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Technology turns to compassion in Game Changer Challenge

Robots to help students with sensory disorders and a drone to detect landmines in war-torn countries are two winning ideas from this year’s Game Changer Challenge.

Alstonville Public School students

Champions…the winning team from Alstonville Public School.

Alstonville Public School and Elizabeth Macarthur High School have taken out the titles of primary and secondary school 2019 Game Changer Challenge champions.

Around 180 primary and secondary public school students and their teachers, from as far west as Broken Hill and north to Kingscliff, near the Queensland border, were brought to Sydney for the three-day Game Changer Challenge where they were asked to find a solution to the Challenge question, How might we humanise technology?

Across the event the Alstonville Public School team developed a robot known as the EM.B.U.D (Empathy Bot You Deserve) for students with sensory disorders and those who are non-verbal.

The robot could be carried like a backpack, have extendable arms that could hug its owner, be able to gauge the owner’s mood and have squishy ears that students could squeeze “and a wave of calm would come over them”, the team said in its five-minute pitch.

Elizabeth Macarthur High School developed a drone to identify landmines in war-torn countries, known as the PAPO Project (Pull a Pin Out).

The human-operated drone includes a 360-degree camera, a robotic arm, solar panels, and is built using plastic found in oceans. The students presented a prototype of the robotic arm which would be used to safely remove the pin in landmines.

A total of 18 public school finalists delivered their pitches to an industry panel that included NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott, University of Sydney robotics expert Dr Viorela Ila and Google for Education country program manager Brent Sarver.

Mr Scott commended all the Game Changers for their “great ideas and great energy”.

“I congratulate all of the participants for really strong pitches and big and bold ideas,” he said.

“They have put in a lot of work over the past three days and the students have shown great insight into the challenges people face."

students from elizabeth macarthur highThe winning secondary team from Elizabeth Macarthur High School.

The primary school People’s Choice award went to Cudgegong Valley Public School in Mudgee for its artificial intelligence disaster data distributor (AIDDD), which collects local data during natural disasters and ‘triaged in the cloud’ to determine whether to send further medical support to the area.

Lake Munmorah High School and the Sydney Children’s Hospital School tied in the secondary school’s People’s Choice award for their ideas on an anti-cyberbullying app and ‘Dr H.O.W.’ (Hospital on Wheels) to deliver cost-effective specialist medical treatment to people in rural and remote areas.

Other ideas presented across the two pitch sessions included Power 2 People, a democracy app to connect young people in virtual communities directly to decision-makers such as politicians; and an uber-style bus to physically connect people in rural areas.

Environmental issues, especially helping deal with the drought, saw students conceive mesh parachutes filled with water pellets and an artificial intelligence farming system to monitor and improve soil quality. The impact of rubbish and pollution were tackled by several schools using robots and virtual reality tours to explain the impact of the rubbish route.

The Game Changer Challenge is an initiative of the NSW Department of Education in collaboration with Google for Education. It was also supported by the University of Sydney, Microsoft, Adobe, Modern Teaching Aids, KPMG and OfficeMax.

For the first time the Challenge will be also be taken to regional NSW, with a Game Changer Challenge in Dubbo on Friday, August 9, attended by 100 students and teachers from north-western NSW.

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