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Canberra’s Youngest Innovators: InnovAGE and Teen Start Up 2015

Beatrice Smith

While most people might expect innovators of aged care to have some years experience in the field or even a university degree, there are some young inventors who won’t wait for people’s expectations to catch up to reality. With the proliferation of technology that children now access on a daily basis, it should be unsurprising that keen innovators are emerging from the younger generations.

Above 92% of Australian households access the internet regularly through a broadband connection* meaning that it’s easier than ever for younger generations to formulate and research ideas outside of their normal learning environments. Joshua and Kaiden Edye are two such kids who decided that the innovation of aged care wasn’t too remote a subject at all and rose to the challenge with aplomb.

The InnovAGE competition, run by Leading Age Services, was run over two weekends, one at the end of March and the other at the beginning of May. Kaiden and Joshua entered InnovAGE alongside their father Donovan with their program S.T.R.O.K.E – created with their grandfather’s stroke rehabilitation in mind – that would go on to win the competition.

We chatted with Joshua and Kaiden’s mother, Candice, who told us about the emotional motivation for the boy’s entry into the competition, the process of creating their S.T.R.O.K.E program and the future for young innovators in Canberra.

Beatrice: How did you approach the challenges of the InnovAGE competition as a family unit? 

Candice: While the competition was aimed more at adults, on the first weekend one of the team members from one of the Brisbane teams brought his two teenage sons with and they seemed to be really engaged in the process.

I was one of the many mentors involved in the event so spoke to the organisers to see if my two boys could give it a try. The answer came back – ‘as long as they are accompanied by a parent’, so Joshua (13 years) and Kaiden (ten years) and their dad, Donovan, registered to take part in the second weekend.

 

Kaiden, Joshua and Donovan with their winning cheque

Kaiden, Joshua and Donovan with their winning cheque

 

What inspired your boys to enter this competition? 

The boys’ grandfather had suffered a minor stroke about a month prior to the competition. Not the easiest patient at the best of times, he was given exercises to do by the hospital Occupational Therapist, but once he left hospital he stopped doing them. The boy’s inspiration for the idea came from watching their grandfather spend hours each day playing Solitaire on the computer as well as his passion for the TV program “Letters and Numbers”. The boys felt if you could combine the exercises with something he actually enjoyed doing he was far more likely to stick to his rehabilitation program.

 

Trialing the Oculus Rift software

Trialing the Oculus Rift software for S.T.R.O.K.E

 

 

What different platforms and mediums did they use to create their winning idea? 

At the InnovAGE event there was a range of different technologies on display that you could use to inspire or test your ideas. There were Microsoft Kinects, an Oculus Rift, Augmented Reality and Beacon technology available as well as disaggregated data from a range of different organisations that work in the aged care sector. The event organisers had also organised for some residents of Goodwin village to join the teams for morning tea, so that they could hear from actual users of their innovations.

The Microsoft Kinect seemed to suit what the boys wanted to do and dad, Donovan, being a software developer got to work investigating the technical feasibility. Kaiden was the graphic designer in charge of developing a team logo and Joshua was tasked with the market research necessary for their pitch presentation.

Then they hit a major snag. It seemed there was already someone looking into using the Kinect in Stroke rehabilitation – Microsoft Research! They simply couldn’t compete with Microsoft. However, when they looked into it further, all the competing projects were using traditional games similar to the ones kids play.

They knew from experience trying to get their grandfather to play on the Wii with them that he would never play these games and compliance would be an issue again. So they changed their research to identify what computer games older people played online and it supported their hunch. Older people tend to play card games online – they were back in business! They had a differentiator.

Why is S.T.R.O.K.E the way of the future? 

In a 2013 study in ‘Computers in Human Behaviour’, researchers surveyed older adults with an average age of 77 and discovered that almost a third of the seniors played computer games at least once a week and over 17 percent played every day. The games they played were solitaire, free cell and puzzle games like crosswords and Sudoku.

S.T.R.O.K.E will tap into this by using games seniors are already familiar with and play regularly and then combining it with technology like the Microsoft Kinect, to increase compliance with rehabilitation exercises. It will also allow the clinician to adjust the difficulty level of the exercises as the patient improves.

Where there any funny moments that happened they were working on their entry? 

The competition process involved creating a short video of your project and these were then shortlisted. Shortlisted projects could then choose whether to just screen their video or to actually stand up in front of everyone and pitch their idea. When S.T.R.O.K.E was shortlisted, dad Donovan, not being much of a public speaker, thought the boys would be happy to just screen their video, but much to his dismay they decided to present…which meant he had to stand up and present to about 90 people and a panel of judges.

The other amusing thing that happened was that Donovan and I completely underestimated the boys’ level of engagement and staying power. When they registered to take part, they thought it would be a great experience for the boys but we fully expected them to get tired and/or bored by the Saturday afternoon. This was not the case; in fact they had more staying power than their parents.

 

Kaiden and Joshua presenting at InnovAGE

Kaiden and Joshua presenting at InnovAGE

 

What are the benefits of encouraging kids to take part in innovation competitions such as InnovAGE?

While the thrill and surprise of winning a competition like InnovAGE was an amazing experience, the boys took away so much more from the event.

1. They learnt agility and adaptability. When they discovered Microsoft Research was already looking at using the Kinect with stroke patients, instead of giving up they ‘pivoted’ their idea and focused instead on the innovation that sat in the sweet spot of the types of games that older people like to play online.

2. Being able to define the problem. They learned how to operate in an environment where you are not only expected to come up with a solution, but also define the problem. In order to tackle issues that will face their generation in the next ten or twenty years this will be a very important skill.

3. Learning to pitch an idea.One of the most valuable lessons that Joshua and Kaiden took away from the competition was the importance of being able to clearly present your ideas. They had to present their project both in video format and, on the final day, to a panel of judges and over 80 participants. All those years of school plays stood them in good stead and they confidently pitched their project to a panel of judges made up of angel investors, older Australians, technology specialists and representatives from the aged care sector.

 

Kaiden and Joshua meeting Judge Marcus Dawe

Kaiden and Joshua meeting Judge Marcus Dawe

 

What other competitions and programs can young innovators get involved with in Canberra?

As Kaiden and Joshua discovered, one of the best ways to teach young people resilience, problem solving and creativity is to get them to work on a specific project. From September 5-6 this year, Teen Start-Up, an innovation event for high school students will be held at Orana Steiner School in Weston and is open to students from all over Canberra.

Joshua had such a positive experience at InnovAGE that he and four of his friends have already registered a team.

Students attending the weekend will be asked to come up with a solution to a challenge facing their generation in the next ten to 20 years.  Some of the challenges they will be asked to tackle centre around topics of sustainability, energy, communication, globalisation and health. To aid the innovative thinking process, students will hear from mentors, young entrepreneurs and experts in these sectors.

At the end of the Teen Start-Up weekend, teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges consisting of investors, experts in commercialisation, successful entrepreneurs, and industry specialists.  The top three teams as determined by the judging panel will be awarded prizes.

Teen Start-Up is an opportunity to get young people excited about innovation, creativity and problem solving while also encouraging entrepreneurial thinking.

To book a place at Teen Start-Up visit https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/teen-start-up-2015-tickets-17333348512 or to find out more visit http://www.startupcampcanberra.com/.

 Photos courtesy of Candice Edye

* ABS, 2012.

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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