I’m chaperoning two teams representing NSW at the National iAwards this week.
The iAwards are unusual because they change format from the State round to the National competition. The State competition is judged on the entry or product itself, the National competition is judged on a pitch. For the general competition that means you have 20 minutes to present your product to the judges; for the Hills Young Innovator of the Year Award you have five minutes to pitch to the judges and an audience.
The teams I am mentoring are the two finalists from NSW in the Secondary School category and one finalist in the Hills Young Innovator category. That has me chaperoning four, slightly stressed, 12- and 13-year-olds in Melbourne. From a purely practical point of view that’s already meant I’ve done more ironing this morning than I’ve done in the last 20 years.
The teams’ entries are at www.binit.today and www.whenthat.com and they are both the product of many, many hundreds of hours of work by the students which is now coming to a point end with a couple of short presentations. At one level that’s a lot of pressure to pile onto the kids in addition to all the coding, thinking, designing that they’ve done to create their products – but it’s also an amazing life experience and one which closely mirrors today’s reality.
It’s no longer possible to sit in your garage and create the next big thing. Sure, you can do the creating in your garage, but then you need to emerge blinking into the sunlight and pitch your product. I’m not sure quite when pitching to anyone other than a bank manager became the thing it is today, but there’s no question that it’s a skill that any aspiring modern coder needs to have in their kit-bag. That transition from coding to presenting is tough enough to handle in your twenties, so these kids are achieving something at 13 by just taking a good stab at it.
So, in theory, I’m all in favour of the iAward’s approach. And I’m holding tightly to that thought, as I sit with four nervous kids, awaiting their moment of judgment.
Disclosure: I would, by the way, probably have devoted a lot more time to exactly how amazing I think these kids are were it not for the fact that two of them are my own children.