Young inventors tackle global solutions

26 young inventors from around Australia have tested their tinkering minds in Canberra this January for the second annual National Questacon Invention Convention.

Delivered with the support of The Ian Potter Foundation and in partnership with IP Australia, the National Invention Convention aims to provide young Australians with the confidence, skills and connections to develop the next generation of great Australian innovations and inventions.

National Invention Convention delegates played, designed, made, and laughed their way through a week of inspiration and creativity. Delegates were challenged to design and prototype an invention that would help a growing world address the challenges around food, water and shelter.

National Invention Convention Facilitator Joe Duggan said, “In developing ideas and creating prototypes we take the delegates through the innovation process, which is based around the concepts of Need, Think, Make, Try, Refine. We help the delegates Identify a need, think about what solutions are already available or any new solutions that don’t exist yet, make a prototype, test it out and then refine it.”

Delegates developed confidence to explore their ideas and put them into action. The National Invention Convention included networking opportunities for the delegates to meet and make connections with successful Australian innovators.

Delegate Hunter Cullen, 14 from Queensland, found the networking sessions valuable. “You could describe what you wanted to do and instead of being shut down and told, ‘you can’t do that,’ every one said you can. I have made new friends going forward that I will be able to count on and trust to keep me going instead of always been told I can’t,” Mr Cullen said.

The National Invention Convention included presentations from technical, scientific and business experts to set the scene and challenge the delegates to think beyond themselves to address global problems.

Throughout the week delegates worked with ‘Maker Mentors’ – industry professionals with experience in one of several relevant technologies. The Maker Mentors included a number of Questacon staff design and build Questacon’s exhibitions as well as members of the local Maker community with expertise in electronics, microcontroller programming, 3D printing and resins.

Mick Spencer, founder of ONTHEGO Sports, also gave a presentation with a focus on starting up a business. His presentation inspired delegates to think about what steps they can take after the National Invention Convention, and encouraged them to start thinking about business plans and entrepreneurship.

The Maker Mentors were impressed with the creativity and ingenuity of the delegates and their ideas, designs and prototypes. Some of this year’s inventions included an App that shares Indigenous knowledge of local plants; a flat pack emergency shelter; an automated aquaponics system and a solar powered water purifier.

The week long National Invention Convention culminated with a showcase of the delegates’ prototypes and portfolios displaying their journey of the week, followed by a gala dinner.

To align with the National Invention Convention and increase accessibility for all, various regional Invention Convention events are set to take place across 2017. The Next Regional Invention Convention is planned for Newcastle from 10-12 April. For more information or to apply head to www.questacon.edu.au.