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04 Jul 2022

Carlow students scoop national awards with creative Big Ideas for the future

Carlow students scoop national awards with creative Big Ideas for the future

Jessica Korposh, Eva Cooney, Isabella O’ Byrne and Lily Redmond from the St Leo’s College, Carlow transition year class who have won the overall national award for their recycling app idea

A group of transition year students from Carlow have scooped the national award for the country’s best Big Idea with their concept for technology that would give loyalty points and rewards for recycling.

Around 2,000 students from schools across Ireland were tasked with coming up with Big Ideas to tackle five of Ireland’s biggest issues – climate change, mental health, the housing crisis, healthcare and equality.

Trash Scan by St Leo’s College in Carlow was announced as the overall winner of The Big Idea thanks to the students’ clever idea of rewarding recycling through the use of QR codes and offering recycling instructions on products.

The winning team members, Jessica Korposh, Eva Cooney, Isabella O’ Byrne and Lily Redmond, wanted to address the issue of fast fashion and support a circular economy, linking local recycling services through an app which rewards users when they reduce, reuse, recycle.

The Big Idea programme was founded by award-winning designer Kim Mackenzie-Doyle.

“The standard of projects this year across all categories has been game changing,” says Kim.

“It has been fantastic to see students get so engaged and use the creative process on challenging topics, assisted by their amazing mentors and teachers. Big congratulations to team Trash Scan. The project was so innovative and forward-thinking and was a resounding favourite with the judges.

“It is a wonderful project combating climate change in our society. We are so proud that this Big Idea has come out of our programme which has been supported by Creative Ireland since our inception.”

Innovation process

A team from Borris Vocational School, Carlow won the ‘Climate Change – Product’ category with their Portable Wind Turbines, a flat pack product which could be used to help generate power.

The product was made with places like Eritrea, Africa in mind – a hot nation with unstable, limited access to energy and a growing reliance on renewable wind energy.

“This project had an incredible understanding of the causes and effects of climate change,” Kim says. “It had a real sense of the innovative process. The collaboration and energy just oozed throughout the whole project.”

A team from Desmond College from Newcastle West in Limerick explored the ‘Housing Crisis - Visual Communications’ category with their low-cost and sustainable Geodesic Housing Domes.

“This incredible project had a really strong big idea to solve the housing crisis that many are facing in Ireland today,” Kim commented.

In the ‘Healthcare – Wearables’ category, a team from Coláiste Chiarain from Croom in Limerick won with Dr. Disease, an upgrade of the Covid tracker app idea to report and track other notifiable diseases in the community.

“This project was extremely mature in terms of system thinking and it was clear on how a product like this could help manage nationwide health problems in the future,” the programme founder says.

A Kilkenny Youthreach team was keen to provide a winning solution for ‘Mental Health - Spaces and Places’ and did so with The Lounge, a concept for a new type of youth space.

“This project was simply amazing. A clear winner in the category. It was practical and inspiring with a great sense of the team’s individual voices and experiences. The presentation was very impressive and showed how dedicated they were,” says Kim.

Meanwhile, a team from St Joseph’s College in Thurles, Tipperary delved into the issue of ‘Equality - ICT/UX’ and proposed Spark Youth, a website to allow LGBTQ teenagers to connect and support each other.

“This project left a lasting smile on our judges’ faces. The application of the creative process really came through on this project and ticked all the boxes. The fact they made a website that authentically meets the needs of an LGBTQ person was absolutely phenomenal.”

Category winners get a bespoke medal for each team member, and the overall winners get the Big trophy and a cheque for €2000 to share.

The winning team and teacher will get the opportunity to travel to Dublin to work with the multi-award-winning strategic design company, Fjord to develop their Big Idea, while the winning team and teacher also win tickets to Web Summit 2022, hosted in Lisbon.

Other Big Ideas from schools across the country which were commended by judges, included a discount card for direct provision students and economically disadvantaged students to help them access discounts on their education journey. Another team suggested technology to use gym workouts to generate energy.

There were lots of great app and website ideas too including one focusing on inclusion and equality to help young people through mindfulness and positive affirmations; a sign language translator app; an app for local sports clubs to improve inclusivity, address racism and homophobia and an app to help users to control and manage their carbon footprint.

Ideas were also pitched for a website for young refugees to help connect them to Irish support services and social connections and a website for young people to connect them with potential housemates to ease the cost of renting through college.

Changing how we look at creativity

The free, creative education programme is in its second year and was designed to empower the next generation to tackle big, local to global challenges using creative thinking.

This year it was delivered to Transition Year, Leaving Certificate Applied and Youthreach students. The programme was also trialled this year with students with autism.

With a whopping 400 judges and mentors this year, the Big Idea team is already signing up mentors for the 2023 programme – requiring up to 800 mentors next year to support the 4,000 students who are ready to participate.

Programme judge Rebecca Phelan of MSD congratulated the students saying the programme was innovative, resulting in many forward-thinking projects across Ireland.

Professor Justin Magee of Ulster University was “blown away” by the standard of creativity which he described as second to none and Lucky Mlotshwa of Suir Engineering says he was inspired by the process of judging the projects.

Emma Geoghegan of the Dublin School of Architecture at TU Dublin complimented the students for coming up with plans to combat real life problems, while Cormac Donnelly of Irish Life Health says these were excellent ideas to help solve real life problems in our society.

All of The Big Idea projects will be available to view online on The Big Idea Exhibition

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