Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards showcase bright ideas

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The Bundaberg Region's inaugural Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards had students thinking outside the box, showcasing their new and creative ideas to a panel of three judges.

The overall winner for inaugural event was team Meilor Terra, from St Luke's Anglican School, with their idea to help save the environment and entice people to recycle correctly.

Team members Nawshaba Ahmed, Tessa Bryden and Mercedes Thomas said their idea was an app called CLEARN to check what's recyclable and what's not, and users would be incentivised with rewards points.

“After you get a certain amount of points you can transfer them for a reward at a local business,” Nawshaba said.

The inspiration was seeing other kids putting items such as banana skins in the wrong bin.

The all-girl team of Year 11 students said it was “pretty amazing” to win and they were glad all their hard work had paid off.

Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey, Telstra Regional Manager May Boisen and Ulton's Tom Corpe at the Bundaberg Region's inaugural Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards

The People’s Choice Award, chosen by Bundaberg community members at their local Telstra shop, went to Safe Space, Bundaberg Christian College.

Council partnered with Telstra to deliver the Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards exclusively to high schools in the Bundaberg Regional Council local government area.

The Multiplex was buzzing last night with innovative ideas from 10 teams of students from Gin Gin State High School, St Luke’s Anglican School, North Bundaberg State High, Bundaberg Christian College and Bundaberg State High School.

Ideas ranged from health products to help protect against heart attack and stroke right down to ensuring indigenous heritage isn’t forgotten and a thought-provoking way to entice people to recycle and help save the planet.

The Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards called on students in Years 9 to 12 to form teams of three and develop an innovative idea.

The three judges, Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey, Tom Corpe from Ulton and Scott Mullaly from Telstra, had a tough decision to choose one winning team as they quizzed the students on their entrepreneurial philosophies on how they could make not only the Bundaberg Region but hopefully the nation a better place to live.

The Mayor's Telstra Innovation Awards opened in February and had the highest amount of entries of any other regional council in Queensland that also hosted the awards.

Mayor Jack Dempsey said the judges had a difficult time selecting the 10 finalist groups from the 23 submissions, and the evening was shaping up to be even more tough then he’d imagined as teams started to give their pitches.

“It’s great to have this number of teams here and by the amount of people who applied it shows not just the entrepreneurialism in the Bundaberg Region but also the innovation, which showcases a variety of ideas from students across the region,” Mayor Dempsey said.

“We had twice as many entrants than the Sunshine Coast area.

“It’s very exciting and more than just the mayor’s awards – it’s the community’s awards because everyone is a winner, from the students and the schools, to the wider community.

“It shows the attitude and values from students and we are proud of our young people.”

Mayor Dempsey said it was good to see the community was in safe hands with this class of young people stepping up and demonstrating their ideas.

Tom from Ulton said it took about half a day to get the teams down from 23 to the final 10 teams and he knew he'd have his work cut out for him during the evening.

“It’s my first time judging school students, but my background is working with businesses – with people who have ideas like these kids and want them to go places,” Tom said.

“Some of these teams have progressed such a long way from when we first saw them.”

Bundaberg Region has hidden entrepreneurs

Tom said the Bundaberg Region had many hidden entrepreneurs who may not even realise they were innovators.

“There are a lot of people on properties, in small business and even large businesses here that don’t really identify that they are entrepreneurs, especially in the older generations,” Tom said.

“These awards help open up innovation to the younger generation from the get-go.

“The older generation don’t want to put themselves on a pedestal, where the kids don’t really have that problem, they have an idea and they want to tell you about it, and that’s just great.”

Tom said the only thing he found difficult about being a judge was being critical of the students who had put themselves out there and given it ago.

“I find it very difficult to be overly critical, I think anyone having a go is doing something that is definitely worth it,” Tom said.

“Anyone who has had a crack at this has done really well.”

Telstra’s community engagement officer Scott Mullaly said there were three phases in the competition and each one was weighted differently, and he enjoyed watching the teams develop over the time.

“It’s been nice to see how far each team has come since the beginning at phase one to now. It’s been interesting and exciting and we take all of that in to account when judging,” he said.

Scott said it was great to be able to support programs like this for the younger generation.

“We started on the Gold Coast and it's slowly grown and now in five regions across the state including Bundaberg.”

A sponsor of the event, Geoff Augutis from Queensland Computers, said there were lots of quality presentations.

“We're proud to be a sponsor when you see such amazing student outcomes,” he said.

Telstra regional manager May Boisen said the participation from the Bundaberg Region was sensational and it worked because of the partnership with Council.

“This year we have the awards across five regions and the support we have had from the Bundaberg Council and the community is really good, the partnership has been amazing,” May said.

“The thing I love about this program it’s getting the young kids in the community to create a solution via technology for an issue in the community, rather than just be consumers of technology.

“They are given the opportunity to create and think differently.

“It’s really good to see so many females here tonight, as we know girls in STEM isn’t as common.

“These students are the future and it’s great to see the excitement from them.”

As the evening kicked off into the final phase of judging, students had to think fast on their feet as they were quizzed about costing and demand in the market by the three judges, but there could only be one winner.

Mayors Telstra Innovation Award
Mayors Telstra Innovation Award winners Nawshaba Ahmed, Tessa Bryden and Mercedes Thomas from Melior Terra team, St Luke's Anglican School.

Mayor's Telstra Innovation Award winners:

  • 1st: Melior Terra – St Luke's Anglican
  • 2nd: Kyoor – St Luke's Anglican
  • 3rd: Alpha – Bundaberg State High
  • 4th: Medi – Checker – Bundaberg Christian College
  • 5th: Swift Phoenixes – Shalom College
  • 6th: Council of Cool – North Bundaberg State High
  • 7th: Safe Space – Bundaberg Christian College
  • 8th: Raksha – St Luke's Anglican
  • 9th: Travel Aider – Conscious Nomads – Shalom College
  • 10th: Ever Onwards – Gin Gin State High

Mentoring team


o Arjan Jongkees – Bundaberg Brewed Drinks
o Damien Tracey and Emerson Ysayama – CLS/ A_T Makerspace
o Steve Howard and Ashley Bell – TAFE Bundaberg
o Tim Whan – CQU

Judging Panel


o Scott Mullaly – Telstra
o Tom Corpe – Ulton
o Mayor Jack Dempsey

Other support


o Geoff Augutis – Queensland Computers

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