Some kids just like to build stuff. They’re the ones who gravitate to blocks or Lego at playgroup or primary school. Skip forward to high school, and where are the opportunities to design, to make, to build? That’s where Questacon’s Smart Skills Initiative aims to bridge a gap for many young people who are born designers, innovators and inventors.
The cornerstone of the Smart Skills program is the National Invention Convention, offering a week of exposure to Questacon’s STEM mentors, successful innovators and other students aged 14-18 who are busting with ideas but need some help figuring out how to execute them.
Two such young innovators are Ryan Falconer (Year 10) and Lachlan Carboon (Year 11) from Galen Catholic College in Wangaratta who attended the 2019 National Invention Convention at Questacon in Canberra in January this year. Fast forward to July 26, and Ryan and Lachlan win the People’s Choice prize at the Startup ShakeUp Pitchfest held at Benalla Town Hall for their prototype booking and remote lock system. The prize comes with $2000 worth of mentoring from Melbourne business startup consultant Mark Cooper which Ryan and Lachlan will use to turn their prototype into a working system.
Last November, the pair had been approached by GOTAFE in their home town of Wangaratta to develop an online booking system that connected to a smart lock, to solve the problem of allowing remote access to GOTAFE’s innovation hub outside of regular business hours. Supported by a $4000 Summer Tech Live Program grant, the young pair have since worked with GOTAFE and Jewellers Coworking to develop a prototype called Lock Tech. Ryan explains, ‘Lock Tech is designed to make accessing a public space easier. It works by using a website to book a time to access that space. You will be sent a code to your phone, so when you go to the space and type in your code you can gain access.’
The young innovators say that attending the Questacon Invention Convention taught them a lot. Lachlan said, ‘When we were first working on this project, working together was good, but it wasn’t great as we had communications issues.” Ryan adds, “Attending the Invention Convention helped me most with public speaking. It also taught me how to be organised and work as a team.’ The young men are now working with Jewellers Coworking on their coding. They have learnt to divide the work and are each focusing on different aspects of development, Ryan is working on the physical product, and Lachlan is working on the business side of things.
Ryan and Lachlan were encouraged by their Science teacher, Maree Timms, to consider applying for the Questacon Invention Convention. Lachlan explains, “I’d been to Questacon before, so I knew about the amazing things they did and was crazy about the technology they had. So, when I discovered there was a chance to go to the Convention and learn lots of STEM skills and creative and critical thinking skills, I had to apply.’ Ryan added, “Lachy and I jumped straight on to Questacon’s website and made an application.”
Both say they have always had an interest in STEM. “It has always been a thing that I’ve done, I’ve always taken things apart to work how they work,” Ryan told us.
Lachlan agreed, “I have been interested in is design and building things since I was a little kid playing with Lego. “
Would they recommend others to consider attending the Invention Convention?
Ryan said, “The experience was amazing! I had so much fun and learnt so much. I didn’t expect how much fun it would be! The best thing would have to be making so many good friends and mentors… and the food.” Lachlan adds, “The Invention Convention was an amazing experience, I met some great people there who I'm still friends with, and I learned some important skills like public speaking and networking. I wasn’t really sure what I to expect from the Convention, but I do know that it was better than I ever could have expected. My favourite part was getting to work with the other students and seeing everything that they created.”
When asked how they felt about winning the People’s Choice award for their prototype, Ryan said, “Lachy and I did not expect to walk away with that prize. It was an awesome feeling getting our name called out! The mentoring that we won should help Lock Tech grow to be a commercially viable product.”
Lachlan added, “It was great to win the People’s Choice award as there were only two awards to be won. Winning one of them is a really good feeling. It also means that the people who listened to our pitch believe in us and our company [Lock Tech] which is amazing. This means that we are a lot more confident moving forward with our idea.”
So, what’s next for Lock Tech? “Firstly, we need to finish the final development of the system, and then we need investors to help this come to market,” explains Ryan.
“We are in the stage right now where we have a prototype, but we need to create our first fully working version that we can install and test somewhere,” added Lachlan.
We were also curious where these two saw themselves heading after school.
“Personally, I’d love to be running a tech business and be investing into smaller start-up like ours,” said Ryan.
Lachlan said, “Five years from now, I would love to be running my own company whether its LOCK TECH or I might start up another company by then. I think it would be amazing to create a profitable company.”
We’re sure they both have the winning combination of inventiveness and perseverance and are both on track to become key players in Australia’s next generation of innovators and problem-solvers.
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