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Students awarded for digital solutions

Monday, 16 Dec 2019

The national finals of the 123Tech Challenge, the tech industry's in-school challenge, showcased a wealth of innovative problem-solving talent from primary, intermediate and secondary school students around the country.

The recent awards ceremony in Wellington brought together around 130 students from 10 regional finalist teams, along with their teachers and supporters. They enjoyed a packed day that involved ‘Dragons Den’ style judging, as well as game development workshops, tours around TradeMe, Te Papa, and the National Library, and other activities. 

The 123Tech Challenge is a partnership between the IT industry and the Ministry of Education. It aims to support the introduction of the new Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum, teaching students the theory of how technology works and how they can use that knowledge to solve problems.

The Challenge involves teams of three-four students, who identify a problem in their local school or community and use digital technologies to solve it. Teams are given support and resources, including being paired up with tech industry mentors who provide advice and guidance. It’s not just about coding, it’s about problem solving, creativity and team work – there’s something for everyone!

This year’s category winners came from all over New Zealand and included:

  • The Discovery level (years 0-5), was won by the team from Hāwea Flat School in West Otago, who completed a range of tech activities
  • First Challenge (targeting years 6-8) was won by a Morrinsville Intermediate team, who created an app game to encourage fitness by getting the user to move around Morrinsville to scan QR codes whilst seeing the 'Herd of Cows' (sculptures) on display within their town.
  • A team from John Paul College from Rotorua won the Secondary level (years 9-10), creating a website showcasing cultural diversity in their school and a platform for students to share their own stories and culture with other students.
  • Sacred Heart Girls College from New Plymouth took out Senior Secondary (years 11-13), creating a medication box that sends bluetooth messages to your phone to remind you to take your medication, and has a motion sensor and lock and software designed to reduce under or overdosing.

This is the second time that a team from Jean Paul College has won the Challenge.  The team’s teacher, Marisole Bite, said it was exciting to watch the students explore local problems and issues and go through the development cycle for their project and arrive at a great solution using digital technology.

“It was really satisfying to see the girls’ confidence grow throughout the Challenge, and I’m looking forward to them taking it to the next level,” says Marisole.

Marisole also stresses that it’s important to offer the challenge to a mix of students, as the challenge is purpose built so students of all abilities and with all interests have a role to play. “In the end they learn so much from each other,” she says.

Jean Paul College team members Brooke and Chloe really enjoyed taking part in the Challenge and were excited with their win. They believed settling on the right problem in the first place was critical.

“When we brainstormed ideas we had another idea we were initially considering, but we decided that inclusion and cultural diversity was something that we could relate to and we were able to draw from our own experiences,” says Brooke.

123Tech Challenge award winners
123Tech Challenge award winners

Going the extra mile

This is the Challenge’s second year and it’s grown significantly, with around 6,500 students taking part this year.  At the awards event, IT Professionals CEO Paul Matthews shared the following story about one of last year’s winning teams -  demonstrating there’s more to the Challenge than technology.…

“A team from Arahoe primary school in Auckland were the Discovery winners last year, winning prize money for both the team, and also for the school to spend on digital tech.  They pooled their prize money and bought a 3D printer for the school, and then used that to make personalised key-rings which they sold to friends and family as a fundraiser.

"They raised nearly $2,400 which was donated to Ronald McDonald house.  This just demonstrates that, on top of these kids having really good entrepreneurial spirit, they can look beyond and ask ‘what can we do with this, and how can we make even more of a difference?’" said Paul.