From collaborative game design and coding, to delivering engaging online learning, eight educational technology startups—all members of Rio Tinto’s Future Minds Accelerator—recently brought future skills courses to K-12 students and educators in the Pilbara, Western Cape and Northern Peninsula Area regions.
From 7 to 25 September 2020, the Future Minds startups ran free, remote classes at three schools in the Pilbara – Paraburdoo, Dampier and Baynton West Primary Schools – and seven schools in the Western Cape and Northern Peninsula Area regions – Western Cape College’s Mapoon Primary, Weipa Primary and Weipa Secondary campuses, St Joseph’s Parish School Weipa and Northern Peninsula Area State College’s Injinoo Junior, Bamaga Junior and Bamaga Senior campuses.
This is the first year in a new, four-year program funded by a $10 million investment by Rio Tinto in a bold move to help teach Australia’s young people the skills they’ll need to thrive in the jobs of the future.
Each startup selected for the Accelerator was given a AUD$50,000 grant from Rio Tinto, training and mentoring from the expert team of entrepreneurs at BlueChilli, and up to AUD $100,000 in AWS Activate Credits from Amazon.
Led by David Gonski AC, the Future Minds Advisory Council of Australian education, innovation and business leaders have offered founders valuable advice and guidance. David Gonski said “Now more than ever equal access to education is important for regional and remote areas of Australia. I am delighted that the startups from the Future Minds Accelerator are helping bridge that gap and building these future skills in our young Australians.”
The 14 startups in this cohort have developed solutions to help kids learn future skills, including: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics, Smart Cities, Sustainability, Online Game Development, Virtual Reality (VR), Career Readiness, Entrepreneurship, Team Work, Imagination, Physical Health, Mental Health, and more.
Rio Tinto Weipa Operations acting general manager Dan Kelleher said “Our world is ever-changing and it is important, now more than ever, to equip children with the skills they will need for a digital future. We are helping to prepare young people by providing regional communities in the Western Cape access to programs like the Future Minds Accelerator that focus on critical thinking, problem solving, systems design and data analytics – all skills required to thrive in the careers of tomorrow.”
Paraburdoo Primary School Teacher Dorinda Truscott said, “I really wanted to engage my students and to educate them about what the future might hold for them. It’s really important to motivate them around technology and engineering and teach them that the sky is the limit. By working with a program like Buzzy Games, where kids are problem solving and using skills like collaboration, team work, coding, maths and science, kids will get a better understanding of the skills they will need in the future. My students loved it.”
BlueChilli Program Director Filipa C. Araújo said, “We’re incredibly proud this group of startups has positively impacted more than 30,000 Aussie kids in just 4 months, and we’re loved sharing their EdTech solutions with parents, teachers and government in the Pilbara and Weipa regions.”
With COVID-19 locking down cities around the world, effective online learning is more important now than ever. Eddie Blass, CEO of Inventorium, ran sessions for teachers on how to design and deliver personalised online education.
Award winning children’s science TV presenter, Dr Rob of Experimentary, combined science and fun in a mini-catapult experiment. Kids built and tested their own mini-catapults and learned about science, forces in physics and even a bit of history.
The 20-year old CEO and founder of BOP Industries, Scott Millar, took kids on the inspirational journey of how he turned his Year 9 school project into a growing business that now takes him around the world to work with leading organisations and innovative educators. Scott showed kids how entrepreneurial skills can empower them to bring their ideas to life and make a difference in their community, at any age, from anywhere.
3D Filmmaker Russell Scott, co-founder of Vortals, showed teachers how to construct a 3D Model, as well as giving them a basic understanding of the math and physics concepts that help build them. From there, educators were given a number of problem solving tasks that will reveal how the software “thinks.”
Once teachers went through their session, they were able to teach their own students how to create in the new digital realities of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) on the Vortals platform. This session built students’ digital problem solving skills, their creativity and their collaborative skills.
The team at Champion Life teaches kids how to discover their superpower to improve their own mental and physical health. In their sessions, students follow along as a “real-life” community role model completes a calming and energising brain break called a “Body Set.” They also watch a health challenge demonstrated by a different role model, and then film their own version of the activity as a class.
Artist and teacher Kelly-Ann Denton, founder of imagineer.me, delved deep into the inner working of the mind and showed teachers how the imagination functions in the brain so they can cultivate creativity—both in themselves and their students.
Dr Louise Metcalf, founder of Gheorg, teaches kids how to deal with anxiety. Students practiced blowing away their worries using bubbles and learning how to be a “Hope Ninja” in the classroom and at home—especially during lockdown periods—by spotting the good things that happen every day.