Kids will power Australia’s “Idea Boom”

| December 11, 2015

The Government’s recent innovation statement has acknowledged the need for tighter incorporation of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) into early learning. Greg Miller says we need to engage kids with technology early, often and meaningfully to give them the confidence and competence they need for our digital future.

Maya’s mum doesn’t have the greenest of thumbs, often forgetting to water the house plants. To keep brown and crispy foliage to a minimum, Maya decided to help her out by building a computer-powered watering system.

Together with her friend Max, Maya used a mini-computer and programmed an application that reads measurements from various moisture, light and temperature sensors as well as from weather forecasts from the Internet via WiFi. It takes all this data and calculates the amount of water it needs to pump into the plants. The duo have branded their project “Plants vs. Zombies”.

Maya and Max entered their P vs. Z project in SAP’s Young ICT Explorers program, an annual technology competition where students tackle real-world problems through digital innovation. The pair took home first prize for their age group at the national finals, but sounded even more excited about the many other projects they saw on the day. “Taking part in the Young ICT Explores competition was fantastic, because we had the opportunity to see so many other projects,” Maya says. “It was particularly fun to speak to the judges and explain our project to them. They asked many questions and showed real interest in our project.”

Though many girls in earlier years take part in the competition, Maya was one of the few in the older groups, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed. “It was interesting to see that there were not many girls in the competition, and I was really glad that I was able to show the judges what I can do,” she says. “I have learned so much more about ICT from this competition. It was such a fun experience and everybody involved was very supportive. I cannot wait to participate again next year with an even better project.”

Engaging youth with technology early, often and meaningfully

Australia confronts an odd paradox when it comes to innovation and education.

On the one hand, we’re struggling with surging youth unemployment. The rate is estimated at 20% nationally, and as high as 30% in some states.

On the other hand, the demand from employers for digital skills has never been higher. Indeed, Deloitte Access economics estimates Australia will need an additional 100,000 skilled ICT workers over the next five years.

SAP’s simple question has been: Why can’t we make these two problems each other’s solution? With our government, industry and not-for-profit partners, this is what SAP’s trying to achieve. The ultimate aim is to open up career prospects for tomorrow’s talent, while systematically whittling away at the high youth unemployment level. Maya’s Plants vs. Zombies is this philosophy in action.

And we’ve found that action works. SAP has led the Young ICT Explorers competition for the past seven years. And over these seven years it has inspired thousands of young Australians to get their hands on technology and solve real-world problems with it. It’s more than fun; it’s the essence of entrepreneurship, where students create innovation, not just consume it.

The Government’s recent innovation statement has acknowledged the need for tighter incorporation of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) into early learning. It has set considerable millions aside toward this end. This is huge for our future, and signals action rather than more debate. But what the Government may be underselling is a powerful social and economic side-effect: Not only will we better equip Australia with the right skills our “ideas boom” needs; through programs like Young ICT Explorers we’ll also drive down youth unemployment by ensuring young Australians have clearer pathways to the jobs that drive this boom.



  1. daralin

    April 13, 2016 at 5:46 am

    The children are our future.

    The children are our future. The age of robots is coming. Kids must be trained to be innovative and inventive, for great minds are minds that are molded with freedom and possibilities. Kids must be introduce to devices, programs, basic principles and technology related topics as they grow so that they will be armed when they are in the their proper age to be in the field.