panel spokeswoman Linda Doherty, a NSW Department of Education communication director, said the range of issues addressed had impressed the judges.
“We really felt they had addressed issues that were of concern within their own communities and had designed very practical solutions that could be easily implemented,” Ms Doherty said.
The Challenge was held as part of Education Week, now in its 65th year, which is an annual event to celebrate NSW public education and communicate the achievements of schools, their students, staff and families.