Taking inspiration from young ICT explorers

How a group of school children between grades 3 and 12 have taken to solving real-world ICT problems, inspiring Steve Toomey in the process.

On a sunny Saturday morning in August 2015 I was one of 40 judges in Brisbane that was presented with 112 projects that were the hard work of 287 school students across Queensland. The event is aptly named Young ICT Explorers (YITCE), a competition for school students to use ICT to develop a project that solves a problem they see in today’s world.

YICTE has now been running for six years. It aims to inspire and encourage school students to become innovators of technology and to consider ICT as a career opportunity and gain a greater understanding of the diverse possibilities of our industry.

An inspirational day

What started as a promotion of technology and careers in ICT has now turned into an inspirational day for more than just the students. Each year I leave the event with more inspiration than the year before. You start the day in your formal role as judge but as you talk to each team you can’t help but see how adults look for solutions so differently to children. As adults, we often see solutions as complicated and apply our thinking as such. Children aren’t held back by these ‘learned’ limitations.

Illustrating this is the example of one team who identified that a problem could be best solved by a computer program. Not having the necessary skills to begin, they first learned the programing language, then utilised the program via their new-found skills to solve the problem. The simple solution of embracing technology was a profound example. And similar approaches were applied by many other teams.

Another group that I judged wanted to educate people on how to live a ‘greener’ life, so they developed a narrative-based computer game. The premise of the game was to recognise and interpret signs of better living, whereby you gained or lost points as you proceed through ‘life’ as the main character.

The team was made up of three seven-year-old ladies who were barely taller than the table that their solution was presented on. As they demonstrated the game you couldn’t help but appreciate that because they were so young they didn’t know the technology terms for the tools they had used, but they knew exactly what they were trying to achieve. And they had extremely strategic minds. When one of the judges asked “So how would you change the game if you have more time on it?” one of the team members turned to us and said “and here we have a questionnaire that we have developed for you to tell us that after you play the game. And here are all the answers we’ve already received from our friends who have tried it.”

It is always a pleasure to see how young people see the world and the energy and enthusiasm they have in going about problem solving. In fact, the other judges and I felt that this group of children didn’t see a world full of problems but rather a world of opportunities. These young minds were so inspiring and the way they see the world without the blinkers that we tend to wear as adults. Some of the judges walked away inspired to also get their children’s schools involved next year.

At CSC we are always looking for people who want to make a difference in the world. If you think you’ve got what it takes contact us here.

About the Author

Steve Toomey is the Director for CXC Consulting in Queensland. His 30-year career has allowed him to work all over the world for financial and consultancy companies. Now settled in Brisbane he has the Consultancy, Engineering Solutions and Saltbush Cyber Security teams in the state and is also an ambassador for CSC Charity work.