We are living in exciting times. Technology is opening up a world of transformational change and possibilities that we are only just scraping the surface of.
The hardware and the software that will help enable this bold new future already exists – it is here in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Robotics, and 3D printing to name a few examples.
Plus the way that start-ups are rapidly prototyping and using human-centred design principles is changing the way we work and do business.
The way we live and work is changing at mind-bending speed. Many great jobs of today didn’t exist five years ago – so when we think about the jobs that will exist by the time our children reach the workforce, how can we possibly foresee what their working life is going to look like and how can we prepare them for that future?
How as a nation does Australia make sure that we remain relevant, competitive and innovative on the global stage?
One way is to make sure we invest in our future leaders and workforce by encouraging children to engage in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) subjects, and help them realise how real-world problems and challenges can be solved through a good mindset combined with a range of skills.
The skills that are honed in these disciplines – including the arts that will help today’s young tech natives look at innovation from a human-centred perspective – will all form the backbone to the important traits of agility, creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking, inquisitiveness, resilience, flexibility, and adaptability to succeed and thrive in the workplace of tomorrow.
Educators, parents, and industry all have a responsibility to work together to find ways to foster and encourage creativity in our young people, and to do so from an early age.
That is why I am so proud to be joining Origin’s littleBIGidea competition again as head judge and ambassador because this is a shining example of a program designed to reward young innovators and help them realise their potential.
This competition has proven that some of the best ideas can come from our youngest people. Past winner, ten year old Bridgette Veneris invented the “Faster-Aid” - a quicker and easier way to dispense and peel Band-Aids. Since being diagnosed with Leukaemia last year, Bridgette had the idea from watching her mum and nurses struggle with opening the many adhesive plasters she required.
One of the reasons I believe littleBIGidea has been so impactful is because it encourages children to solve real world problems that are relevant to them – it can be problems within their immediate family or community, the state, the nation, or even better, the world.
This is something that I can relate to. I found a big life purpose when, as a 21 year old university student, I had a diving accident off a board into a backyard pool at a friend’s house. Fortunate not to be paralysed by this accident, I took the opportunity to not only reflect on how lucky I was, but to go and meet many amazingly ambitious people who changed my perspective on physical disability. This sent me on a journey of curiosity and discovery about the state of our disability services and technology.
Through the wonderful people I have met and their stories of persistence and triumph they shared, I have been inspired to dedicate many of my efforts and skills to utilising and developing inclusive technology to help enable and empower people, with an overarching vision of moving us towards a more inclusive society.
It is what has driven me over the past decade to design a mind-controlled smart wheelchair, start my social business Psykinetic to develop a range of inclusive technologies such as eye-controlled communication and music, start a TV production house to connect the world with what’s actually happening in technology through documentaries, and much more.
I am also a huge believer in the power of mentors – I have been fortunate with two outstanding mentors in my parents. My mum's caring, social, compassionate, empathetic and artistic character have helped form so much of my own personality, and my father's technological brilliance in engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, and biomedical engineering gave me a solid foundation for inspiration in these fields. And a range of other mentors throughout my life have all helped me get to where I am today too.
That is why I am dedicated to sharing my story, knowledge and experience, and finding better ways for people with disabilities to share their stories and have more creative freedom, access more opportunities that technology can provide, and to allow more people to build their own solutions. There is a very human and moral approach to how technology can help empower our Australians and our world, so we must continue to strive to uncover the opportunities for positive social and environmental impact. We have the power more than ever before to solve the big problems and challenges we all face, and step towards a better world we all want to live in.
I hope that my role with Origin’s littleBIGidea this year will help inspire the next generation of Australia’s young inventors, and I look forward to seeing what innovations they come up with because their ideas are what will help shape the future.