Young ICT Explorers should be supported – because it is brilliant

Young ICT Explorers is unique and it’s a great shame that it’s not getting more support from our government.

YICTE is the only completely open science-fair-like competition for technology in Australia. Sure there are other IT competitions, but they do not have the elements which make YICTE unique:

  1. YICTE is completely open – as long as the project has something to do with technology you can have apps rubbing shoulders with electronics, games, and more.
  2. YICTE sees the students (and that’s almost the entire range of student ages) come together. The immense value in having the kids see what others are doing, talking to others with shared interests, and so on really cannot be emphasised strongly enough. In fact if I have a minor criticism of YICTE this year it is that I think that opening up video entries to anyone (as opposed to just those in remote regions) was a poor idea as it meant some chose to just enter videos instead of coming along. The value isn’t in winning, it’s in being there and sharing.
  3. YICTE has a huge established base – they have been so successful that this year that they had to limit entries and to split the final judging over two days. Capatlising on that existing base makes a pile of sense.

If YICTE has one problem it’s that its name is not sexy – ICT wasn’t a widely-understood acronym eight years ago, and it’s becoming increasingly out of touch as a phrase. I’m guessing that this is one of the issues that the organisers face in getting traction for backing.

Anyway all of what makes YICTE special is great stuff, and I would argue is unique in Australia – which is why support is crucial. YICTE has a nice range of corporate sponsors, but it should really be fully backed by the government too in order to really fulfill its potential. And the lack of backing is showing in several areas, including that they cannot guarantee a national final yet.

Having spent all Saturday at the NSW judging event I can report that there was a huge cohort of talented, excited, and fulfilled kids doing seriously amazing stuff. Students had the chance to showcase their efforts – and as most of those efforts were created outside of school this was their first and only chance to showcase what they had achieved and, perhaps, to have it recognised by their community in the same way that winning a sporting competition might be recognised. This is simply invaluable.

Even more important, though, was the kids getting the chance to see that they are not alone. That others share their passion and creativity. And for the younger participants that what they are doing can lead to more serious things. The keynote speech from the founder of School Bytes who won the Year 11-12 division two years ago and now has his software installed in almost 100 schools could not have been a clearer example of this.

Australia does not have a deep history of these sort of activities in the way Germany or the USA does. So it’s crucial we foster and cherish the ones we do have, and especially the successful and effective ones. The continual rhetoric about STEM and educating our kids for the future is made risible when the government is not getting fully and deeply behind a national event like Young ICT Explorers.

One thought on “Young ICT Explorers should be supported – because it is brilliant

  • August 7, 2017 at 10:36 am
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    I attended the competition for the years 5 and 6 on the Sunday. It was impressive to see the range of projects that the kids had come up with. The effort they all put in to develop their projects, their displays and to prepare their pitches was outstanding. The coding involved in many of the projects would have taken many days and countless hours of testing.

    What the YICTE competition is brilliant for is forcing the kids to take an idea through to completion. I agree that bringing the kids to the one venue where they can see that they aren’t alone in their interest and love of STEM/ICT is wonderful.

    The competition format as it is does have its carnage. There is quite a build up to the competition. The work that goes on outside of school hours for the kids leading up to the competition day is usually enormous with late nights and weekends spent on nothing but the project. The kids are under pressure from their teachers to bring in their projects for show and tell. The whole school community is aware the kids are competing. The kids having to front their school on the Monday without the news of a prize is nothing short of frightening. While they should be happy that they made it to a state title, they aren’t, they feel like failures. Will they enter YICTE next year? Probably not.

    It’s worth discussing whether a format of gold, silver or bronze be awarded to each of the teams. Yes there has to be the select few that will go onto the national event, but for those that don’t at least the kids can head to school on the Monday with news that they got awarded gold, silver or bronze at the state title. For those that get silver or bronze they will be motivated to try again rather than to think the competition isn’t worth the effort. Attending YICTE are some seriously talented kids. We need to foster their skills, build them up and keep them engaged.

    So yes YICTE is great, and with a few tweaks it could be greater.

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